May 27

NOTE: I originally published this a year ago today. I’m republishing the post as it appeared a year ago, with a few additional thoughts for this year.

One of my quirks, I remember dates. They get lodged in my head, and I can’t get them out. Some useful, like birthdays (though I’m getting worse with adding those), and some not, like the anniversaries of days certain things happened. It’s a reflex, to the point where, apparently, it can be annoying.

Anyway, May 27 is one of those dates, from events that occurred in two consecutive years.

On May 27, 1992, I graduated from Huntsville High School.

Doing the math, I graduated from high school 17 years ago today, when I was about two months shy of my 17th birthday. In other words, high school is now just over half my life ago. I’ve lived more since that day than I had before. It’s just weird to think about; I certainly don’t feel twice as old as I was then. I’ll admit that my days at HHS are a distant and remote memory at this point, but I’m still young, right? From graduation until our 10-year reunion, sure, a good bit of time passed. But the reunion was hardly any time ago at all. And now the 20 is just around the corner. Where does it go?

On May 27, 1991, Beth Ladner died.

Beth was a member of my class at Huntsville, was a fellow part of the staff of the school newspaper, and ran against me for senior class vice-president. She was brilliant, pretty, and a genuine and easily likeable person, with a promising future, most likely as a marine biologist. She died in a car accident right before final exams.

And that fact has always stayed with me. This was high school, and final exams were huge — the studying, the stress, the work. If the accident had occurred a week later, she would have gone through all of that. And still been dead. The effort all in vain. We all know we’re going to die, and that it could happen at any time, but Beth’s death was such an object lesson in that. We strive, we struggle, we hurt, we laugh, we dance, we love, we cry — all for a tomorrow that one day won’t come.

Beth’s loss made us all the less. But the rest of us took final exams, and went on. And went to college. And married. And divorced. And had kids. And got jobs. And strived and struggled and hurt and laughed and danced and loved and cried. More of us have been lost along the way. But the rest continue to continue.

And hopefully the world is better for it.

May 27, 2010 coda — Since I wrote this a year ago, it has become one of the most-viewed posts on my blog. Someone even linked to it yesterday, and it was viewed a few times because of that. Because of that, I decided to republish it today in hopes of these words continuing to find homes.

It being a year later, I have to add a couple of additional thoughts since I first wrote this. First, and obviously, Beth was loved. I wrote this purely for myself, to let out what was in my heart, some of it had been with me for quite a while. I never really thought about it resonating with anyone else, and certainly never imagined people sharing it with others. But it’s been amazing to see how many people still remember her and still care. It’s an incredible tribute to who she was, and the lives she touched.

Second, perhaps less obviously but more importantly — you are loved. I can’t imagine it; if things had been reversed, if it had been the other candidate for senior class vice-president on that road that night, I can’t imagine that 18 years later anybody would be writing about me, and that so many people would still be reading that 19 years later. But, you know, I doubt Beth would have imagined that either. She’s been gone from this Earth now longer than she was on it. I doubt she would have dreamed that she’d touched so many lives, that so many people cared, so that more than her lifetime later, people would still be remembering her fondly.

The lesson of all of that? Yes, that Beth was loved. Yes, that she was special. But, also, this: Right now, there are people out there whom you have touched in a way you have no clue about. Right now, there are people out there who care about you more than you realize. Right now, there are people out there who will remember you long after you could dream they would.

Right now, you are loved, more and by more people than you know.

14 Responses

  1. This was a great read, I enjoyed it. I remember Beth she was a really sweet person. Keep up the good work bro!

  2. Thank you for writing this, David. Not a May 27th goes by that I don’t think about and deeply miss Beth. She was one of my dearest friends.

  3. I’m having a hard time trying to put into words what response your beautifully written piece evokes from me. That is unusual, for it is rare that I am grasping for what to say in any given situation. But this is different. To know and realize how deeply my sister touched others outside of our family is a rare thing, and a comfort. Often we do not know what is in others’ hearts, but you shared what was in yours so poetically, on this painful day for us all. I guess my words should simply be – thank you.

  4. Well-wrought, sir. Can’t believe it’s been so many years. Thanks for bringing up some memories that needing reliving for a moment.

  5. Thanks for writing this David. Keep writing.

  6. (Hey David, thanks for writing this)

    This is more a message for Laura and her family, should they come back to check this.

    I remember, too, though not very poetically. I’ve wondered over the years if you knew that people remembered Beth. And I felt both delight and sadness when I saw the Dauphin memorial, when I was there getting my bio degree. She made a mark. (hug)

  7. Thanks E-Beth

  8. Thank you so much. I remember when Jennifer Lacy (1974-2008) called me in Phoenix, where I had moved with my family, only a year before. Beth and Jen were my two closest girlfriends at HHS. I’ve had very little connection to both of them, due to all the continuances in life, since high school and college. It’s nice to re-connect with Beth again.

  9. David,
    Thanks for the tribute.

    I thought about Beth earlier this week after reading an article in the Huntsville Times about a mom of a late student addressing the graduating class. Her son had died the year before.

    I was at the hospital that May afternoon talking to my mom who was a nurse there. She got paged to go to the ER so I left – only to find out later that she was trying to help my classmate.

    Beth’s death hurt all of us. We all felt vulnerable. We all miss her.

  10. David,

    Your updated story is even more special. Thank you so much for sharing what is inside of you with others. You have a beautiful gift and I am warmed to see that it is being used to the benefit of others. In bringing others together and giving people hope in the midst of tragedy is where the true beauty of life is. I am thankful of your depth of awareness and your abiliy to touch hearts through you writing. It is surely what you were meant to do.


  11. Thank you so much!

  12. David,

    I didn’t see this last year, but I’m so glad I came across it this year…the power of FB, I guess. It is amazing how many different ways we are affected by people and in turn affect others. Thank you for remembering and honoring Beth’s memory!

  13. David,

    I was not aware of your beautifully-written tribute until yesterday, twenty-four years since Beth left us. It bought happy tears to know that she was surrounded by such good friends who cared for her in this life. Thank you for remembering.

    Gerry Ladner

  14. Thank you for your kind words.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: