Last Sunday (a week ago yesterday) while I hiked with my dog, took my mom to visit my aunt and complained about having to go to work the next day, a little girl I’ve never met, took her own life because of bullying.  She was eleven.  I didn’t hear about it on the news and didn’t hear about it at work until late Friday (the 13th) afternoon almost a week after the tragedy.  I happened to overhear co-workers talking about the wake.  I was stunned to find out this eleven year old girl was the daughter of a co-worker, someone I know very well, someone I think very highly of.  I don’t know how this eluded me for almost a week considering the fact that I watch the news every morning, and it seemed everyone at work had gone to the wake.  Everyone but me, that is.  As the details starting to flood in, I decided to attend the evening calling hours, until I heard it was open casket.  That changed my mind as I knew I’d never be able to sleep again. There’s no way to reach my friend at this time so I signed the on-line condolence website… and cried all night.  I can’t even imagine the pain, and I knew my friend had to be mess with this.  I hugged my son and never wanted to let go.

Mom and I set out to go to the funeral on Sunday.  We were running a bit late and figured the chapel service was over and went right to the Celebration-of-Life afterwards.  The place was packed, although not a familiar face to me.  Mom and I happened to sit with a very nice woman who said she facilitated the eulogy at the chapel.  She also said not to expect to see the parents anytime soon as they were having such a difficult time saying their last goodbye’s.  We waited all afternoon, watched video’s of the sweet child, looked at pictures and listened to stories.  I wanted to see my friend, hug him and tell him how sorry I was.  He never showed, or at least not while mom and I were there.  My heart broke even more as I had visions of a broken man trying to say his last goodbye’s to his precious little girl. 

I learned more about my friend, and his family in three short days, than in all of ten years I’ve worked with him.  He’s a gentle giant, loved by all.  This I knew.    His daughter, although lighter than him, looked just like him.  She was a pretty girl, with a shy, curious look about her.  Watching the video of her singing in a talent contest a week before, I looked for signs on her face that would indicate this precious child had so much turmoil in her head and heart.  I saw nothing.  I then wondered if my friend had ever seen any signs.  So many questions…

It struck me odd that the room was segregated with all the people who had come out to honor and celebrate this little girl’s life.  Blacks on one side, whites on the other.  It was then I realized the girl’s mother must have been white, not that it mattered.  It almost felt intrusive to me, to be learning all these very personal things about my friend.  I learned that this was his second marriage and he has three grown children from the first, and rumors of grandchildren.  Wouldn’t these details be something he would have shared with people if he’d wanted us to know?  I was torn and suddenly turned to mom and said we should leave.  It suddenly became too personal for me and a bit overwhelming.  I just wanted to hug my friend, I didn’t want to be privy to his personal life, the rumors, the speculations, the stories.  Just a hug from one friend to another, just to let him know that I’m here and I care.  My heart breaks for you my friend, my shoulders are strong should you need to lean.  My arms are open should you need a hug.  It’s the least I can do for a friend.

Life is short.  Make a difference every single day. 

Love, peace and strength… to all of you.