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Will My Sorrow Count?

December 16, 2011

I lost two friends to suicide in the same week, 32 years after I lost my dad the same way. The first was a beloved coworker who lit up any room just by buzzing through, the second was my best friend from childhood, Tracy. She was fearless, imaginative, accepting, and showered her love on every living thing around her. But when my dad died all those years ago, I lost Tracy too, the circumstances of his death too painful for me to return to the strip of houses on Scherer Road, surrounded in front and back with open space, where she lived near Dad. Time passed and Tracy’s family moved, and I spent years wondering and worrying what happened to her. Then came Facebook. After 30 years, I got to see Tracy again. I got to hug her and tell how much I loved her–finally. When you’re 12, you just don’t say those things to your best friend.

At her memorial service earlier this week, I learned something new. Or remembered something I’d forgotten. Tracy wanted to be writer. There is not a speck of doubt in my mind that she had the passion and talent to do it, but what she didn’t have was time. From what I gathered from the outpouring of love her family and friends shared with those of us who mourned her loss, she spent her short time here making sure her kids and grandkids  knew how much she loved them. When her big brother spoke, the first thing he mentioned was where Tracy grew up. Where Tracy and I grew up together. Longview Farm, an abandoned turn-of-the-century horse racing track, complete with barn, stables, mansion, workmen’s quarters, and that ritzy hotel  that is now underwater, a place where we could disappear and let our imaginations entertain us until our empty bellies finally drove us home. I learned that her love of exploration never left her, as it has never left me. It’s a gift our shared childhoods gave us both.

I tried to write this blog post a week ago, a couple days after she died. I’ve had bouts of depression throughout my life and turned to God a couple years ago to make sense of that undercurrent of sadness that just never goes all the way away. A friend told me that God never wastes a sorrow, and I’ve used that belief to make sense of so many things that I never understood before, but the sorrow I felt at my own father’s passing? I wished it had somehow saved my friends. I wanted tally marks for the number of lives that had directly benefited. It didn’t work that way, but I know God’s using my sorrow, and that of all those who loved my friends, in other ways. It’s impossible for me to accept that anything other than beauty will rise from these losses.

So this blog, instead of focusing on the sadness, is now about memories. I’m sharing something that I one day wanted to share with Tracy in book form.  It’s a section of the first novel I ever wrote, one that in many ways,  celebrated my childhood with Tracy and her brothers and sisters. Turns out she made her dream of  becoming a writer come true long before me…the photo above is her, as I remember her, spilling her love onto everything else before herself. She’s posing for her first published piece in The Kansas City Star, written when she was 10.

The excerpt below, from my unpublished novel, takes place at Longview Farm, that wonderland where Tracy and I felt no limits, a place we never dreamed time would touch. Maybe one day it’ll be a book after all, because my memories belong to Tracy too.

——————————————-

Out of the barn. Into the chill. Surrounded by towering oaks that warned us with their howling to turn back. Turn back now…

I’d followed Tracy like a slasher movie bimbo investigating a noise in the basement.

I smelled winter. A week after spring had come and it suddenly smelled like winter. Maybe it was the closed-up must in the barn, but down here in this little valley of existence that thrived a century ago, all the pushing and prodding of new growth was nonexistent. So many people had forgotten this place, and spring was ignoring it too.

Tracy rounded the corner of the barn and ducked under a splintered gate. The wind swirled her hair. I ran in a crouch behind her. She gestured to the old hotel and pressed her finger over her lips.

Like I could speak even if I wanted to.

“It’s in there,” she whispered through the wind.

She hunkered down, gave me a thumbs up and made a mad dash for a fallen tree at the end of the brick drive. She motioned me over. Who were we? Batman and Robin on the chase? I lunged for the nearest fence post and stalled. My heart was a time bomb.

I craned my neck to look up at that ancient two-story inn. It was a perfect habitat for cultured ghosts with sophisticated means of torment. Wrought-iron railings flecked with splinters of paint framed the balconies. Streaks of rust bled down the walls from flowerpots bracketed to chipped stucco. And a garden patio off to the side where Tracy was hiding behind that dead—

Where’d she go?

My trachea went postal. I gasped. The wind slapped my hair around.

