It is an unusual story, how I came to befriend Rachel. To be honest with you, I don’t even remember how or when we met. But we did meet quite a few years ago and I’m very happy about that.
When my daughter was around three years old, she attended day care at the local church where she became involved in a children’s choir. My parents came with me one night to a choir presentation and Dad kept looking at the pastor, “I know that guy from somewhere.” It turns out they played Little League together in Fort Myers, Florida, when they were just kids, forty years earlier and 300 miles away from this small Baptist church in Jacksonville. And they picked up a friendship as if no amount of time had interfered.
Eventually, Pastor Dave and my Dad got all their children together and introduced us to each other. Rachel invited my brother and me to karaoke – she loved to sing. I took her up on her offer a few times. She and I never did share the same belief in faith and Christianity, but we did share a belief in the power of karaoke.
To this day, I cannot hear the songs Love Shack and I Wanna Rock! without thinking of her.
Rachel was a kindergarten teacher, a popular one at that, and the first teacher I ever got to know outside of the classroom. She supported me as a fellow single mother, encouraging me through the entire course of getting my degree. Because she was so darn likeable, she even convinced me (more than once) to show up for church sometimes so I could hear her perform a new song she’d written. Musically gifted, she’d strum her guitar and sing words of praise to the God she lived her life to please.
Rachel is with Him now. She died yesterday at the age of 29.
Maybe because my family and I are still trying to process the loss of my grandfather only two days ago, Rachel’s passing has left us teetering on a ledge, somewhere between grieving and autopilot. There are the expected moments of sadness and anger, part of the whole grieving process, followed by a hour-long stare-off with the computer and the inability to do something so simple as paying the bills. The work of mourning is an exhausting checklist of procedures to endure. Twice now I have walked away from boiling water, wandered off into a fog, only to return and find the water had evaporated. Even cooking rice in a bag is a grueling task these days.
Tomorrow, we will go to church and say our goodbyes to her while in the company of those who loved her most.
Thank you, friend. We will miss you.