— The Band Perry
I try to keep my columns as lighthearted as possible. I give regular updates on Wyatt because many of you have said you enjoy that.
I hope I make you laugh a lot. I don’t care if it’s with me or at me.
I get on my soapbox occasionally after I’ve learned something about myself or life. If others relate to it, maybe I can help someone.
Sometimes, like this week, I am the one who needs help.
Writing is my therapy. When I can’t get a grip on my emotions, I have to collect my thoughts before they consume me.
I feel the need to provide this disclaimer for readers who turn to me for cheerful columns. Please join me next Sunday for more of those.
Today, I need to talk about three people my age who died much too young.
I don’t intend to depress anybody, including myself. I just have to do something to let others know that these individuals lived.
I’ll begin with a girl who was in my graduating class.
I didn’t know Essence that well, but I remember that she always seemed to be smiling.
Not long after I started working at the paper, we received a fax that Essence was missing.
The story did not end well. Her body was found in a local lake.
I went to Essence’s grave not long after she was buried and just stood there staring at the ground, trying to comprehend that someone my age was entombed beneath it.
I thought about her final moments. I thought about her three beautiful babies. I thought about the unfairness of it all.
Something that really bothered me was the photo of Essence that ran in the newspaper and on television. It looked nothing like the Essence I knew.
She wasn’t smiling.
The next person in my class to die was a boy named Brandon.
He had a car accident. I made sure to attend his funeral because I was afraid no one else from our grade would.
Again, I didn’t know Brandon that well even though we went all through school together.
I do know that some kids liked to make fun of him. As far as I could tell, he was a really nice guy. He didn’t deserve the bullying that I’m sure he put up with over the years.
My favorite story about Brandon takes place when we were in junior high school.
One particular teacher got on to Brandon all the time for staring out the window instead of listening in class. It sounded to me like he was on the brink of failing.
Then we were given the assignment of memorizing the names of all of the presidents. We had to recite them in front of the class and could get extra credit if we also said them backwards.
I will never forget the look on the teacher’s face when Brandon completed the required assignment. Before she could say anything, he casually turned to her and said, “Can I say them backwards now?”
As every mouth in the room flew open, Brandon told us every president’s name from Clinton to Washington.
I was very proud of him.
The last person I need to tell you about was named Elizabeth. Our brothers were in the same class, and I got to know her when we worked at the Daily Mountain Eagle together.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but I wasn’t a close friend of Elizabeth’s. We did work quite a few weekends together, though.
We talked and laughed a lot. I think she had a good heart.
I found out about Elizabeth’s death on Sunday when Zac, Wyatt and I took a short walk around town.
There was a black ribbon and a note on the door of her parents’ store saying that there had been a death in the family.
I hoped it wasn’t Elizabeth. It seemed very unlikely since she was only five years older than me.
I should have known better.
I can’t sugarcoat this column. We are all going to die, sometimes sooner than we expect.
All I can do is express my sympathies to the families of these three people.
As a mother, I cannot imagine the pain of burying a child. I hope I never have to experience it, and I’m sorry that you did.
To the rest of us, I’d like to add a reminder to love the people in your life like there’s no tomorrow because one day there won’t be.
It’s cliché, but it also happens to be the truth.