Sunday, December 21, 2008
Twenty four years ago I met Jean Smith. We were freshmen in high school and as different as night and day. I was shy. She was outgoing. I was a reader. She was a talker. We should have never been friends. And yet, we became the best of friends.
In truth, she was probably the person I wanted to be. Vivacious. Well-loved. Happy and confident and talented beyond belief. We both joined the speech team and spent many weekends together in school cafeterias and rental vans and hotel rooms. We terrorized Buffalo, New York with Groucho Marx mustache glasses and pretended to fall over the side of Niagra Falls. We wrote poetry about our teenage angsts and endless notes that we passed in the hall between classes. When she had her first baby, I was the first non-relative in the room, snapping photos of the amazing blue-eyed little girl. We sang the entire works of Billy Joel more times than is humane.
In fact, when I called last month, after four years of not seeing each other to say we absolutely needed to do lunch that Friday, she said, "Billy Joel came on the radio today and I was thinking exactly the same thing!" So, after four years, we met for lunch. And talked. And talked. And talked for hours, as if no time had passed at all.
Late this past Friday night, when I opened my laptop to turn it off, a message flashed across my facebook page. Jean was dead.
Sometime on Friday afternoon, after going to the high school to say Merry Christmas to the many teachers and students she works with, she went home. Her son Connor came home to find her, and her other son Jim shot to death in their own house.
My grief is overwhelming. For 36 hours time seemed to stand still for me. All my grand plans for the weekend disappeared. I am baffled, depressed. I want to sleep. Instead I cry. I hunt through boxes frantically, trying to find old photos I know I have but haven't seen in ages, and instead I come across letters in her beautiful scrawl.
There is no reason for this. Even if the police find something, some reason, there is no reason. There is no reason for a 39 year old mother and her 19 year old son, to be shot in their own home in the middle of the day.
On her facebook profile Jean writes: We all choose the times and the places and people where we think we should be. I hope that I am where I am needed, and that I chose wisely. I will have the opportunity to be remembered for what I have done, instead of what I have failed to do.....
Hundreds of people have organized spontaneous vigils. The high school where she served as a Choir Mom has set up counseling sessions. Her facebook page is filling with memorials from people she has befriended and affected as much as she did me. I think she chose well.
Goodbye Jean. I love you sky big.