May 15, 2005 was a Sunday.
I don’t remember what happened for most of the day, but when things were winding down toward bedtime, my mom took a phone call. She went into the other room and was very quiet on the phone. My mom is not very quiet. There was a tingle on the back of my head, and when she got off the call, I badgered her to tell me what was going on because clearly something was up. We were standing in the foyer of our house on the west side of Green Bay.
She didn’t want to tell me before bed, but she did. My friend Emily and her sister, Missy, had been in a car accident with their mom. And both girls had died. I could feel the white tile floors rushing up at me, and I walked over to sit on the ottoman of our oversized chair. Then I lost it. Everything in my body felt like it was squeezed by a fist.
Emily was vibrantly alive. She sang, she danced, she acted — she was a performer and in grade school was the ringleader of our terrible talent show dance number rehearsals and a star at forensics. I was not in band, but in middle school, I remember Emily hamming it up at me from her seat in the saxophones while I sat with the other music class kids for their school performance. She brought an element of fun to all of our sports teams which was a huge plus for me… I was awful at most even for a middle school level of talent. And she was great at a birthday party.
Emily also had a heart of service, something that she shared with Missy and her parents. She and her dad taught me how to be an altar server. I had spent our annual high school Service Day at the Alzheimer’s Association with both sisters just a few months prior.
Looking back at middle school and early high school, it is easy to remember negative things about myself and most of the other girls in our class because that’s what life is like when you are 12 and 13 and 14. But no matter how much I rack my brain, I cannot remember a single hurtful or less than generous word from her. She was truly magnetic. Emily had glossy brown hair, perfectly trimmed bangs, and regularly wore blue eyeliner. She had a gorgeous, bright, and happy smile. But even if she hadn’t been beautiful, people always would have been drawn to her, like moths to a flame.
The days after Missy and Emily’s deaths are blurry to me. We clustered in the chapel at school, and I don’t remember going to class much that first week. Our grade school girls were drawn tightly together, forgetting the petty grievances that young teen girls carry around with them.
When I woke up this morning, I didn’t anticipate writing this post. I didn’t think I’d be affected by my memories. I thought I would offer a prayer, try to write a note to their parents, and go about the rest of my day as usual. I don’t have a cute photo of us to share, though there are plenty floating around Facebook.
But ten years is long time. A really long time. I think about what I’ve done in that time, how I’ve grown and changed, how much Emily and Missy would have grown and changed, what their slice of the world would look like. But my heart rests because these two souls, of any two souls, I know are resting sweetly.