Monthly Archives: January 2012

Words Matter

I didn’t even know the woman, but I bristled when she spoke. Of course, her words weren’t even intended for me and I’m sure she had no idea how capably they would seize my joy and take me back in time to a day I’d rather not remember.

I was standing in the card aisle of a local department store of all places, wrestling with indecision famously. As I read and reread each of the selections I was considering (encouragement for a woman battling cancer and a birthday wish for a dear friend who had moved a world away), I weighed the words contained within each heartfelt message carefully, recognizing their power to connect souls in good times and in bad.

“CARDS DON’T MATTER,” I heard her grouse through clenched teeth, chiding her children who were likely picking out a birthday greeting for a friend or a favorite cousin. “We’ve already gotten a gift, now choose a 99-cent card and let’s get out of here,” she spat, indignation spilling from her lips. “He’ll just throw it out anyway,” she reasoned.

Though a towering wall of Hallmark’s finest separated us and I could see exactly none of what had transpired in the adjacent aisle, the exasperation that wafted over the transom was palpable and left little room for misinterpretation. Without question, it had been a long day and patience was nowhere to be found. Clearly the novelty of traipsing around K-Mart with kids in tow had long since worn off.

Granted, I had been there and done that as a parent, patently consumed by a simple yet impossible wish to be somewhere else in this life besides searching for the perfect gift for yet another Hello Kitty-themed birthday party. That said, I have frequented the brink of insanity while shopping with my brood more often than I’d care to admit, shamelessly enraged by something as ridiculous as a rogue wheel on a cart from hell coupled with my children’s irksome demands: “But we need to smell the smelly markers before we buy them, Mom. We have to make sure they smell juuuuust right. And then we have to look for a birthday card with a little dog on it. Wearing a pink tutu. Maddy likes little dogs. And tutus.”

Frustration, I understood.

What rankled me to the core was the premise of this woman’s argument. That “cards don’t matter.” Because sometimes they do.

Like most people who learn of things that are unspeakably difficult to handle, I unearthed this little pearl of wisdom mired in grief and plagued by guilt. As if it were yesterday, I remember rummaging around my brother’s house in the days that followed his suicide, searching for answers or perhaps a tiny glimpse into his world. Granted, I didn’t know him nearly as well as I could have…and probably should have. As I sifted through his CDs and thumbed through his books eager to gain even the slightest suggestion of human insight, I stumbled upon a drawer with a handful of cards neatly stacked within. Cards he had saved. Cards that likely meant something to him. Cards filled with words that apparently mattered.

It was at this point, I’m quite certain, that I felt a deep sense of regret and shame, for none of my cards were among those he had harvested. Surely, I had sent him a birthday greeting (or twenty), a congratulatory note regarding his beautiful home or his wonderful job, an irreverent get well card to brighten an otherwise unenjoyable hospital stay, a wish-you-were-here postcard from Myrtle Beach or the Hoover Dam. Hadn’t I?

Incomprehensibly, I couldn’t remember. All I could wrap my mind around were the missed opportunities and the paltry thank you note I had written that lay on his kitchen counter. Unopened. The one my four-year old daughters had drawn pictures on as a way of offering thanks for his incredible generosity at Christmastime. The one that mocked my ineptitude and chided me for failing to mail it sooner…so that he might have read it…and felt in some small way more valued than perhaps he had before. The one that reminded me that words left unspoken are indeed the worst sort of words.

I’d like to think he occasionally sat on his couch and sifted through that cache of cards on a lazy afternoon, warmed by the messages scrawled within–a collection of remembrances worthy of holding close. Likewise, I hope he knows of the countless times since his death that I’ve been overcome with emotion in the card aisle of many a store, pausing in the section marked “brother” to read and reflect on what might have been–an odd yet cathartic sort of behavior.

So as one might expect, the horribleness of that day flooded my mind the very instant I heard CARDS DON’T MATTER. But instead of letting it swallow me whole, I turned my thoughts to why I had come–to find the most ideally suited messages for two special people, knowing they would feel special in turn.

Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Hands Upon My Heart

www.melindawentzel.comWhen I was nine or ten, I remember well my enthrallment with my mother’s hands. They were delicate and slender, sweetly scented and rose petal-soft—so completely unlike my own nicked and scraped, callused and chafed boy-like hands that were better suited for wielding a hammer and throwing a fastball than anything else. Mine were distinctively earthy, too, largely because remnants of dirt and grass simply refused to be removed. Or at least that was the sentiment I held for much of the summer. It was a byproduct of being a kid, I suppose, literally immersed in a world of sod and soil from sunup to sundown. Never mind my fondness of forests and rocky places, which typified a deep and abiding bond with nature—one that I’m not quite sure my mother ever completely understood.

At any rate, my hands told of who I was at the time—a tomboy given to tree climbing, stealing second base and collecting large and unwieldy rocks. Everyone’s hands, I’d daresay, depict them to a certain degree, having a story to tell and a role to play at every time and every place on the continuum of life. Traces of our journey remain there in the folds of our skin—from the flat of our palms and knobs of our knuckles to the very tips of our fingers. As it should be, I suppose.

For better or for worse, our hands are the tools with which we shape the world and to some extent they define us—as sons and daughters, providers and professionals, laborers and learners, movers and shakers. That said, I’m intrigued by people’s hands and the volumes they speak—whether they’re mottled with the tapestry of age, vibrant and fleshy or childlike and impossibly tender. Moreover, I find that which they whisper difficult to ignore.

Likewise, I’m fascinated by the notion that ordinary hands routinely perform extraordinary deeds day in and day out, ostensibly touching all that truly matters to me. Like the hands that steer the school bus each morning, the hands that maintain law and order throughout the land, the hands at the helm in the event of fire or anything else that smacks of unspeakable horribleness, the hands that deftly guide my children through the landscape of academia, the hands that bolster them on the soccer field, balance beam, court and poolside, the hands that bless them at the communion rail each week and the hands that brought immeasurable care and comfort to our family pet in his final hours. Strange as it sounds, I think it’s important to stop and think about such things. Things that I might otherwise overlook when the harried pace of the world threatens to consume me.

If nothing else, giving pause makes me mindful of the good that has come to pass and grateful to the countless individuals who continue to make a difference simply by putting their hands to good use. For whatever reason, this serves to ground me and helps me put into perspective how vastly interdependent and connected we are as a whole. Indeed, we all have a hand (as well as a stake) in what will be.

Equally important, methinks, is the notion of remembering what was. More specifically, the uniqueness of those I’ve loved and lost. A favorite phrase. A special look. The warmth of a smile or the joy of their laughter. Further (and in keeping with the thrust of this piece), there’s nothing quite as memorable as the hands of those I’ve lost—like my grandfather’s. His were more like mitts, actually—large and leathery, weathered and warm. Working hands with an ever-present hint of grease beneath his hardened nails, and the distinctive scent of hay and horses that clung to him long after he left the barn. And although decades have passed, I can still see him pulling on his boots, shuffling a deck of cards and scooping tobacco from his pouch—his thick fingers diligently working a stringy wad into the bowl of his pipe, followed shortly thereafter by a series of gritty strikes of the lighter and wafts of sweet smoke mingling reluctantly with those from the kitchen.

Of course, my grandmothers’ hands were equally memorable. One had short, stubby fingers and a penchant for biting her nails to the nub. Always, it seemed, she was hanging wash out on the line, scrubbing dishes or stirring a pot brimming with macaroni—my favorite form of sustenance on the planet. By contrast, my other grandmother suffered the ravages of rheumatoid arthritis as evidenced by her hands. To this day I can picture a set of finely manicured nails at the tips of her smallish fingers—fingers that were gnarled and bent unmercifully, although they never seemed to be hampered when it came to knitting a wardrobe for my beloved Barbies.

Not surprisingly, I can still summon an image of my brother’s hands, too. Almost instantly. They were handsome, lean and mannish-looking—yet something suggestive of the little boy he had once been lingered there. Needless to say, I am grateful for such delicious memories—the ones indelibly etched upon my heart.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (remembering well the hands that have touched my life). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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2012: The Year of the Dragon

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2012 is the year of the dragon. I know this to be true not only because I googled the bejesus out of it, but because my brood became riddled with delirium upon learning they had received a baby bearded dragon for Christmas. Make that TWO baby bearded dragons, coupled with a profusion of lizard-friendly paraphernalia said beings apparently require to survive. Heaven forbid the celebrated pet in question spend the rest of his days socially isolated, unable to collectively revel in the knowledge that the year ahead promises good things to those who are symbolic of reptilians.

Or something like that.

At any rate, we now own two disturbingly Godzilla-inspired organisms and, as a result, my children are entirely convinced that 2012 will be filled with good fortune—especially as it relates to the aforementioned scaly creatures. Translation: “We hope they have babies, Mom! Lots of them!” I’m not sure I could handle that much good fortune, particularly given the prolific nature of their poo and the nauseating reality of stockpiling live mealworms in my refrigerator and seasoned (read: calcium-dusted) crickets in the den. Gah! This is SO not in the parenting handbook. But I digress.

