22 Years Later

On the morning of January 30, 1989, a ten year old girl, M, sat in her fifth grade classroom writing each of her spelling words three times. M was actually a very good speller, but it was review week and so each student had to write them. She was bored with the entire task and looking forward to recess, which would begin very soon.

The door to the classroom creaked open and she turned to look. Mr. L, the principal, entered, his face as pale as a ghost. M looked at him but immediately turned her attention back to her spelling words…she needed to get them done so she could go to recess.

“Class, I need to tell you something,” Mr. L began.

But M continued to write her spelling words. She was over halfway done with her list now, and the next spelling word was “alumnus”.

Mr. L proceeded to tell the class that there had been a car accident that morning involving a fifth grade friend and his family. D, the student, was injured but ok. But his sister, K, who was also a friend of M, was not.

As M listened to all of this, she continued to write the word, a-l-u-m-n-u-s, each letter shakier than the one before.

K had passed away.

M continued to write the word, by now, the letters almost unrecognizable.

Mr. L left the classroom and the students sat in silence.

Twenty-two years later, M sits at her computer, contemplating a turning point in her life and how the events of that day deeply impacted her.

Sure, life has gone on…for her. She has accomplished many of the goals she set for herself…graduation, college, husband, and now a family. But January 30, 1989, has never left her mind.

Or her heart.

Sometimes she wishes she could go back.

Go back to the last time she saw K, about a week before the accident. K had come over to play at her house for a few hours. Toward the end of the afternoon, M had received a phone call inviting her to go skating, but K wasn’t invited. M wanted to go and so K went home.

But before M could leave for the skating rink, she got in trouble (which wasn’t uncommon) and wasn’t allowed to go. M immediately felt guilty for sending her friend home and called her up. But K wasn’t home…she had gone to the park to play with her dogs.

M let it go, assuming she would talk to K the next time she saw her and apologize.

That day would never come…and eleven short days later, M would sit in a pew in a church with tears slipping down her cheeks.

Tears for a friend, tears for regret, tears for what would never be again.

It is strange now for M to be thinking about this again today and how she remembers the details so vividly. It was never supposed to be this way, as anyone who loved K would agree.

But it was.

Impact is a funny thing…true impact leaves a mark. The death of my friend left a scar that is still there. In my mind, I always wonder, “What if…”.

Not just, What if B had scraped his car windows that morning? The accident would have never happened.

But, What if I had been a true friend and made things right immediately? Then I wouldn’t have tortured myself for so many years over something I couldn’t change.

I can’t go back and apologize to K. If I could, I would…over and over and tell her that she was a good friend and that she meant a lot to me, even at the tender age of ten. I would say thank you to her for being friends with someone who didn’t make friends easily. I would treat her like I should have treated a friend and had her stay at my house and turn down the invitation to go skating.

There are so many what if’s and wonderings. Every year since 1989, I have tortured myself with them…and the truth is, they don’t matter anymore. She’s in a better place, as sad as the rest of us were that she left us far too soon.

I don’t even have a picture of her…just memories and the image of her face. Always with a smile.

I still think of you, K. I still miss you.

And you still have a place in my heart 22 years later.


Speak Your Mind