When a Classmate Passes Away
A classmate passing away…no matter if you were close to this person or not- chances are you cried. Whether inside or physically outside. For me, my classmate that passed away and I were good friends and spent at least 2 hours/day together in Culinary class- usually more. There’s stages that happen throughout the school and for each person when something tragic like that happens.
Stage 1: Utter and Complete Shock
My school just so happened to have an assembly the morning the news was spreading- a “motivational speaker” at that. But when our principal had to get up to the podium and deliver the news with sadness creeping up his throat that one of our most beloved and funny girls in the entire school was involved in an accident the night before, you could have heard a pin drop in that auditorium filled with 500 students and teachers. Not one person spoke a word or made a peep for what seemed like five entire minutes.
Stage 2: The Hystericals and Hopefuls
After it sunk it, dozens of friends poured out of the auditorium in tears and hopeful friends followed to try and help to say “she can pull through.” Some of us knew the truth- other students didn’t quite know the extent of her accident. Some even wrote cards saying “Get well soon” which sent those of us who knew over the top into fits of sobbing.
Stage 3: Realization
For many of us, this step didn’t happen until her viewing. We were there to give our condolences to her family, yet it ended up being her parents and brother consoling us through our tears. We just didn’t get it. Why her?!??
Because she was chosen by God to be our guardian angel. The saying “only the good die young” was never a more true quote than for our Jill. I cannot even begin to tell how many people she had touched in her short 17 years of life, nor how many views of life she changed with her passing. She always lived life to the fullest. Taking chances, being brave, being a complete badass and class clown- but we all still loved and adored her. And we all still do.
Stage 4: Recovery
When recovering from a loss we are always told to just go out and do our every day life and act like nothing’s changed. But being that I was a senior in HS and was moving half way across the country to live in Germany for a year- that wasn’t quite in my recovery process. But instead, my recovery started in a small Catholic church in the middle of Maria Laach about two months later. Walking into the church looked just like St. Peters in my home town, where Jill’s funeral was. As all the other members of my group left it was just me, and one girl from my group- Katelyn left. Katelyn was someone that I was instantly friends with in the group but it was still a new experience for all of us and we were getting to know each other. We later sat down at a cafe in Bonn and got to talking about the feelings we had in that Catholic church in Maria Laach. Come to find out – Katelyn had lost a classmate a year prior. His name was Aaron and it was a very similar situation to mine with Jill. Katelyn later sent me a story about her “Let Go and Let God” tattoo, which was inspired by one of her fellow camp counselors, Micah, who helped her grieve and recover from her loss while he was recovering from his own loss of his father. The ending paragraph of her story about Aaron ends with “It may seem miniscule, but he allowed for a more dazzling light to shine down and illuminate this new perspective on life. He showed me what it is to truly have faith and to put my trust into God’s hands. In only three weeks of camp, I evolved from a teenage girl who kind of knew how to handle the obstacles of life, into a young woman who knows she is blessed to have that first breath of air each and every morning.”
Katelyn was my Micah. Just knowing that you are not alone in a recovery- even if you aren’t grieving over the same person is huge. Katelyn was placed into my life for a reason. I don’t think it was just a coincidence that we happened to be in the same program overseas for an entire year together. So thank you to Jill and Aaron for bringing us together and helping us cope.
Stage 5: Remembering & Memories
When memories come up in your mind of your friend who passed too soon, you usually start out laughing at the thoughts. If you’re with someone, you are trying to explain yourself and why it’s just so hilarious, but sometimes they just don’t quite grasp it’s hilarity. Then you will move on to being upset again because you can’t relive that memory with your friend. Example: Telling all the new culinary students that lobsters squeal when placed into the boiling water…or hiding your culinary teachers utensils…or hiding someone (usually Jill) underneath his desk or in a closet. No one else would probably find it funny, but we sure did!
There have been unexplained things that have happened in my life since HS that all signs point to Jill. I ended up attending school for baking and in my Intro to Foods class- we were learning the mother sauces (something I learned every single year over and over again with Jill.) Well, we were on to Hollandaise sauce- the hardest and Jill’s specialty. She used to make us Eggs Benedict all the time for class and nailed it every.single.time. Our professor taught us the technique and every group’s first attempt failed. Ok, on to the 2nd…3rd…By the 5th attempt, my group was the only one that hadn’t gotten it so our professor was staring over our shoulders watching us to see what we did wrong. After the sauce broke she was stumped. We literally did everything right and it still failed. Something came over me that night and I just heard Jill’s “haha got ya!” in my head and I just knew! 100% that was Jill up there laughing so hard at me. And I was totally okay with a lower lab grade that day as long as she enjoyed the show.
Other unexplained things happened to other friends too. One of our classmates had seizures all the time- doctors couldn’t figure them out – experts even. Well one night after Jill’s passing, she had a dream and Jill came to her in her dream and said “You don’t have to have seizures anymore.” Well guess what? She didn’t have a seizure for a nearly three entire months and they think they are official gone now. See? Guardian angel.
Although at the time, we don’t understand God’s plan for losing Jill, a plan there still is. Losing a classmate is to this day the hardest thing I’ve had to go through in my life- and although time may fade the scars, you are never truly healed. We are tattered and broken souls mended back together with love, compassion, and friendship. In the end you just have to Let Go and Let God. Never forgotten and forever loved. Until we meet again, Jill Cat. <3