I scanned the front of the hotel. Holy crap! She was right up there on the freaking porch. Ducked under a window. Getting all cozy with Casper.

Tattered screens flailed. Curtain remnants darted through broken panes. I didn’t want to be alone.

Tracy. Yes, Tracy. She’d rescued me at school, two times. Good things come in threes. I bolted past the fallen tree doing my best TV cop sprint when I heard it—

Organ music.

Creepy, foreboding, church balcony organ music. A prelude to the ghost’s arrival. I didn’t wait to hear the clanking chains or the maniacal laughter.

The path of my sprint instantaneously arced away from the hotel. Away from Tracy. Away from Elmwood Farm. My arms pumped like a thoroughbred’s legs. Head for the hill, my brain commanded. I ran past the cows and never once looked back.

I could only hope Tracy made it out of there. Hard to tell when you’re running like the very flames of hell are reaching out to char your legs into crusty chunks of human jerky.

I leaned panting against the fence we’d first climbed. The old wood creaked under my weight.

My house. My humble sky blue house with wind chimes and rainbow whirligigs. Home sweet home.

——————————————————-

Rest in peace, friends. And dear Tracy, learning that you spent your final years as a hospice nurse doesn’t surprise me a bit. Always taking care of others. But you’re home now, and you can finally relax in the arms of God. Thank you for the years we shared.

If you are thinking of hurting or killing yourself PLEASE call 1-800-SUICIDE.

34 Comments leave one →
  1. December 16, 2011 5:20 pm

    You feel deeply and write beautifully. I’m so sorry for your loss and wish you nothing but good things.

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      December 16, 2011 6:40 pm

      I know you understand, Don. It means a lot that you read the post. Wishing nothing but good things for you, too.

  2. December 16, 2011 5:23 pm

    So sorry for your loss … grateful for your memories and strength and words. Much love to you at this time.

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      December 16, 2011 6:42 pm

      So grateful to have my words. Love having you as a cyber friend as well. Amazing how connected we can feel to so many people we’ve never met.

  3. December 16, 2011 5:46 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Laura. It’s beautiful, just like Tracy and Don.

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      December 16, 2011 6:43 pm

      Thanks for reading and understanding, Vicki!

  4. December 16, 2011 7:30 pm

    What a sad post, deep with longing for what was or could have been.
    Thank you for sharing.

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      December 16, 2011 11:59 pm

      Thanks for your comments, Mirka. It’s that longing, I believe, for what was or could have been, that drives me to write. Kind of a mixed blessing, but a blessing indeed.

  5. December 16, 2011 7:34 pm

    Laura,

    I am so very sorry you had such sorrow. It is brave of you to share. The excerpt is beautiful as well. Know too, you are not alone, in the feelings of depression. It is something I have battled as well. I like how you say God never wastes a sorrow. Again, very sorry for your loss.

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      December 16, 2011 11:57 pm

      Margie, my other friend who died was a meteorologist on TV where I work. The outpouring of emotion in this city is overwhelming. Our TV station has gotten so many emails from people who have finally decided to get help, because if the happy, funny guy on TV could be depressed, people are realizing they’re not immune either. Thanks so much for your kind words. <3

  6. Jessica Z permalink
    December 16, 2011 8:20 pm

    Laura,
    This brought tears to my eyes. It was beautiful, and wonderfully written. My mother would have loved knowing that part of her past, and something of her will be forever memorialized in a book. She always had the greatest stories to tell us about growing up, all the fun things you guys got to do. Thank you for sharing this!

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      December 16, 2011 11:53 pm

      Dear, dear Jessica…I so wish this didn’t happen. I miss her so much, even though I only got to see her once after all these years. The pain for you, I know, is so much worse. Please be kind to yourself. Every single emotion you have is a valid one, even those you might try to convince yourself you shouldn’t be feeling. I didn’t think it possible at the time I lost my dad, but it does get easier eventually. Love to you and your family, always.

  7. December 16, 2011 9:04 pm

    Hi, Laura. I’m so sorry for your loss. My husband’s a clinical social worker, so I have an understanding of how insidious an illness depression is. Thanks for sharing Tracy’s story, and the excerpt from your first novel…which makes me hope someday I’ll get to read the rest of it.

