My friend Howie Good, who teaches in New York State, passed on this piece of writing from his student Lauren Scrudato. Our thanks to Lauren.
A group of friends walk down the path to the pavilion in a trance. Some have not seen each other since graduation over a year ago while others are a familiar sight.
Lectures and horror stories about the effects of careless driving, texting, and speeding were instilled in our brains as 16-year-olds suffering through Driver’s Ed. “Over 4,000 teens will die in this country every year due to fatal car accidents,” Mr. Schulte would reiterate to us.
Yet here we are today.
The crickets are like a distant audience, mumbling about our grief.
"No one ever thinks it's going to happen to them" Shawn says.
Frank actually hugs Maggie. I haven't seen them embrace like that in years. The glimmer from the candles casts shadows on everyone's faces.
Pawel’s mom stands a distance away, dressed in all black, as she will be for the next year due to Polish custom. Her eyes show amazement at the outpouring of love everyone had for her son. She forces a smile to show her appreciation.
As the candles drip, we talk about the simple things: playing hacky sack, exploring the woods, playing tennis, all with Pawel. As I hear these stories, flashes of memories like a personal slideshow.
We hug. We cry. We laugh. Then we listen.
We know we had the good things, but those never seem to last, Modest Mouse sings through the portable speakers. Who knew how appropriate his favorite song would turn out to be.
Our heads remain down for a few more moments. It is a struggle to lift them back up.
"Let me know when you're home safely," we repeat to each other. Some will speed home as if they have learned nothing.