It was sunny and I was on the way to the bank when I met her under the tree that had such beautiful leaves. She was smaller than I expected, shier than I expected, and dressed in flannel, despite it being August. She was smiling and polite and didn’t fit with the tough, attitude-filled brat image that I’d gotten from people.
It was dark and cool in the late fall evening when I dropped her off at her house and she said “Cindy, I like you a lot. I hope you’re our minister for a long time.” I don’t even remember what activity we’d been doing that night to prompt such flattery, but her grandmother assured me that she hadn’t liked a minister in a long time, so if she said it, she meant it.
It was miserably hot out without a cloud anywhere as I drove her and the younger girls to camp, singing pop songs at the tops of our lungs, laughing when someone got the words wrong. No one wanted to admit to why we all knew the words to the One Direction song and blamed it on it being overplayed and annoying instead of the fact that it was really stinkin’ catchy.
It was any given Sunday, but especially in the fall, when she and I teamed up against her grandpa in our football rivalry. He was a huge Packers fan but we had much better taste, finding every excuse to stick Bears logos on anything that would sit still long enough.
It was just the two of us and her sister in the van when we left the Starbucks parking lot. She liked Strawberry Frappuccinos, and I had a vanilla latte, and we talked about boys the whole way to Iowa. I tried to get her to see that she deserved someone who loved her like every girl should be loved.
She wasn’t just a kid in my congregation. She was Becca. She is someone I loved. She is someone I still miss every single day.
These are the memories I am choosing to remember. Not the hospitals, court dates, police reports, or case workers. Not the green organ donation bracelet I wore for months after her death. I can’t forget these things. They are as seared into me as anything I can possibly imagine. I’ve decided that I can choose which things I remember, though. That I can choose which memories flash first in my mind when I think of her. Yeah, she had more tragedy and heartache than any kid should, but she was still a kid. She lived more in her seventeen years than most people do in seventy, but she was still a kid.
I need to remember her that way.
Besides, she’d kick my butt if she thought that I didn’t.