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      December 16, 2011 11:47 pm

      Bless your husband. Horrid illness mostly because people who have it expect to be able to just snap out of it at some point and thus never get help. Thanks for reading. You have always been so supportive of my efforts. That’s a wonderful thing for me. Thank you kindly.

  8. December 16, 2011 9:26 pm

    The beautiful fluidity of your words is a soothing balm to those in pain, Laura. Depression is emotional carbon monoxide, we grow numb, we slip away. Bless you for sharing.

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      December 16, 2011 11:43 pm

      Love you, Suze.

  9. Judith Hyde permalink
    December 17, 2011 9:24 am

    Wonderful, powerful post, Laura. XXOO
    ~~Judy H.

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      December 17, 2011 6:05 pm

      xoxo to you too!

  10. December 17, 2011 12:26 pm

    This is beautiful Laura. It’s been a year of loss for so many of my friends this year.Memories are a magical place where sadness and joy blend together in a way that we can somehow smile through the tears. Much love to you. Thank you for posting.

    .

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      December 17, 2011 6:08 pm

      Sorry for your friends’ losses. And for you having to see them in pain, but I know you must be a great comfort to them, Venus. You are an old soul.

  11. Dana permalink
    December 17, 2011 12:32 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story…it brings back a flood of memories from the “old” Scherer Road days! But especially, thank you for sharing the picture of Tracy as I want to remember her as well! You have been on my mind a lot these past few weeks, but I seem to have been unable to find the words to see how you were holding up! You are the writer, after all, not me! Know your sorrow HAS made a difference on others! and especially for creating a picturesque memory of you two together through your story! Love you, kiddo!

    PS…I have a memory of you two, and your dad, beside your house in that old “car”! I have no idea why that picture stayed in my mind all these years, but now I am glad it did!

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      December 17, 2011 6:07 pm

      I adore that picture of Tracy. I had forgotten about Smoky. And I know most people are nostalgic about their childhoods, but we really had something special out there. Love you, too.

  12. Lauren Sholes permalink
    December 17, 2011 5:53 pm

    This is good…”out of the barn. Into the chill.” I like when someone can write using a combination of sentences that are short, and ones that are long. Sometime in the future, I believe it should be published.

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      December 17, 2011 6:10 pm

      Maybe I’ll get this old manuscript out someday and see what I can do with it. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

  13. December 17, 2011 8:38 pm

    Thank you Laura for the memories and sharing your feelings of my sister.I am sorry Tracy had to Leave us this way!! She had such an impact on many peoples lives including mine,It is great that you shared this and I will always remember you as a friend past present and future Laura.

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      December 18, 2011 6:17 pm

      Absolutely, Paul. xoxo

  14. Francesca Zizza Brashear permalink
    December 21, 2011 9:15 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful blog about my mother. I miss her so much and reading this brought me comfort.

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      December 21, 2011 9:31 pm

      Aw, sweet pea. Please cherish the years you had with her. She was truly one of a kind, and like I told your sis, every emotion you have is a valid one, so just let them course through you and over time, the pain lets up. Promise.

  15. December 27, 2011 3:51 pm

    This was amazing! Thank you so much for sharing..

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      December 28, 2011 7:41 pm

      So glad you liked it. Thanks for letting me know!

  16. January 19, 2012 9:56 pm

    Oh, Laura, what a lovely tribute. Thank you for sharing your courage and loving spirit. Sending hugs, and my prayers.

  17. Pam McKee-Davis permalink
    March 28, 2012 5:59 pm

    Laura, sweet Laura. You will always be that spunky, cute little curious girl to me! You’ve turned out to be such a talented and compassionate person. I am so glad your in my life after all the lost years. I am reading “Escaping the Tiger” and it just sucked me in. Next thing I know I was on Chapter 5 and could hardly put it down. What a gift! It is so touching that you wrote the blog of your memories with Tracy. Thank you so much. You will never know how much that means to me. I love you so much Girl!! You have the biggest heart and beautiful mind! Keep writing Woman!! Tracy is smiling down on us and in peace. And she’s reading everything you write, I guarantee it! Pam.

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      March 28, 2012 10:03 pm

      No more lost years, ever. I love you, Pam.

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