When I was fifteen, a clever boy was killed. His name was Graham. He was smart, and funny, and creative. And would have grown into a fine, young man. On his way to school, so the story goes (because schools are rife with rumor), he crouched down to tie his shoelace at the side of the road and failed to look either way when he was done and ready to cross. He was hit by a car. Not far from his home. He survived on life support for a few days. Our year (grade) was quietly a-babble with speculation; teenagers wondering, simmering, huddled in groups sharing what little they had gleaned from this person or that person who knew him, or knew the family.
Then the day arrived when we were told, finally, concretely, that Graham had passed.
For most of us it was new territory. Certainly, some had felt the brush of loss and death with an elderly family member, or a pet and possibly, a few had had more intimate experiences. But, as a collective we had never lost one of our own. It was as if someone had detonated a silent bomb and we were left reeling, flailing in the aftershock.
I will never forget the day that our year, the whole year, all roughly 250 of us, walked to the village church from school. It was such a mark of respect, and love for Graham, to all go together. What a sight we must have been to anyone driving by on Church Hill; a maroon snake with white shirts, white socks and ties fluttering. Personally, and I have since discovered that this is common, I felt a mild hysteria, and couldn’t suppress several giggles during the route. But, once inside that little church, I cried. I sat next to Nicola, Jo and Sandra and we all wept. I still remember when his coffin was carried down the aisle; it seemed unreal, unfathomable to us all.
The next day, a few of us sat on a back field with a very cool music teacher whose name I completely forget. He played his guitar and tried to help us be at peace with our feelings. He said, and I recall this clearly even if not his name: “A funeral is like a full stop to the whole thing.”
Today was my friend Ken’s Full Stop Day. There’s been some time since the day he died until now, and in that time, emotions evened out and waters calmed. Today, I have opened myself to mourning one more time, allowed the melancholia to sift around, not in judgment or battle, just letting it be what it needs to be.
Tomorrow is a new day. Profoundly, Ken’s death has shown me what is most important to me and as my life moves on, I tuck him away in my heart (which he never really left) and make a heartfelt vow to treasure more of the souls I love.