There are two specific childhood memories that still evoke sadness for me to this day.
When I was in the first or second grade, I had a friend named Bernadette. One day at school, Bernadette was very sad and withdrawn; I pressed her to tell me why. She finally told me that she returned home from school, and found her mother dead on the floor of her house. Her mother was in a funeral parlor around the corner from our school (St. Lucy), and she wanted to go and see her (her family thought she was too young to go). I agreed to go with her after school. I spent the rest of the day trying to imagine what her mother would look like; I was nervous, but I didn’t want her to go alone. When we got to the parlor, her mother’s casket was the first thing I saw. I can honestly say I don’t remember Bernadette’s reaction. Her mother was the first dead person I had ever seen in my life; I was completely overwhelmed. She looked very peaceful, I kept waiting for her to get up. I never saw Bernadette again after that afternoon. Her mother’s image infiltrated my dreams for many years.
I had a friend named Becky Bostrum when I was in the fifth grade. That year, after Christmas vacation, I learned that she had been killed in a car accident. I was told that her family was returning home from vacation, and her father hit a patch of black ice. The car rolled and hit the guardrail and burst into flames. Her father somehow escaped the car (I think he was ejected), and was severely burned trying to save her from the flames. Although I only heard about the details of the crash, my imagination went wild trying to imagine what she must have gone through before she died. She still crosses my mind every so often.