Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tribute to a Friend

Shannon and I met in 1976 and instantly found ourselves forever friends! She and I were attached at the hip whenever possible. This feat became much easier when her family moved to the corner of Victor and Beacon in East Dallas, just blocks from my house! Our little feet knew all the cracks in the neighborhood sidewalks as we pounded the pavement in search of fun and adventures!



We would walk around talking in pig Latin and our own made-up gibberish language! We found this strangely hilarious when passersby would look at us funny! We would giggle and laugh till we cried. We thought we were so clever!

Because our families were very close and our parents did a lot of socializing and partying, we had even more excuses to be together. When Shannon was 10 years old she found out she was going to be a big sister, something she had mixed emotions about. In the days leading up to the big day, Shannon and I walked what seemed like a million miles with her mom around the block trying to convince this baby it was time to be born.....watched pots never boil!

December 23, 1978 the big day arrived! I was privileged enough to be present when her mother, Brenda, finally went into labor and gave birth to Shannon's little brother, Terrence. Brenda had the baby at home with the assistance of a midwife and many loving friends. At the age of 11, I held Brenda's hand during the delivery as Terrence made his appearance in this world. Afterwards, I sat in a corner and wept uncontrollably. When my mom saw me, she asked what was the matter. I told her that "I don't know. I have never been so happy before!"

My dad was trying his hand at becoming a professional photographer and he captured many beautiful images of the miracle of this day. He even featured a photo of Brenda nursing the baby on his first set of business cards. This was one of the most moving and enlightening experiences of my life and later became the inspiration for why I chose to give birth to my son in a similar fashion so many years later. It was for this reason that I chose to have our own 14 year old daughter present to witness this kind of remarkable beauty and participate in welcoming her new little brother.




The following summer, on a dare, Shannon and I set about a mission to save up money to go to Six Flags in the Fall. We spent the entire summer scouring the sofa cushions for change, cashing in soda bottles at the Mike's Grocery...a little neighborhood market nestled in the heart of the neighborhood, and doing chores for pennies in pursuit of our lofty goal. We opened a lemonade stand on the street corner and reeked havoc on traffic as we sold our goods and made memories! By October we had saved a whopping $36...whoo hoo! It was just enough to pay our admission into Six Flags! Mission Accomplished! Of course, our parents said it wasn't fair that we were the only ones who got to go. So, by default, my brother, sister, cousin and neighborhood friend tagged along!





I did not like sharing my friend with others. She was mine...all mine...or so I though! We both began to grow up and with that got our own independent lives which led us to spending less and less time together. I went off to a magnet school for middle school where I found my first love. She was angry with me and hurt that my attention could not be drawn away, not even for a moment. I even wrote a short story during that time in a pubescent attempt to process the changes in our friendship and the rift that was forming. During this time, someone I grew to know well, wrote a beautiful poem about friendship. I loved this poem so much that I memorized it way back when. I often refer to it whenever I feel sad about the loss of innocence that one goes through at that age, as first loves are young loves and relationships are like little girls' hearts.....fragile.




Fall of 1982, Shannon entered high school. I was a sophomore and found myself alone and lost....trying to figure out what 15 year old girls try to figure out. Shannon was such a vibrant soul and soon found that she had tons of friends and got an identity that was all her own! She was shining brightly and ever so popular. We talked once in a while but I was no longer a part of her inner circle. Just after Valentines Day of that year, we talked about each others plans for Spring Break. I was just going to hang out at home and Shannon had big plans to go to Galveston/Padre Island with another freshman and her sister who was a senior, who was going to do the driving.





Sure, I was jealous but I wasn't going to let her know that! I was casual about the whole thing. You know, no big deal and all, right? A week or so later, we ran into each other in the choir room at school. Shannon commented to me about an awkward girl at school that I had started hanging out with. She said something like "You shouldn't be hanging out with THAT girl, she is STRANGE!" Since I was already pissed about not being included in her new found little group of friends, I popped off with heated words. I said something like "You know, EVERYONE has SOMEONE who thinks that THEY are STRANGE! Not everyone can be the social butterfly that you have become!"


It was my turn to be hurt and angry and I let her have it! I turned my back and walked away...never to see her face again. You can't ever take back the very last words you will ever get to say to a person....they are written in stone. Those words still haunt me to this day!




School let out for Spring Break 1983. I assumed Shannon was off at the beach having fun with all her NEW friends and I was stuck at home doing little of nothing. However, I did get asked out on a date. He was a really nice young man but we stayed out a little past the time my parents had said I had to be home by. I walked in the door and judging by my parents demeanor, I knew I was in the doghouse...busted!

They said "Coral, we need to talk." Oh, boy....here it comes! They are gonna ground me for sure! What they had to say to me stopped time, shattered my world and altered the universe as I knew it.

"Shannon was killed in a car wreck....."

I don't think I heard anything else for several minutes. They had to practically shake me to bring me back to reality. My parents need to know how to get in touch with Shannon's family and did I have any idea where they could be reached. The school officials had been unable to contact her parents. They contacted my family because according to school records, I was listed as one of her "chums" and might now how to reach her parents. Shannon was dead and her mother did not even know it!

I knew that Brenda and Terry were probably at a friend's house where they were supposed to be having a big party and musical jam session as was popular in the day....you, know drinkin', eatin', pickin', singin'. Time stopped again that night. Sure enough, they were at that party and even though I have no memory of what was said, the bottom line is that my parents had to break the news to her parents.

Turn back the hands of time, please God, turn them back! That is all I can remember thinking. Music was one of Shannon's many gifts. She played oboe...an odd instrument but she loved it! Her favorite song was "Pachalbel Canon in D". Shannon's family chose to have her cremated and there was a beautiful memorial service. A quartet that included a gifted musician and friend, Ruth Ann Aten, played the "Pachalbel Canon in D". It was absolutely breathtaking and emotional!

When, I married three years later, I did not have a Maid of Honor....my Maid of Honor was gone. Instead, I called upon her spirit to be by my side with "Pachalbel" playing as I walked down the isle and knew that Shannon was there just as I knew she was there when we had the memorial service. Friends were asked to make comments during the memorial, you know, tell anecdotes and share memories during the service. I have long since lost the original copy of the poem but I will try to recall some of the words from the poem that I chose to recite in her memory at the memorial service....I can only hope that the author will forgive my fading memory of the exact wording but I believe my recollection will at least portray the value his words. These words and these memories, both joyous and painful, have been carried deep in my heart over a lifetime.

Friends are like snowflakes
Softly they come and softly they go....

Many times wanted
Other times, not.....
But we will always miss them
No matter what.....

So, when a friend leaves you
And you want to die
Don't sit around waiting
Just asking God why?......

Look out the window....
And pray for more snow!