You know how when you reach the end of a great book, you don’t want to put it down? You sit still and hold the cover closed, feel the weight of the three, four or five hundred pages you just read: not so proud of the accomplishment of completion as loving the emotional cloud that lingers like a ghost and seems to make you breathe a little deeper, then smile? A great book is the best of friends.
And a best friend is like being in the midst of a superb read. There is action, adventure, laughter, tears. A best friend lingers in your heart when he or she isn’t there anymore, and you want to pick up a phone and call, just to say “hi” and reconnect.
But sometimes, like a good book, you need to close the cover, enjoy the memories and hope there might be a sequel some day. You say good-bye, and hope the salve of warm remembrances will help you through the sleepless nights.
It was 10 years ago today that I had such a good-bye with a best friend. My Sara had other adventures to seek, and I couldn’t go along. Ten years later, the denouement of her story is complete, and like the people who gathered for the tenth anniversary of the Twin Towers event, I need to look back, remember, and smile.
Sara was like any other kid, except for the seizures, the mental retardation, and the balance problems. Those were extras that gave her life story adventure, and gave mine, worry and fear.
But Sara was like any other kid. She had soft skin and bright eyes as a toddler. She loved to laugh, and her big sister in the years since Sara left us, has talked about the idea of starting a Sara’s Smile not-for-profit, that would help little people with tooth problems. How cool is that? Even if it never materializes (life does have a way of running away from us), my wonderful older daughter has a heart that easily matches the smile that Sara used to give us. I am truly happy when I play with this thought.
And Sara was like any other kid in the happiness she gave us. It seemed she was always saying “I got a great idea!” Fair warning that we were about to be talked into a restaurant meal involving egg plant and “soggy noggie” at Pete’s Central 1 or Walk About Soup from Outback Steakhouse. Even now, the corners of my mouth are turning up in thinking about this.
Daisy Arthur had a daughter who died as well. She is wistful in her memories of her Rose, as I feel in remembering my Sara. But the wistfulness is often pushed away when I think about the corn-rows she was so proud of, a gift from our trip to the Bahamas. Those braids stayed in her hair for over a month! She truly didn’t want them out. Even “normal” boys did a double take when Sara walked about in that hair-do. She blushed with the casual compliments thrown her way, treasures that light my heart.
Death is a thief. It steals your loved ones, and often your own purpose in life — if you let it. But I think about Sara and the buoyancy of her attitude in life. She wasn’t with us long, but every minute it seems, was time well spent. In her short life, she not only had the negative adventures, but she also:
- Traveled a couple of times to Europe
- Had an abundance of friends, including a boyfriend of several years. Max, we still love you!
- Lived in three different states – Florida, Texas, and Colorado
- Had 15 years of schooling, thanks to a Head Start special education program
- Was in the major motion picture, “A Leap Of Faith,” as an extra
- Learned not only to speak English, but a few phrases in American Sign Language, and French and Spanish too
Who could ask for more?
There will always be a small corner of my heart that will remain wistful, but honestly, I think Sara led a very full life, and as the sun sets today, I will be closing the book of grief that I’ve indulged in.
It was a difficult read, but my life is richer for having known Sara, and she taught me so much about a community of love that I would never had known without her. When I look at the last rays of sun, I will not be so proud of the accomplishment of Sara’s life completed as loving the emotional cloud that lingers and makes me breathe a little deeper, then smile.
There is hope.