There has been a cloud over the Northeast Kingdom all week. Literally it has been cloudy all week. It’s as if Mother Nature knows about the tragic, senseless loss of one of its daughters. The whole community seems to be in shock, glued to the TV for the next piece of news.
I didn’t know Melissa Jenkins very well. I met her once last summer at the County 4-H Dairy Show that I judged here in town. I remember she was very nice and her boy was very cute – he still is. I also recall noting the family resemblance between her and her brother who I do happen to know.
My heart sank when I first saw the “Missing” Facebook post on Monday morning. I was getting ready to head home after visiting my folks in Massachusetts. It was hard to think of anything else that whole trip back. For some reason, I felt some sort of connection with where she was in life – she was my age, a mom, in the ag community, a basketball coach; heck she even had blonde hair.
What kind of a world do we live in where such a horrific, senseless act can happen to a young, successful mother and teacher? What kind of a place have we brought TK into and what will it be like when he grows up?
My heart goes out to Melissa’s friends and family, and those who knew her best. I think back to my friend that was killed in a car accident who was also young, vibrant and full of life. You don’t get over a tragedy like this. That’s what the pastor said at his funeral. I don’t remember very many other specifics, but he also said that you can get through it. And that it’s okay to be sad. I held onto those words even when I felt I was impossibly stuck in wretchedness. You don’t get over it but you can get through it.
People have different ways of grieving and dealing with loss. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross first discussed the stages of grief in her book On Death and Dying. Not having read the book, I thought that you go through each stage succinctly and consecutively. This is not the case. You can go from one to the other and back again. You can be in two at once. You may not experience all of them. Each person has their own individual reaction to what has happened. The stages are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. I know I quickly went to the Anger stage when details of Melissa’s final hours were released.
I’m no expert on dealing with loss. At one point I thought maybe I was or would be having gone through my own personal tragedy as well as growing up around it as my dad is a minister. All I can do is share my experience if it helps and listen if someone needs to be heard. Being the extroverted person that I am, it helped me to share my story over and over again though at times I felt like “Debbie Downer” and that people didn’t want to hear it. But they all did. Even though it was hard to be so vulnerable, their sympathy and support helped me to get through it.
It’s true. We brought TK into a world where tragedies occur every single day. Bad things happen to good people. You can’t make sense of half the stuff that happens. But there are good people here, the best kind. Melissa was one of them and she leaves her legacy with her family, friends and the lives she touched; especially her little boy. And there are others too. Many of them were wearing pink today and honoring her at a memorial or just going about their daily routine and showing support for Melissa’s family and friends.
Surprisingly, or maybe not so much, the sun did come out finally today.