“Were you close?”
This is the question I keep getting asked when I talk about the tragic death of a high school classmate and former student of mine (I coached my old high school colorguard for 6 years). The answer isn’t a simple yes or no.
When people ask “were you close” they want to know did you talk every day? Was she who you went to for advice? Did you share in each other’s day-to-day lives? And the truth is, Kim and I were probably as different as different could be. We shared some wonderful times in high school, I was proud to be her teacher. But were we close? Not in the way people are asking.
And yet I feel compelled to explain. You see, there’s something really special about the family Kim and I share. If you were in high school marching band, then you probably know. And if you were in this particular high school marching band, then I know you know.
Above all else, our group was a family. Is a family. For 40 years my father has cultivated that family as intensely and deeply as he has the family he goes home to every night. Every student who passed through the door of room 407 knows nothing less than that no matter what else happens – this is your family.
Kim was family. And for me, she wasn’t only family who I walked through the door with when I was a senior and she was a freshman, but I walked through that door FOR, as a teacher, a coach, an advisor. Through the wonders of social media our family has grown more connected to one another, more able to maintain the connections we built in those formative years of our lives. We’re able to watch and share in each other’s joys and triumphs, and lift each other up in trying times.
The thing about family is, no matter where you are or how long it’s been since you’ve talked, you’re always family. I had the great pleasure to be able know Kim personally, to be a part of her growing up, just as she was a part of mine. Words cannot express how deeply her loss is felt; cannot express where the tears come from.
Were we close? There are few who know what I mean when I answer yes.
Rest well sweet Kim. Your smile and your light continue to shine. Four people have been given a second chance at life because of your continued generosity. Our lives are better for having known you, and our family is more complete for your having been in it. May your husband and children find strength and joy even in grief.