Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tears, Sadness, and Grace

Most of the time I use this space to rage against something that has me on edge.  Usually there’s nothing I can do to change anything, and although “getting it off your chest” is supposed to be therapeutic, I’ve learned it doesn’t work so well for me.  But writing has always helped call attention to problems or issues, and that creates dialogue and steps, which can lead to solutions.  Anger has its place.
This time it’s different.
This time there are no conversations.  No solutions.  Nothing to do to make things “better”.  Just emptiness and hurt.
I heard from friends today that someone I grew up with had passed away.  We grew up in the same small town where everybody knew everyone else, and we became friends through the randomness of the alphabet and classroom seating charts.  In grade school you were assigned seats based on your last name, and most times your closest friends were the kids who sat around you – depending on class size, someone with a last name beginning with “D” could have D’s, E’s, and F’s in front and back, and L’s, M’s, and N’s alongside.  Dawn and I were together in almost every class from first grade into high school.  We shared milk cartons and snacks.  Laughed at stupid jokes.  Copied off each others' test papers.  Passed notes when the teacher’s back was turned.  Dawn was a good student.  A cheerleader.  An athlete.  Popular.
She was the kindest, friendliest, sweetest person I knew, and for the life of me, I cannot remember a time when she wasn’t smiling.  Her smile lit up a room and made everything better.
Most of all, she was a friend.
People say that death – especially when it’s a friend or loved one – has a way of making each of us face our own mortality.  That's supposed to be scary but it doesn’t scare me.  What scares me is the realization that the world becomes a lesser place – a truly good person has left, and her death creates a huge void that cannot be filled.  When that happens a flood of emotions and memories come at you, and you try to hold on to as many as you can and hope they don’t fade away as the years pass.  You remember smiles and laughter.  The kind words you shared.  The depth and warmness of her heart.  But it makes the hurt harder and the loss more painful.
 If I could wish for anything, it would be to always remember the kind of person Dawn was and become that person.  But I know I am not that good.
I thought this post would be different but it’s not – like always, I am still angry.  I’m pissed off at God and the arbitrariness of loss and the painful memories of things that are gone – things we can’t get back.  Pissed off because I don’t understand why people like Dawn, who are good and beautiful and kind, die and we’re left with a bunch of reality show pretenders in a culture that worships excess and bad habits.  Mostly I am pissed off and sad because I will miss her, even after all the years and through the miles that have passed between us.  I will miss the warmth of her smile and the beauty of her character and the kindness she had for everyone she met.  I will miss the way she made me feel better when I didn’t even know I wasn’t as okay as I pretended to be.  I will miss her friendship.
R.I.P. Dawnie – you will always be a bright and shining light for all of us.


  1. Wow my friend, very powerful. You had Dawn down perfectly! She had the biggest, kindest heart I know.

    It always amazed me that she wanted to be MY friend. It didn't matter that I was from 'the wrong side of the tracks', she never saw it that way. Didn't matter back then that I was white...she still made me 'a part of her family.'

    I remember the times we used to go to her Uncle Cliff's store on our lunchbreaks, just to say hi to him. Once you met him and her mom, you knew where Dawn got her smile, her grace, her heart, her sense of humor.

    I remember walking with her for hours and just talking about nothing and having the BEST time because with her, there was no such thing as NOT fitting it. We talked about boys, movies, music, God, ghosts, coming back after we leave this world. We often went to Ireland's News shop and giggled over the latest hunk, smoked our one and only cigar together, danced the Funky Chicken, went to football and basketballs games.

    I will never forget the way she would step in and defend my little brother Ray when others picked on him, how she stopped the bullying with a single,softly spoken 'Don't'.

    I remember sitting in the shade of a big old tree, with her, Necie Bass, Gloria Moss, Ava Arrington, Natalie Reid, just teasing, talking and watching clouds roll by on a warm summer day....being so happy just to 'be'.

    Rest in Peace my dear, dear friend. I love you 'Tippy' and will never forget...I promise to always keep your light shining, your smile shared and your heart beating so that others may know what a wonderful person you were, what a beacon of hope, love and light to all you touched! Miss you my dear one, more than anyone will ever know! Thank you for being you. I know you are here because we discussed this when we were just 13 or 14 yrs old! Butterflies, dragonflies and mockingbirds always!!!

    Kevin...Thank YOU...for letting me share my memories of Dawn! Love you my friend!!!

    Maggie Foster Burnett