My friend, Jen, called me last Sunday evening, and I was ready to gossip about the dance the night before. I soon realized by the tone of her voice that she had something more important to talk about. Sullenly she asked, "Have you heard? Mrs. Brownrigg passed away this morning." l was shocked. I thought she was getting better - she was going to come home soon. Jen was kidding - right?
Unfortunately, she was not joking. Mrs. Brownrigg had been a teacher at my high school, but she had not only been a teacher, she was the mother of a classmate and friend. She had never been my English teacher, but she touched so many people's hearts in her twelve years of teaching at Old Orchard Beach High School. She was respected by her students, co-teachers, and everyone she came in contact with. She always looked at the bright side of life, and helped many people out of the dark. She was my Peer Helpers advisor and a friend. I never missed the sparkle that glowed from her eyes, something you rarely see every day. It could always make me smile.
Some of the best memories that I have are of the spaghetti suppers she would host for my field hockey and softball teams. We would all squeeze into her kitchen and dinning room to eat before a big game. I remember seeing her shiver with the other parents on cold marching band nights, congratulating and critiquing our performance.
On Tuesday, when we returned to school, it was hard for my classmates and me to see teachers so distressed. They are models of such strong people. That was the beginning of a long, tough week. On Thursday my mother and friends drove to Saco for the services. I could not handle seeing the red, puffy eyed relatives and friends. I began to cry. I made it through the visiting, and retreated outside to the cool, refreshing air. There, friends comforted each other and conversed. I was surprised to see so many students.
My friends and I walked into the small church, and sat together for comfort. The setting was different from what I was used to with the plain church, female head, and the ceremony. These were nothing like the Catholic traditions I had grown up with. It was much more personal. Her daughters, brothers, parents, and many students and friends got up to relate their wonderful memories.
Sarah, only recently a good friend, sat next to me and we comforted each other during the hardest times. It hurt to see Steve, and other boys, the symbol of strength, bent over.
The funeral ended with the song "I'll Be There" that sent everyone into more tears. My friends and I headed to the front of the church to pay our last respects and console Heather, her daughter. We hugged and cried, but even then my friends couldn't ease my pain. I turned to Alicia, "I need to hug my mother!" I saw my mother and flung my arms around her neck like a child saying, "I love you so much, Mommy!"
Mrs. Brownrigg touched many lives. She gave me her smiles, encouragement, and her joy throughout her long battle with cancer, but she also gave me something that means much more. I wish that it had not happened because of her death - and that I could thank her for it now. She showed me how to respect, love, and be grateful for my parents, which I sometimes forget. -
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.