When I was a junior in high school, a boy in the senior class was electrocuted and suffered third degree burns over 85% of his body. He passed away two weeks later. We had science together that semester. He sat in the row behind me.
My senior year in high school, a fellow senior went home early one day with a headache. She didn’t come to school the next morning because (if I remember correctly) a brain aneurysm took her life the day before. We’d had many classes together, and thanks to alphabetical order, we’d sat next to each other for several of them.
His funeral was at the Catholic church a mile down the road from the high school. Class was dismissed early that day so students could attend. I sat in a pew in the back, to the left, and listened to my school choir sing Ave Maria. I felt despair. It was only the second funeral I’d ever been to.
Her service was at a funeral home the next town north of ours, not far from the beach. It was a Saturday afternoon and mourners spilled outside of the room the service was in. I strained to hear the eulogies while I watched my teachers cry and comfort each other. I felt despair. It was the third funeral I’d been to.
I have carried their lives with me since those two horrible days. One of them I knew well, one hardly at all, and yet they both impacted me profoundly. When I went away to college, I realized how unfair it was that they weren’t. I often thought of their siblings and how they had to go on with their lives without their brother and sister. Their lives gave me a perspective not a lot of teenagers have, and their faces would spring to my mind whenever I felt like blowing off class or skipping an assignment
I never thought much about their parents, but of course I do now. All the time. I wonder how they are doing now, thirteen and fourteen years after their lives were shattered. You never think you’ll have something in common with the parents of your peers.
After Maddie passed, I worried that because she was so young, people wouldn’t remember her. That her life wouldn’t have the impact I’d always hoped it would. Now I wonder if my classmates’ parents had the same fear. I want them to know – I remember their children. I think about them often. They both continue to effect me in ways I never could have anticipated. I am certain that they will for the rest of my life.
I remember Danielle and Mike, and I always will.