Right before I moved into my new house, the woman who lived across the street was in her car and had a cardiac event in which her car rolled back up onto the side walk and hit a tree. She bled out and died right there in front of her house before the paramedics could reach her.
Her family has taken to making that tree a happy place. A memorial for someone they love deeply. There are balloons, half buried vases overflowing with flowers, stuffed animals, and a photo of Mary beaming with the kind of light that only comes from on high.
When my friend and I were unloading my belongings from the moving van Mary’s family came out and talked to us. They said that if I lived here I was family now. They invited us to her service and the candle light vigil.
Last night was that vigil. Mary’s loved ones started to gather around six or seven ‘o’ clock. From my new bedroom window I had an amazing view of their vigil, but couldn’t quite hear all of the people speaking and sharing their fond memories of Mary. I went out to the front porch to listen and it stopped raining, so I joined the edge of the crowd that gathered and blocked the street.
They spoke of her as a woman who was always there to help. A woman with an abundance of love for everyone she met. A woman who had made mistakes in her life, gone down a really dark path, and then decided she wanted more for herself. So, she went out and got it. She and my mom had a lot in common.
I did not know this woman. I had only ever met the photo of her at the base of the tree, opposite the pool of blood in the soil where she died, but I stood out on the sidewalk and cried with her family and friends. I know what they are feeling because I’ve been there too.
They talked about how Mary had died once already. She was resurrected. A car accident that landed her in a coma, where she miraculously recovered. My mind flashed back to the first time I was trying to make sense of why my mom couldn’t pull through, why she was gone. At that time a little voice in my head told me that she had already had her second chance, when she got down on her knees and prayed to make a better life for herself.
A young woman got up and belted out a song I’d never heard before. It sounded like gospel. She sang that all of Mary’s troubles and trials were over now.
I felt my mom there with me, in a crowd of strangers, mourning a woman who was gone before I arrived, and I felt comforted then. Everything just might be okay.
When I went back up to my room I lit a candle and placed it in the window closest to the vigil. It wasn’t until I lay down that I realized I had lit the Saint Stevie Nicks candle my old roommate made for me. I fell asleep thinking about riding through the desert listening to ‘Rumors’ on the cassette deck in my mom’s truck. She drove too fast, but I was never afraid.