Friday, January 04, 2008


Five days before my 13th birthday my friend Rena died. It was unexpected. She was in a sledding accident that involved a delivery truck on a quite neighborhood street. I remember every detail of the hour leading up to hearing the news from my parents. It was a Sunday night. There was the phone call from a friend, with my father on the other receiver screaming at me to hang up. My mother ordering me to take a bath, so that they could have some time to both grieve for themselves and figure out what they were going to say to me. Me, thinking I was in trouble for something and postponing going to talk with them. I remember the ridges of the couch under my palms as I heard the words, but I can't remember which one of my parents spoke them.

The time after that moment is hazy. I went to bed. Sometime that week I hit a girl in the face at school. I got called to the guidance counselor so that she could ask me why I hadn't come to her on my own accord. There was a funeral. I attended the church services, but not the burial.

I have never once visited her grave site. I know where it is. I thought maybe this last visit to my hometown would be the time. But I didn't go. I couldn't go. Sure, I made excuses. We had plenty of things on our schedule to keep me occupied, but I drove right by the cemetery more than a dozen times.

This thing haunts me every time I go back to the place that used to be my home. I carry it, and for some reason I can't let it go. One morning at my parents' house, the news was covering the story of a 16 year old killed in a car accident. They shot some footage at the church, and when I heard the first notes from the organ, I lost control of my senses. I had to go outside to keep from throwing up. The tears were fierce and hot.

I can't sit through a mass at my old parish. The building where we used to get in trouble in the choir loft. The altar where I was the May Queen and she was my attendant. The classrooms where we went to CCD. It's all too much. I'm not required to visit our old school rooms, but I can't avoid the church.

So while I'm not one for resolutions, I've decided that this is the year. We're back in Pennsylvania, therefore I'm likely going to be spending time back in my old town. I need to let this go, to visit her grave site and say good bye. For good.

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Mrs. Chicken said...

I can't imagine this happening at such an important crossroads in your life. Almost 13 is such a hard time on it's own.

You may feel better when you go see her. My sister and brother can't go to the cemetery to see my father, but whenever I go I am filled with a sense of peace that is hard for me to achieve anywhere else. And the bells of the chapel always ring when I am there. I think it is him saying hello.

Go say hello. She'll hear you.

Rinny said...

I agree, and couldn't have said anything more true than Mrs. Chicken. Go say hello.

Arizaphale said...

Avoiding grief is never a good thing. Sometimes parents keep kids away from closure events like burials and I don't think it does them any favours. You have held this inside too long. How is it helping you? Go and see her and then let her go....

High Heeled Mama said...

One of my college roommates died in a car accident a few years ago. I was forced to choose between going to her funeral in one state or attending another friend's wedding in another (where I was to be a bridesmaid). I chose life because I thought that's what L. would have wanted. It wasn't until I visited her grave months later, however, that I was able to truly let go of the grief and the trauma of that decision. Now I can look back on all the good, all the jokes, all the happy times we had together. It doesn't make the loss any easier, but it does help to lay down some of the other baggage so you can more easily carry her memory.

It won't be easy, but I think it will be worth it.