(This is a heavier post. I feel like it's an appropriate outlet to express my grief. I hope you all don't mind.)
Dear Mrs. Buckalew,
Just last week, I was scanning your Facebook page and reminiscing about my summer days and nights spent at Cool Stream Farm with you and Jackson. I thought to myself how it's been quite some time since I've seen you, but how excited I would be the next time our paths crossed. I even imagined my future message to you telling you that I was engaged and how thrilled you would be for me. I had no idea I wouldn't get that chance. When Deirdre called me on Tuesday night, I knew something was wrong because of how late she was calling and because of her low and nervous voice. She began to cry and tried to tell me what was probably one of the hardest things she's ever had to say aloud. I rushed into the living room so that I could hear her more clearly and she repeated the most tragic news through her tears. She told me that your family had died in a plane crash that morning. All four of you. We cried together on the phone, sharing our disbelief and our heartbreak. Not the Buckalews. Not the most lively, giving, loving, kindhearted family out there. We eventually got off the phone, after many tears, shared feelings of how unreal it all seemed and how your family was the least deserving of this terrible tragedy. I made the mistake of scanning the internet, almost as if I needed confirmation that it really was true, and there you were. A beautiful picture of you and Meriwether, alongside a copy of this year's Christmas card with Meriwether and Jackson pictured in a sweet embrace. It had really happened. You were gone. Every time I say that, and now write it, I break down in tears. Because it just doesn't seem possible. Oh, how you all will be missed.
And these are the times when you wish you had taken the opportunity to share with someone what they meant to you, and I believe I did that as much as a high school and college student has the ability, or maturity, to... but not as an adult. So I will take this opportunity to share with you now...
You gave me confidence. You trusted me with your four month old baby. You continuously told me how great I was, and not just as a babysitter, but as a person. A teenager can't hear that enough. You didn't want to share me with your other friends looking for a babysitter, and deep down, I loved that. You wanted first dibs for Jackson. I loved the time I spent over there. I was the luckiest high school and college student ever. I enjoyed my job.
You invested in me. You didn't just let me in the door, show me where the emergency numbers and frozen chicken nuggets were located, and leave for the night. You let me in, talked to me while you got ready, asked me my opinion on your outfit, hugged Jackson a hundred times, asked me about school, my boyfriend, sports, you name it. You truly cared about me. You took a whole roll of pictures of just me and Jackson, and sent me a framed picture of the two of us to my college dorm room. I was so excited to receive that in the mail. When I visited NYC with my sister and cousin, you insisted that we spend a night in your uptown apartment, even though you were out of town. We felt like royalty that night. When I sent out letters to family and friends about my upcoming mission trip to London, you sent back a generous contribution along with a note that said, "So proud of you, J!" I will always remember that.
And I will always remember you sitting down on the living room floor with me and Jackson and telling me about your struggles with your first pregnancy. You told me that you wished and prayed that I would never have to go through something like that. And you told me your wish for me was to meet an awesome man and that you wanted all good things for me. It felt so good to have someone that I looked up to so much, wish that upon me.
You were full of life. You seemed to be the center of your family and friends. And it makes sense that you were. You were vibrant, creative, and compassionate. I talked about you all the time to my family and friends, and it was clear that you were one of my greater role models. You celebrated life and the people you loved. You and Jeff gave and gave and gave.
You loved your kids. They weren't spoiled, they were just loved well. The hardest thing in all of this is to imagine what the end was like for you guys. How scary it must have been. But what my family has reminded me of is that you all were together to comfort one another, and that you're all together now. I can picture you in the plane just covering Jackson and Meriwether, telling them you love them and not to worry.
Thank you for inviting me and my sister into your life. Thank you for being such an inspiration as a woman, mother, and friend. I hope to one day open up my door to a 17 year old girl looking for a summer job, and care for her the way that you cared for me and Deirdre.
We were lucky to have known you, and you will truly be missed.