This past month our local community has gone through unspeakable tragedy. A 6 year old was killed in an devastating and completely preventable car accident. A 16 year old was killed on Prom night by her ex-boyfriend. She broke up with him, then refused his efforts to get back in touch with her, so he showed up at her home with an imitation Army knife to scare her, so she’d see how much she still loved her. Then this weekend, two talented, smart high school seniors were killed in a car accident. They were coming home from the mall and lost control of their car.
We didn’t know any of these kids, although we certainly knew of them and have many friends who mourn them deeply. I haven’t written about this because I didn’t want to exploit their tragedies or make it seem like there is a personal connection when there isn’t much of one.
However, this latest tragic hits close to home because when I was turning 16, I lost my friend Paul in a car accident. I hope what I posted about what happened after Paul’s death helps those that mourn to know their family and friends are in a good place even though they are so desperately missed here. Here is what I shared:
Paul was a sweet kid I went to school with. He was short with dark hair and amazing eyes not unlike my Scorch. He was a wise-ass and a charmer and he always, always had a big grin for everyone. He was honestly one of the nicest people I ever have met.
Paul died the summer I turned 16.
The day is etched into my brain. I spent the afternoon driving around country hills with my boyfriend- with no particular destination in mind, we just enjoyed the day. When I got home my parents were literally standing in the window watching for me. Paul was in a car crash- he was driving on a windy road and crashed head on into a dump truck. He was killed instantly.
At almost-16, I had never lost anyone close to me before who wasn’t elderly. My friends and I had lived a charmed life up until that point. Paul’s death shook us to the core. The days after his death are still so clear to me. The crying, the huddling together, the wake, the funeral, spending time at Paul’s mom’s house trying to prop each other up.
About 10 days after Paul died, I spent the evening with two friends. As it often did, our conversation turned to Paul and how we wished we knew that he was at peace. On the walk back to my house, we sat down on the side of the road and asked Paul to give us a sign that he was OK. We sat there in silence- waiting, watching for that sign. After a few minutes we realized how silly that was- because anything from the owl hooting to the car honking could have been a sign. So we got specific. We told Paul if he was OK to please please cancel swim lessons the following day. The three of us taught swim lessons for 4 hours a day and wanted a break.
That next day while I was driving to swim lessons, I saw one of my friends and her mom driving away from the pool. When I got to the pool, the director was sitting outside. She told us that lessons were canceled that day- the pool pump broke in the middle of the night.
I still get chills when I think about that.
And here’s a follow up from last year:
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to talk to a psychic. I realize there are a lot of fakes out there, but I also know that some people have a talent that I’ll never understand. It was towards the end of my 25 minute conversation with this woman and I wasn’t entirely convinced I was speaking to the real deal. She got some things completely right, but other things seemed to be entirely off base. She asked if I had a last question so I asked about Paul. Here is what I asked word for word: “When I was 16, I lost a friend of mine. We asked for a sign to see if he was OK and we got what we thought was one. Was it?”
There was a pause and the woman I was speaking to started to laugh:
Your sign had to do with water. And yes, don’t worry, your friend is wonderful!
I hope this brings those who mourn a small measure of peace.