Against all logic and understanding, the tiny beasts have become a never-ending source of fascination for me. The way they ogle me with their freakishly bulbous eyes, twist their wee necks to an impossible degree and seize their prey in the true spirit of savagery intrigues me no end. Even the way they chew their vegetables is mildly entertaining. That said, I find myself drawn to their fetid tank, patently engrossed as they bask beneath the torrid rays of a pseudo sun—silent and still, much like the rocks and canopy of branches to which they cling almost invisibly; or when they devour legions of hapless victims in a manner that makes me cringe in horror, yet renders me wholly incapable of turning away. Never mind the dreadful sound of their jaws as they crush, chew and swallow without a morsel of mercy or an ounce of regret. Shame on me for being perfectly enthralled by something so inherently gruesome.

At least I’m not alone. Our entire household gathers en masse at the tank in a twisted display of fanaticism—noses to the glass in palpable anticipation, each of us about to be categorically mesmerized by what can only be described as a feeding frenzy. Furthermore, we’re fairly entranced by the hunt itself, duly impressed as our dear lizards scuttle about like spiders, hugging uncertain terrain and cleverly cornering a handful of crickets that, unsurprisingly, max out on the Stupidity Scale. Every. Single. Time. It’s entirely possible we need to develop more empathy for the ill-fated vermin. Then again, maybe the point is moot. (i.e. “It’s sad that the crickets have to die such a horrible, violent death, Mom. But it’s sort of entertaining to watch. Especially when their legs fall off and stuff.”)

Just when I think my husband and I are doing something right with respect to raising compassionate kids, they drop a disturbing little nugget like that on us. Oy.

At any rate, we’re having far more fun with our newish pets than I ever imagined possible. They’ve cheered homework completion on numerous occasions, been privy to godknowshowmany deep, dark secrets and journeyed far and wide to learn about their surroundings (i.e. “This is the television, which you probably won’t care much about…and this is the dog, which you should be profoundly terrified of…”).

Furthermore, they’ve balanced on heads with remarkable aplomb, starred in a multitude of ridiculous Photo Booth dramas (don’t ask) and, of course, perched atop a certain Justin Bieber doll to the delight of many. Looking back, I don’t know how I functioned without having such unadulterated hilarity in my life.

Indeed, 2012 promises good things—amusement involving a special pair of lizards, chief among them.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (when I’m not at Animal Specialties stocking up on crickets and counsel). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Lizard Lips

And on the Eighth Day, God Created Tactless Children

“Mom, do you have any clothes that are snug?” one of my brood tossed out as she snacked on a slice of pizza the size of Connecticut.

Snug?” I asked. Could a wispy second grader fully and completely grasp the meaning of a word like snug–as in, “My pants are so fucking ‘snug,’ I’m going to EXPLODE if I so much as entertain the idea of breathing right now!”?

“Yeah. Like stuff that fits you too tight.”

“Yes, Hon. Virtually everything I own.”

“No, that’s not right, Mom. What you’re wearing right now isn’t too tight,” she corrected.

“Okay.” That’s because I’m so pathetic I happen to be wearing your father’s khakis with the waistband rolled over so they won’t fall to my knees in the grocery store–oh, and an enormous t-shirt so no one actually sees the hideous waistband-rollover-dealie. “ALMOST everything.”

“Like your wedding dress?” she offered casually (How could a puny and oh-so-unworldly kid zero in on THE most significant piece of garmentage I own as it relates directly to my hopeless and eternal struggle with weight since the advent of motherhood?! Needless to say, I was stunned and amazed to learn that she possessed such painfully accurate knowledge).

“Yes, like my wedding dress,” I answered through clenched teeth as I peeled the umpteenth carrot at the sink, wondering where this exercise in humiliation could possibly be headed.

“Can we play dress-up with it then?” she asked offhandedly.www.melindawentzel.com

NO. You can’t play dress-up with my wedding dress! That’s…that’s…just not…it’s just not…appropriate,” I stammered and fished for the proper wordage to protect and defend what was rightfully mine–as if I might need it for a third trip down the aisle at some point in the future. Besides, I didn’t want dribbles of pizza to sully its pristine surface. Or the purplish hue of lip gloss they were sure to smear on it (“…because lipstick makes us more be-U-tiful, Mommy, so we can get married”). My dress was perfectly perfect shrouded in plastic, hanging for all eternity behind the rest of my wardrobe-that-was-too-stinking-small-for-me.

