The Girl I Never Knew

Sitting at a café table, looking out the window at the gloomy, rainy weather and gray sky, one might consider the rain a metaphor for the tears my town is shedding for the passing of a teenager less than 72 hours ago.  In the blink of an eye Terry, a high school freshman, out with her Drama Club friends and participating in a scavenger hunt, was instantly killed when hit by a car.

I did not know Terry nor do I know her parents and younger sister.  I won’t pretend to know their pain. I won’t assume I understand what they are going through.  But as a mother of two, a mother of her classmate and an empathetic human being, my heart is heavy in a way that I have never before experienced.

It was Saturday night when the texts started coming in, both to my phone and my daughter’s phone.  We first learned that something tragic happened.  We learned it happened to a freshman.  We learned her name.  We learned that she had passed.

Our hearts sank and my daughter began to cry and shake.  She had many questions – about Terry, about how this could happen.  I had no answers. I still have no answers.  I don’t think I ever will.

How does one explain this tragedy?  How does one make sense of this?  Some find comfort in their faith, believing that she is in a better place.  Others sit with the pain of their loss, without any justification for this unfair and unexplainable tragedy.

There was a vigil at the high school 24 hours later.  Hundreds of silent mourners held candles and then broke out into song, including Amazing Grace and Seasons of Love – two songs that will forever remind me of Terry, the girl I never knew.

Death has never been an unspoken reality in my home. My kids know that both my husband and I have each endured our own sadness at the loss of a parent, both over twenty years ago. They know of friends who have lost parents, grandparents, and other relatives.  But this — the loss of a peer — they have never experienced. This sub-topic has not been part of our discussions, yet sadly now it is.

I have sat with people personally and professionally who have lost children, spouses, siblings, grandparents and friends.  I have heard some of their stories, cried along side them and have also witnessed their strength and desire to keep living life.  The pain does not end, I know, but at some point in time a new normal emerges and with that, it hopefully includes times of joy and happiness.

On Sunday night my daughter said that there would be no learning in school on Monday.  I disagreed and let her know that I thought she would be learning more than she could learn from any lesson, textbook, or computer program – she would be learning about life.  She would be learning what it’s like to enter a building of a grieving student body, sharing in the pain and tears that accompany this terrible sadness.  She would learn what it’s like to walk through the threshold of the three classes they were in together, presumably with her heart pounding and tears in her eyes.

Terry’s family, friends, and community will forever remember her.  And as far as myself, I will also always remember Terry too, despite her being the girl I never knew.