Recently I was told of the death of a past friend of mine. She was 56. According to the obituary it was a sudden and unexpected death, probably a heart attack.
How can that be? I remember a straight laced, clean cut girl who made most of her own clothes. A heart attack at age 56? I'm in shock.
But once I get beyond that (I haven't really) I start thinking about the girl I knew. We were friends in grade school and into high school. She lived in a very nice house on a lake with a dock and a ski boat as her back yard & toys. Her family vacationed on Lake Chelan for a week or more each summer and one year I was invited to come along.
You know that sunburn you are always being warned about? The one of your youth that will come back as cancer later in your life? Mine came from that week in Chelan. I remember sleeping on the grass under the stars and waking up damp with dew. I recall a week of wearing a long white T covering my blistering back. I remember the frigid water that comes off a glacier to make that lake.
I remember hanging out with this girl and having fun. But then something changed. She became the girl we ganged up on.
She was the one we stopped asking to hang out with us. We avoided her in school and after school. We started dating and going to parties and didn't include her. It was our Riding in Cars with Boys time of life and she wasn't invited. We whispered about her and never looked back.
And now she's dead at a very young age. A husband and daughter survive her. My memories survive of her. And more than that...
She obviously moved on and lived her life despite the angst I feel I caused in her teen years. Perhaps I give myself too much credit. But whether my actions actually impacted her or not, I've never forgotten. It's been more than 35 years since I've seen her and I still remember.
How does one go about redemption for our sins of the past? Who knew that a kinder, gentler me in my youth would have made such a difference to me now? I wish I could change the past. I can't. I can only pledge more kindness in my present and future. I pledge it in her honor and her memory.