This time, last year, it was July 23rd, a Thursday night.
I was in driver's ed with my two best friends, Steph and Sarah. We were hurrying to write the notes that our teacher, Mr. R., was quickly spewing out. He was in a bad mood…cursing and telling us we were going to fail and go to hell. *quite literally, I am not exaggerating.* My hand had a cramp from writing straight through the three hour class, I was tired, and I wanted to be done the class forever…two more weeks and I would be done. It was around 8:30 when somebody poked me on the back. I turned and saw a girl (whose name was Skylar…I remember this now), who waited impatiently, handing me a note from a boy two rows behind me. Taking the note, I waited for a brief pause in Mr. R's lecture to read it. In the note from this boy I had never met before, he asked for my number, spelled my name wrong (total turn off for me, by the way!), and said he wanted to hang out with me. Shocked, I folded it up, passed it along to Steph, who passed it to Sarah. All three of us were shocked at this guy's way of introducing himself. All while I continued writing the driver notes, my thoughts went to how I was going to respond to this mystery kid whose name started with a D.
Class finally finished around 9 that night and I went into the bathroom with Steph and Sarah as we hurriedly and sporadically tried to think of a response to the creeper boy. We ended up giving up trying to be nice in answering. I decided I was just going to tel him I wasn't interested if he ever came up to me in person. I threw the note in my bag, along with my manual and notebook, and turned my cell phone from vibrate to high volume. My mom came and picked us up and I started gearing for the day at the beach that next day…Friday, July 24th.
That next day, which will be a year from tomorrow, was a sunny beach day…perfect for riding the waves and getting some sun. I went along with many of my friends and their families. My mom couldn't go because she had to work, so my brother and I tagged along with my friend's family. We hung out, had fun, laughed, and enjoyed that beautiful July day. For dinner we went to Grotto's and I remember feeling exhausted and full of joy as I ate a piece of delicious pizza. Afterwards, we walked around the board walk, enjoyed a few beach rides in the Fun Place, and then finally packed up to head home.
On the way home, it was dark. My friends and I were laughing as we headed down a busy highway, listening to music and singing along. It had started to rain lightly, but I didn't notice this right away. However, when my friend's mom turned down the music because she got a text from her email, my mood began to shift into a different gear. The text read that a family from church had been involved in a boating accident. A family I knew and had seen that last Sunday…all 6 of them praising God through worship. I had helped play with Ashley and Jacob (the two oldest of the kids) in Summer Sunday School that Sunday. I remember they were laughing as I splashed them with water.
Even though the details were vague, I had a gut feeling something terrible was happening and I quickly prayed for the family to be watched over by God. As I prayed this, the rain (which I now noticed abruptly) stopped and out came a beautiful rainbow. Somehow, I knew God was sovereign even though I didn't know what was happening miles away.
You see, that Friday night, my little friend, Ashley, went to be with Jesus forever…around the same time I saw the rainbow. I came home and cried myself to sleep. I didn't know her very well but the Sunday's memories kept coming back to me…making me remember. That Saturday was a blur. I didn't study for driver's ed class that was to be held on Monday, like I normally did. I didn't go outside and tan because it rained that day. I didn't listen to music. I didn't do anything. I laid on my bed and cried, praying that God would help this family with the grief that they were beginning to face.
Sunday (July 26th) was the hardest. I still had to help with Summer Sunday School, but it was different. Somehow, the kids knew something had changed and there was no noise and laughter before the lesson and game. Maybe there were a few kids who laughed and played like nothing had changed…I didn't realize it. All I saw were a few girls in a circle, saying nothing, tear-stained faces…sitting there, quiet, in the midst of chaotic little kids. I went over to them and gave each of them a hug as they cried for their friend. I somehow held it together for those little girls. I don't know how, but I did. A few minutes later, I left the place where the kids were gathered and was on my way out to the bathroom to cry by myself. I didn't want anyone to see me like this. I wanted to be able to be alone, but that's when my cousin, Danielle, met me there. She, I will never forget, had been crying and saw I had to cry, too. All she did was give me a hug and there, in the midst of the kids and church setting, I cried…sobbed. All that "pride" for nobody to see me crying disappeared…faded away. I no longer cared who saw me. Let them see me. Nothing will ever make me forget that moment. July was no longer my favorite month. July was forever changed. From then on. This is what happened this time last year and I will never, ever forget it.