For the record: I made two trips down the aisle.

But in two completely different dresses. In two completely different cities. In two completely different decades.

And, of course, I exchanged I-Do’s with two completely different men.

That said, wearing the same dress twice would have been tacky. And no, I couldn’t have poured myself into the first dress for the second wedding anyway. Not on a bet.

____________________________________________________________

Just then, her partner in crime (i.e. the equally wispy twin sister) joined us in the kitchen to listen in.

“Just where did all this snug malarkey come from anyway?” I had to inquire. Did my ass really look that big? SO big that my soon-to-be-eight-year-old daughters felt compelled to address the issue face-to-face?!

“We saw an ad on TV,” Wispy Girl One answered.

“Yeah. It was about how you could fit into all your old clothes again,” Wispy Girl Two added.

“Oh really,” I said, cynicism oozing from my pores.

“Yeah. It only takes like a day, Mom, and then the man said you could fit into your old clothes. Isn’t that cool?!” Wispy Girl Two further explained.

“Very cool, Hon. Very cool. Although I doubt it would work in just one day.”

“Yeah. It might take you a week because you really don’t get how it works, do you Mom?”

Apparently not.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (in my husband’s khakis…but it’s not what you think). Oh, and you can buy Jen Lancaster’s book here, Such a Pretty Fat and Kim Brittingham’s literary gem, Read My Hips here. Perhaps I ought to zip to the bookstore myself with my tactless children in tow–who will undoubtedly mention to the nice saleslady, “Mommy’s clothes are a bit snug, you know. But she’s working on it.”

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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The Twelfth of Never

www.melindawentzel.comMy refrigerator is the center of my universe, the heart and soul of my being and the hub of all that defines my world. Not because of the mince pie, Jack cheese and leftovers contained within. But because of the Almighty Calendar that hangs on its shiny surface—eye-level, next to the school lunch menu, surrounded by tiny scraps of paper upon which I scrawled phone numbers I need to know but will never remember. And like a lot of well-worn items in my household, it looks as though it belongs there—wedged comfortably between favorite photos, prized artwork and those all-important memos and appointment cards without which I would surely shrivel up and die.

Each perfect square on that grand and glorious grid of events represents a chunk of precious time. And it MUST have something scribbled within it. Someone’s birthday. A holiday mealtime. A veterinary appointment. A vacation destination. A reminder to return the kids’ library books. Something. Anything. Except nothingness—which would imply a sort of nothingness about me, I suppose; or perhaps that downtime actually exists in my harried world.

What a ludicrous notion.

There are swimming lessons, birthday parties and play rehearsals to attend. Soccer games, haircuts and doctors’ visits galore. Empty blocks simply do not reflect the reality that is mine. Besides, the voids make me feel guilty—as if I have nothing better to do than sit around and watch Play-Doh crumble and dry while the kids are at school. Calendars crammed to capacity with details of this or that planned affair give me a real sense of purpose, of direction, of connectedness with the outside world—linking me to all the goings-on I have chosen to include (willingly or not). And they provide a healthy dose of structure and predictability, too—both of which are sorely lacking here. In sum, calendars bring a smattering of order to my otherwise disordered world. I shudder to think where I’d be without mine.

That said, I love calendars, despite my personal limitations in dealing with them. I especially enjoy receiving a new one for Christmas and spending a lazy afternoon in January slathering its pristine little blocks with all sorts of important dates and times to remember. Every syllable precisely placed. I’m quite certain I fool a myriad of individuals into believing that I’m impeccably organized. Even I believe it for a time.

But by February the frenzied pace of the world returns and information starts spilling from those neat and tidy little squares into the narrow margins. Stuff gets scribbled out or transferred to other squares and big, ugly arrows are drawn across what was once an unsullied masterpiece of time management—which is a lot like life, I suppose.

It’s subject to change.

