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The Legacy Of Rhonda
June 15, 2011. It must have been hot out, not that I would know. I was still sprawled out on my bed in the basement at 10:30, as every student does in the summer. The sunshine came down through my window and made the air sickly warm and thick like the beach on a hot July day. I was pondering over a book I had recently read, when my mother came into my room. She walked over and sat on my bed without a word.
“Katie, Rhonda died last night. She killed herself.” Rhonda, my mother’s best friend since college. I was numb. I waited for my mother to laugh and say she was kidding. I waited. Then I saw her bloodshot eyes and the tear tracks engrained in her cheeks.
“Oh.” I felt a single tear roll down my cheek, and I saw it plop lightly onto my sky blue pillowcase. I struggled to breathe normally. “Why did she kill herself?”
My mother sighed. “She’s been depressed ever since she was young. From before I met her,” she whispered, rubbing my arm gently.
This fact shocked me. Rhonda had been the most cheerful, talkative person I’d known. She was so compassionate. She didn’t have a job because she spent all of her time volunteering at churches and homeless shelters all over her hometown of St. Paul. She also had a husband and three children. And now she was gone.
“Oh.” My mother kissed me on the forehead and left without saying anything else.
I laid in bed for a few more minutes, still attempting to wrap my head around the situation. Rhonda was dead. I would never talk to her again. I would never see her smile again. It hurt.
June 20, 2011. My family and I got up early and, dressed in formal clothes, drove to a small funeral home in St. Paul for Rhonda’s visitation. The room was large and white, ornately carved wood trim on the walls, which were lined with soft, white sofas. “White is such a horrible color,” I mumbled to myself.
We hugged Rhonda’s children: Nathan, Devon, and Meghann. They seemed so normal and too happy. It worried me at first. The six of us- Devon, Nathan, Meghann, my sister Emily, my brother Michael, and I- all crammed onto the largest white couch.
“I should not have worn these shoes. Ow,” Meghann complained, pulling off her six-inch black stiletto heels. We all agreed they looked painful.
My parents brought us over to view Rhonda’s body. She looked so old and pale, so unlike herself. Her skin was as pale as the white walls withholding us and it seemed as though she might crumble to nothingness right before my eyes. I didn’t feel anything. I was numb again, a feeling I was getting used to whenever she came up in conversation.
As I stood over her inert body, a thought crept into my mind. How had she killed herself? I shivered when I realized what I wanted to know. I felt unbelievably guilty for some reason. It seemed like such a dirty and inappropriate thing to think about.
My parents didn’t make me go to the funeral. I was grateful for that. I wasn’t sure I could make it through.
June 23, 2011. That Saturday, though, both Rhonda’s family and mine met at Minnehaha Park to spread the ashes. We had a small service with the minister from Rhonda’s church and we each dumped a little bit of her ashes in the river. Only my mother cried.
We all went on a long walk around the park, and we talked about everything except for Rhonda. We went to the DQ down the street and got smoothies.
“The Triple Berry one is spectacular! We’re getting that,” Emily exclaimed when we were ordering smoothies.
“Seriously, it sounds gross,” I criticizeed. Emily shoved me.
“It’s awesome. You’ll see.” It was delicious.
Everyone seemed too happy.
I understand now why that was weird to me. We had all just lost a person we loved dearly. The grief should have been overwhelming. But Rhonda had been unhappy on Earth. Now she was in Heaven with her God, and she was happy. So we pushed the sadness out of our minds and tried to focus on the fact that she was happier now. It seems a little cliché, but it’s still true.
Human beings are fragile creatures; not only physically, but mentally. We have the power to affect one another so strongly, either in constructive or wicked ways. Rhonda was one of those people who changed so many others in a wonderful way.
Though we are fragile, some people aren’t afraid to break.
“The way I see it, life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant. And we definitely added to his pile of good things.” –The Doctor