As I write this, I’m listening to the Kenny Chesney song, “Who You’d Be Today.”
“It ain’t fair … you died too young, like a story that had just begun … but death tore the pages all away. God knows how I miss you … all the hell that I’ve been through … just knowing … no one can take your place. Sometimes I wonder, who you’d be today?”
Liz’s five year high school class reunion was last night … what would she be doing today? Would she have graduated from college … or would she be still working on it? Would she have kept her psychology major? Would she be going to grad school to become a criminal psychologist? Would she have a boyfriend? All questions that will forever remain unanswered.
But a very bright spot emerged yesterday for Roger and me.
“The Girls” came to visit. The Girls are Liz’s high school friends. They are a group of about 12, and 8 came yesterday. I doubt they realize just how much it meant to us that they would take the time to come and visit.
But perhaps they do. They each told us how good it felt to be in our home again … to look around and savor all of the memories.
They got to read Liz’s letter and I was able to share the amazing extraordinary experience of that day and receiving that letter. They were surprised and amazed, and I think they all realized that part of Liz will be with each of us forever.
As they walked out the door, off to the reunion, I said, remember Lizzie tonight … oh, she’ll be there, they chorused … and I have no doubt she will … after all, Liz never misses a good party … not even today!
The house was once again quiet … and my sadness had faded into bittersweet happiness …. just as the words of my song are now fading … ”some day … some day … I’ll see you again … some day. ”
It was August 30th and there it was. The article on fatal off-campus house fires was on the front page of USA TODAY. I had been so pleased to receive a call from a reporter working on the story. They had done extensive research on all fatal off-campus fires across the US since 2000 and the article was running just in time for students moving into off-campus housing for the upcoming year.
It was everyone’s hope that this article would keep other college kids from making the same mistakes of, not only my daughter Liz, but also the 60 some other college kids who died in a similar manner. Prevention was key and I was happy to play a very small part in doing whatever I could to keep other families from experiencing the devastating loss of a vibrant young adult.
I stopped at the store on my way to work and bought 3 copies of the paper. I couldn’t wait to get to my desk to read it. But, once I did, it made me so sad. The senselessness of Liz’s death hit me again in such a powerful way … it felt like 9-20-03 all over again.
I should have expected that kind of reaction, but it had taken me by surprise and I was very mad at myself … how could I have possibly thought this article would make me happy?
I threw it on the back credenza in my office and tried to put it out of my mind … but I couldn’t because all day long I had a steady stream of co-workers stopping by to see it … and it was all I could do to keep my composure.
Late that morning I got an email from Liz’s high school French teacher. Jan had been Liz’s favorite teacher and we had kept in touch after her death.
I assumed her email was about the article … but it wasn’t.
Kim, you are just going to treasure this, she said. I was in my classroom yesterday, cleaning out my files, getting ready for a new school year. A lone file folder fell on the floor. I picked it up and on the outside I read “LIZ WENCL ESSAY.” I opened it up and discovered an assignment I had given out over four years ago.
The assignment was to write a letter to one of your parents in french, telling them what they represent in your life … Kim … this is a letter Liz wrote to you!
Now, I don’t speak French, so Jan translated it for me. That letter was a mother’s dream. In it, Liz told me how much she loved and missed me in so many different ways … and even though it was written while she was in high school … it made perfect sense for our lives after 9-20-03 ….
I know that you love me. You show me each day that it is true. Don’t think you are a bad mother … it isn’t true! When I look at you, I realize how much I am loved.
When you are feeling bad … don’t forget … I truly love you. I would like to be a better daughter … we argue sometimes and that makes me sad … I feel bad and unhappy if you cry.
I remember when I was little and you would hug me and say, I love you so much, Lizzie! Sweetheart, sit here with me for just a little while. Those times were so special for me and you made me so happy. I use to wish those times would never end. To be cuddled up next to you like that today would be like a dream come true.
Mom, I feel sad when you feel sad … and when you are happy I am happy! You are my mother and I would never choose anyone else. Without you, I would never be who I am.
I love you with all my heart.
What had been a very difficult day, suddenly became an amazing one … I was once again emailing family and friends to share this wonderful letter with them.
That night, Jan brought the folder and letter to my house. She put it in my hands and she looked at me and said, “You have to know, this was no accident.”
I said, “Oh, Jan … believe me, I do know that.” She went on to tell me that she remembered telling Liz what a beautiful letter it was and she had encouraged her to share it with me. She even remembered what Liz’s comment had been … “I will, when the time is right.”
That letter is now framed and hanging in my living room … with the french version on one side, a picture of Liz in the middle, and the english translation on the other.
Whenever I have a bad day, all I have to do is read that letter and I can once again feel the bond of love that we will always share. Some bonds can never be broken … not even by death!
Life IS joyous! Make your day great!