Remarkably, most of us manage to muddle through the madness with a few reroutings and derailments here and there, which builds character, I’m told. Maybe that’s what makes the month-by-month journey worth journeying—even if it’s just to the fridge.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

P.S. Now would be the PERFECT TIME to order one of those bad ass calendars by The Bloggess (aka Jenny Lawson). Click here and prepare to cackle until you cannot breathe or until you soil yourself. Possibly both. http://www.zazzle.com/bloggess_2012_calendar-158892766191191563

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel (Note: This column previously appeared in Life in Altamonte Springs City Magazine of central Florida, USA, January 2012)

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A Kinder, Gentler Sort of Holiday Madness

It’s the eleventh day of Christmas and finally it’s safe to venture beyond one’s home out into the Land of Wares. At least it would seem so. The tired, the poor and the frenzied masses have all gone home, lugging obscene quantities of discounted schlock from near and far. No longer are the aisles choked with throngs of ill-tempered people—addled by the irksome constancy of holiday music, less-than-functional shopping carts and the vexing nature of can-I-really-afford-that-which-promises-to-wow-my-child-as-much-or-more-than-a-pony. Furthermore, hideously long lines, impossible-to-find merchandise, and the occasional slug-inspired sales clerks no longer fuel my nightmares. Nor does the siren song of Black Friday, Super Saturday and Mega Monday wail in my ear. Even the highways and byways seem more manageable in the wake of this oh-so-wonderful Yuletide. Parking lots, too.

Quite frankly, I was teetering on the edge of insanity just days before Christmas, my head reeling with sales jingles and an acute awareness of my fiscal limitations. Plus, I was fumbling around with way too many crumpled scraps of paper filled to capacity with wishes that had been hurriedly scrawled, scratched out, and then revised in the margin or penciled in literally atop an existing entry, making the resultant tome very nearly indecipherable. Couple that with the insurmountable task of calculating sale prices, on top of sale prices, less the percentage of savings guaranteed with my shamelessly disordered wad of coupons, as well as remembering a host of preferred shapes, sizes, colors and molecular structures of the aforementioned wish list items and it’s completely reasonable to expect ensuing madness.

God forbid someone’s pajama pants might feature the wrong monkeys (heretofore known as “monkey pants”).

Needless to say, I fell victim to the surge of gotta-have-it-or-I-will-surely-wither-and-die mentality, besieged by the almighty tide of consumerism and swallowed whole by its frenetic and unrelenting pace. Translation: I joined the masses of those who wandered aimlessly in both stores and tangled parking lots, mumbling great strings of incoherence about the state of my cussed list, seized by a quiet panic over frivolities such as Justin Bieber’s hair style (who knew there was more than one?!), the untold variety of Harry Potter whateverness and whether or not Stubby and The Fat One (the bearded dragons my charges so desperately wanted for Christmas) had already been sold to the highest bidder—in which case, I might as well have lit myself on fire to avoid a far more horrible fate.

That said, I’m not especially proud of the fact that I spent a veritable eternity facing a wall of Littlest Pet Shop creatures and a bank of creepy cyber bugs, paralyzed with indecision over toys that would be discarded in roughly 27 seconds. The bendable sock monkeys would rule the day anyway, as would the offensively loud pair of elephant banks, the freakishly large rubber shark, the aforementioned monkey pants and the glut of fuzzy, green socks a certain someone used a total of ten adjectives to effectively describe in her “Dear Santa” letter. Likewise, I am equally ashamed to admit having been so completely obsessed with finding the perfect gift (and fit) for my husband that I tried on an embarrassment of winter coats, and in so doing, became literally entombed within one in a remote corner of a department store that should probably ban me.

I wish I were kidding.

Read: Just after I had finished zipping it past my nose, snapping all the snaps and appraising its exceptional warmth and coziness, the teeth of the external zipper suddenly gave way at its base, causing a small wave of panic to wash over me. All I could readily focus on, as I groped around for the stupid zipper and FLOUNDERED INSIDE SAID TORRID MICROCOSM OF DOOM was the newspaper headline that would surely read: Woman Trapped Inside Giant Parka. Rescued Three Days Later by Kohl’s Employees. Driven Certifiably Insane by Incessant Loop of Holiday Music and Sauna-like Temperatures.

Thankfully, I was spared that particular brand of humiliation and escaped from the jacket in question without incident. The zipper miraculously righted itself, I chose a perfectly wonderful coat from the legions I had sampled and went home a happy woman—almost as happy as I am now that the madness is over and normalcy has returned to the land.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (probably not shopping). Visit me there at www.melindawentzel.com and www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Holiday Hokum, Home for Wayward Toys, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

If Only You Had Known

Today I can’t help but be reminded of that awful chapter in my life…and in the lives of so many who were affected my my brother’s passing. Depression is an unmerciful beast and those who battle mightily against said beast (http://thebloggess.com/2012/01/the-fight-goes-on/) deserve both our deepest compassion and highest praise.

