Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Proof of Life

She wasn't my child.

But I'd watched her grow up, just the same.

Photo Credit: bfishadow
When my phone rang at shortly after midnight last night, I got that feeling.  You know, that one.  The feeling that accompanies the knowledge that no good news comes so late.  Seeing that the caller was my daughter made that feeling intensify, like the loud burst of thunder after the slow roll.

When I first answered, I couldn't understand her words, and that rose my fear level another notch.  My daughter was nearing hysteria, something she's not prone to.  She's always been the strongest and bravest of her friends, but there was no strength left in her crying voice last night.

"Have you heard anything about Cindy?" I finally made out.

I hadn't heard anything, as I'd been in a Nyquil assisted sleep, fighting this cold or sinus infection, or whatever it is that is kicking my ass this week.  I'm surprised I even heard the phone.  I went to ask Mr. Sullivan, who was playing some game on Facebook since he had the next day off.  As I was heading that direction, I finally got some coherence from my daughter.

"There are posts on Facebook.  I think she's dead."

That stopped me in my tracks.  I didn't want to hear this.  I didn't want to have to help my daughter through this, long distance.  But what my daughter needed from me was something she felt I could give:  proof of life.  She needed someone at home to connect the dots for her, from her location hundreds of miles away.  She had pieced together a few facts, and come to what she saw was the inevitable conclusion:  Her friend Cindy had died, but she hoped beyond hope to be wrong.

I finally got over to Mr. Sullivan, and tried to fill him in on what was going on.  It was hard for me.  Cindy was someone we had watched grow up, and she had both been in school with my oldest daughter, and had taken a class at our local community college with my husband.  I knew that telling him would upset him, but I had upset daughter on the phone and needed to help her.

We could have, of course, made phone calls.  But who do you call at midnight, without disturbing people who may be freshly grieving, or someone who doesn't yet know, or, worse yet, waking someone up to confirm a Facebook rumor that may or may not be true, as Facebook rumors can be.

It took us a few minutes, but we finally found a post from someone we knew and trusted.

I could not give my daughter what she so desperately hoped for.

Cindy died last night in some kind of car accident.

We don't have all the facts.  She was far from home, visiting some family, and no one here is completely sure what happened.

Cindy was 25.  She was a little further on her journey than "just starting out," but still so terribly young, at least in my eyes.

She was not my child, but...

I remember watching her play volleyball.

I remember seeing her at the Fire Station, helping serve food to tired firefighters after a huge wild fire.

I remember the sound of her laughter, a sound you heard often from her.

Her brother coached my son's football team, and, when she was home, she was the loudest cheerleader on the field.

She was full of life, and always seemed to me to be ready to take on the world.

I had to tell my daughter that her worst fears were confirmed.

I had to listen to her cry, and be powerless to do anything except say all the words you think she needs to hear.  I prayed, and cried, and hoped my words offered her comfort.

This morning offered no clarity.  I went up to the school to see if there were any answers I could give my grown up baby girl, and instead held a woman while she cried for ten minutes, pouring out her grief over the loss of "one of our kids."

Finally, on my way back to my van, I broke down.  And got held by another woman while I poured out my grief for a child that was not mine, but was "one of our kids" just the same.

I am thankful that I knew Cindy.  That her parents chose to share her, and her equally full of life brother with us.

I am thankful that my oldest child still thinks that mom can fix what's wrong, make things right, and turn the confusion into truth-but I hate that the truth she got wasn't the truth she sought from me.

And I hope my phone never rings at midnight again.


  1. This just breaks my heart. I am so sorry.

  2. So sorry to read about this. Losing one so young is heartbreaking. Best wishes to you and your daughter.

  3. My heart goes out to you and your family and Cindy's family.Life is so unfair and so hard at times! My children each had someone in their lives die young.There are no answers for their grief. When someone dies after living a long life,at least they had that.But when someone young shakes you to your core! Darlene

  4. Always such a tragic waste when a young person dies. I worked in Human Resources for years at a water park and became quite attached to many of the "kids" who came to work summer after summer. In ten years, two were lost to car accidents, both fine young men poised to begin their adult lives. So sad, so senseless. Keeping you and your daughter in my thoughts.

  5. I am so sorry for your loss. Sending huge hugs to you, your daughter and her friend/your friend's family.

  6. Broke my heart a little with this post, but beautifully written. There are plenty of wonderful kids growing up alongside my own kids and I know my heart would hurt if this story was about them. Erin

  7. Wow! Brought back so many memories of a similar call. So hard when someone dies so young and so unexpectedly. I am SO sorry for your loss! And your daughters. I can only imagine how your heart must break all the more for the hurt she feels that you can't make go away. I only hope I never have to do the same.

    Warmest thoughts,

  8. OMG how horrible, your family and Cindy's family are in my thoughts

  9. Oh, Annie! I am so, so sorry. Hugs and prayers to you and all of your "kids."

  10. That's so sad. I'm so sorry for the loss! The loss of any child is sad, although I'm about that age myself, what I would give to have so much love! She was blessed. I hope you are all doing better.

  11. I want to thank all of y'all for commenting, for holding us and Cindy's family in your thoughts and prayers. That means so much to me I can't even explain it. I'm sitting here in tears reading these words from you all, and I appreciate the kindness of my friends inside this machine on my lap. You guys bring me so much love and strength and kindness and humor and I appreciate each and every one of you!


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