There are moments of devastation in our lives that stick with us forever, popping up their gruesome heads when we least expect it. I wonder how many of my classmates from the Lake Wales High School class of ’83 were taken back 29 long years to one of those moments because of the final scenes of last night’s episode of Glee.

Granted, it was a cheesy, predictable, overloaded episode that made my teenager roll her eyes a number of times. There were also fewer good songs than usual, although that version of the I Can Fly thing was truly amazing. It was a bit ridiculous that the writers tried to be so incredibly didactic as to render the storyline ludicrous.  Well, I suppose we have all now learned not to bash gay people, not to attempt suicide, to listen when we think other people might be in trouble, to respect our competition, and to embrace love when we find it. A little much for one episode? I think yes.

Then there were the final, totally predictable minutes that took me back to all those years ago. I know it was just one more lesson for the night: Don’t text and drive. And I suppose it should have made me cringe because I am the mother of teens with cell phones. But I did not have that reaction. As soon as I saw that beautiful girl in the little car on the screen, I felt sick. I actually groaned. My daughter looked at me.

“What?” she asked.

“They’re going to make her have a car crash.”

“Oh,” she said and went back to her homework, half-watching the end of the show.

When the crash did happen a few minutes later, I did not have anything like a parental reaction. I felt 17 all over again. I don’t even want to tune in next season to see the reaction of the characters in the story.

In January of 1983, I gathered with many of my classmates in our high school auditorium for a college information night. I have no idea who gave me the news. I didn’t cry or hug my friends or talk to anyone. The information that two of our classmates had died and a third had been injured in a car accident had left me completely numb. I sat there and listened to the college representative, but I heard nothing that he said. I vaguely remember my mother trying to be supportive, but I was somewhere else.

It wasn’t until the next day that my emotions broke free. I sat on the couch looking at pictures of the accident in the local newspaper, and I sobbed. I cried so uncontrollably that my father was in a frenzy of worry. He didn’t know; my mother hadn’t told him. I remember that he just kept asking, “What’s wrong? What is it? What can I do?” And, of course, there was nothing that he could do.

I hadn’t been particularly close to Violetta the lovely blue-eyes blonde with a pretty singing voice. Many other classmates knew her better than I had, and I marveled at the ability of the school choir to sing at her funeral in the little Catholic church without completely breaking down. We all attended that farewell, nearly our entire class, and it felt good, like it might help us to go on with our lives.

While I knew many were missing Violetta, it was Jan for whom I cried. She had moved to our town in the middle of sixth grade, and our science teacher had seated her next to me with the request that I be her guide and make her feel welcome as a newcomer. I did my best, but she was already much more comfortable in her own skin than I had ever been. She really didn’t need me too much.

Over the years we grew apart and we grew back together again. We talked at school, but we traveled in different circles. Somehow, though, there was always a connection between us, an understanding of each other since that first meeting in sixth grade. Shortly before the accident that claimed her life, Jan had given me a school photo of herself with a note: “You’re such a good friend. We need to spend more time together before graduation.” It never happened. It will never happen.

The event had such an effect on me that, when my book of devotions was published, it included a poem I wrote about Jan. But I hadn’t thought about her in years, until last night, until I suddenly felt such sorrow for fictional characters in a silly tv show. I pray that my children will not have such an experience in their high school years. I know that a devastating moment will come to them sooner or later, but I pray that it will be a very long time in coming.

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