There is this song that really rips my heart a part when I hear it. It is by the band, Kansas it is called “Dust in the Wind.” I am sure it is popular enough most have heard it at some point in their lives.
Human emotions are probably the most prolific and obnoxious part of being a living person. Having to feel everything we do or see can complicated our experiences. I don’t often discuss emotional issues or topics, outside of anger which I express quite often in my rants. Still there is a deep sadness to losing a loved one we all face in our lives. At some point you have to look back not at the connections you made that were severed, but also mourn those missed opportunities to connect with the right people.
When I was in high school I knew this girl, her name was Lacy. She was a very smart, pretty and strong willed female classmate of mine. She was class president, and student council vice president. The story how she became student council VP is partially my fault. You see I attended a very small high school, roughly 120 students K-12 to be exact. So when I say there was little interest in student government I mean it was basically non existent. I signed up to run for student council president because of TV, I thought it would make my name known and as a person who couldn’t connect with other kids I saw it as an attempt to expand my social circle. Fortunately, for me, nobody else signed up so we skipped the election process and they just gave the office to me. The first day of the new school year we had three others sign up for SC positions, Lacy put her name down for President, the other two one was made treasurer and one was some other position I can’t recall of the top of my head.
The student advisor gave Lacy the bad news. Because I had signed up for it the previous year I was first in line. Lacy asked me if we could have an election because she really wanted it. I knew as popular and smart and good looking as she was she would have other moments to shine, this was my time so I declined. I knew if we held an election not only would she destroy me, I would most likely drop out of the race entirely. The advisor left it up to me and I told her sorry I really want it. The teacher said instead of holding an election she gave her Vice President. Lacy never voiced any resentment she let me lead and I let her take as much of the credit as she was willing to snake from me. We got along quite well but the truth is, we were leading a class which was indifferent.
When it came to selecting a class representative she put her name in the hat for junior class president. It was supposedly against the rules because the class president wasn’t supposed to be the same as someone serving on the council representing the whole school. Needless to say since we were already bending the rules the advisor allowed it so we reversed roles at the class level. It was a fair compromise. That is what Lacy was like, recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of her peers and helping them work together. By way of knowing her I was introduced to new people as well as student government. That spark she ignited in me lives on today as I work as a journalist for a daily newspaper often covering school board and city government meetings.
I remember going to class meetings after school. It was the responsibility of the junior class to put on prom for the seniors. It was a responsibility we took very seriously. Fortunately for us Lacy’s parents were big shots at the largest casino in town, so she was able to get her dad to comp the ballroom for us to host the prom. The previous proms had been held either in the school gym, or at the rec center, which was really the lobby of the indoor swimming pool and not much else. It was a major victory for our class to show the graduating seniors we cared enough about them to give them a prom they would never forget.
I don’t have a lot of other personal memories with Lacy. I have a few near-misses. She was friends with a good friend of mine who we sometimes crossed paths. Her parents were good friends with my moms uncle, my great-uncle who was also a person I saw from time to time. There were occasions our paths crossed but most of the time we just passed each other in the hall way.
One day the school set up this program called Every 15 Minutes. It was to teach kids the dangers of drinking and driving. The police would set up a car crash outside of the high school and place a teenager in the wreckage, cut them from the vehicle using the jaws of life and put the teen into a body bag. Then they taped it all. The cops would go to the parents house and tell them their kid died in a car accident alcohol related and gather the town at the gym for the funeral. The police and teachers were supposed to let the parents know it was a ruse. Lacy said no, don’t tell her mom it had to be real she wanted to see her moms emotions. It was devastating. The whole day was heartbreaking. We, the student leadership knew it was a ruse. The student body did not. We had tears flowing until the afternoon assembly when Lacy walked back out, alive, in her makeup to tell everyone it was to demonstrate how harsh alcohol related fatalities really were.
The final edited video played to images of her lifeless body being dragged from a mangled car to the tune of Dust in the Wind by Kansas. At the time it was the most chilling thing I had ever seen. I met with Lacy afterwards and gave her a hug because she had been through hell and got to come back to life. It was very emotional for everyone involved. A few years later Lacy had a child out of wedlock and her baby daddy wasn’t around. We crossed paths a few more times before she married another friend of mine, a guy who worked for the city I became connected to through my work.
In 2011 I was sitting in my parents house on the couch when I got the phone call nobody wanted. Lacy had been killed in a vehicle accident. This time it was not fake. This time there was no coming back from the dead. A life that shined bright in a small town was extinguished for good. Suddenly that song, Dust in the Wind, took on a whole new meaning. I cried, I can’t lie. Not just because a life was gone, but because as I looked back I saw not only the moments we shared, I realized all the moments we missed. I had gotten to be good friends with her sister as she dated my best friend for a long time. Yet somehow I never used that connection to get any closer to Lacy. Looking back on it now, I still cherish the moments we shared while I long for those we should have. In the end life is nothing more than a collection of memories. It is our responsibility to filter out the memories we that don’t do us any good while clinging to the ones that make us better people.
I will never forget Lacy. She was a good person and I hope anyone who did cross paths with her was touched more by her life than even I was.