Part of me wants to believe that your death was preventable. That something someone said or did could have kept you from making that horribly irreversible decision to end your life six years ago today. Perhaps if circumstances had been different, you too would be poised to usher in the warmth and sweetness of springtime in a few short months and together we’d be putting winter’s chill behind us.

But another part of me realizes that it couldn’t be so. Too many hardships had come your way and the weight of your world had simply become unbearable. No, I’m not making excuses for what you did. I’m merely slipping into your shoes for a while so that I might come to grips with how ill-fitting they actually were—to shoulder your burden for a time, if only to acknowledge its oppressiveness.

I still long to understand and to “feel” the reality that was yours.

Don’t get me wrong—I don’t find the “what-if-ing” game pleasurable in the least. The pain and sadness I feel as a result of thinking things might be different if this or that had happened is inconceivable. Yet, I persist. And without question, the events immediately following your death led me even further down that path of certain uncertainty—because it revealed to me, for perhaps the very first time, the profoundness of your impact on this world. I just can’t stop wondering if all this could have been avoided if only you had known the true measure of your worth….

Nothing could be clearer in hindsight.

For starters, over the span of the two-day event, more than 1,000 people (YES, ONE-THOUSAND PEOPLE!!!) came to pay their respects, to say goodbye, to offer oceans of comfort—and to share with us how you had touched their lives forever. It soon became very apparent that you had done just that. The endless line of callers, both young and old, snaked its way through the door and all the way out to the street, continuously—for five full hours. That steady stream of mourners endured both the cold and eventually the darkness just to be near you and to deliver those all-important words—that you MATTERED to them. You had made a difference in their lives and would never be forgotten.

Of course, friends and family already knew you mattered. Or at least we thought we had a handle on how greatly you had influenced others. But I doubt anyone could have ever envisioned such an outpouring of love and support—such a tremendous tribute to you as a person. I think it stunned us all. Naturally, I felt proud of the man you had become; but at the same time, ashamed that I hadn’t recognized it myself. I regret not giving you the praise you surely deserved.

Your students were the toughest to console. It was pure agony to look into those sorrowful faces—so young, so innocent and so completely devastated by their loss—and ours. You were their guide, their inspiration and their rock in many cases. Some wore broad smiles and bore the gifts of tales that indelibly touched our hearts—of time you had spent…of lessons you had taught…of hope you had instilled. Others arrived teary-eyed and spent, with loads of baggage and intolerable grief at their sides. Still others carried anger and resentment in their hearts and truckloads of questions on their lips. Tell me, won’t you, how were we to explain the inexplicable? To assign meaning to that which seems completely senseless? To order their disordered worlds—along with our own? It was an impossible task to say the least.

Parents, counselors and staff members were there too—as much for the kids as for themselves. Together we tried to assure them that “things would be okay,” that you “would always be watching over them,” and that they “should continue to try and make you proud.” High schoolers are tough sells, however. No surprise there. They wanted you—not a bunch of words. And a rewind button—not the ugliness that had become reality. It killed me to see so much disappointment and so many broken spirits. I can only hope they’re faring better now.

Needless to say, hugs were plentiful that night as were the tears.

Still more profound…scores of individuals have visited your gravesite, now bursting with the scent of pine and new fallen snow. A multitude of lovely mementos have since joined the dozens upon dozens of sweet-smelling roses that dressed your casket in a blanket of red on the day of your burial.

More recently, I learned that many have driven to the canyon itself—to quietly lay bouquets at its very edge, the site where you willfully and tragically ended it all. No doubt, some felt it more fitting to toss their floral offerings into the cavernous abyss below, so that they might somehow reach what remains of your spirit, now mingling amidst the soft and silent snowflakes.

Some of your students not only left flowers but also carved initials and heartfelt messages into that infamous Grand Canyon railing you breached. Perhaps, to them, it will offer some comforting assurance that their words of farewell will never be forgotten. Nor will the bonds you shared be erased.

More evidence still of your apparent worth on this planet was the bizarre, yet moving turn of events on the morning of your funeral. Oddly enough, a bomb threat, rumored to be in your honor, was made that day. As a result, school was canceled and more people were able to attend your services. Standing room only, as I recall. I have to think this would have made you smile (despite the felony charges that could have been levied against someone who apparently ignored the risk that day).

I truly do wonder…that had you only known how many people would be affected by your absence (and how greatly those same individuals would suffer), you might have decided not to take your own life. But then again, perhaps it was inevitable.

Sadly, we’ll probably never know.

Copyright 2006 Melinda L. Wentzel

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