Next week [Monday, July 22] will mark seven years since the passing of my dear friend, Lee. And in those seven years I’ve found my wings and grown into the young lady before you today – I’m the assistant editor of three weekly community newspapers; I freelance for two magazine publications; I’m a fiancée and will be a wife in two months and 10 days [But who is counting?!]; I’m a half-marathon finisher; and I like to think I’m a pretty great friend, older sister, daughter, etc. and soon-to-be sister-in-law, daughter-in-law, etc.
In those seven years, a lot has changed for me personally, and in growing I found acceptance – acceptance not only for who I am, but also for Lee’s death. For years, I was bitter; angry; and unsettled. But, those days are gone and I didn’t come to that realization until last night.
After a long workday and walking into my house, I was greeted by Fiancé who excitedly said he had something to show me. I dropped my bags and headed to the TV where he turned on a recorded news program.
The program highlighted the Borough of Cresskill who had just unanimously approved an ordinance that would fine residents who ignore lightning alarms as much as $1,000. Under the new Cresskill ordinance, anyone who fails to vacate a field or public pool within 10 minutes of a lightning alarm could face the fine.
The broadcast journalist, stationed at a Cresskill field, interviewed a local woman on hand. Before I knew it, she uttered Lee’s name. In 2006, two teens were struck by lightning in Montvale, killing them, she said. Since, towns around New Jersey have adopted lightning detection systems, and more are in the process of installing them, she continued.
Then images of my friends and I hugging, crying and huddled around “the spot” where Lee lost his life flashed across the screen. In an instant, a flash of light, I was transported back to that field – my heart indeed was heavy, hurting, bleeding.
But, a light bulb went off.
For years I’ve been keeping this blog and watching towns throughout New Jersey, specifically Bergen County, install lightning detection systems in light of Lee’s tragedy. In light of Lee’s tragedy.
Last night, for the first time, I realized Lee was taken for a reason – a reason that will save others lives. Lee’s death has made a difference. Lee’s death is making a difference.
In life, Lee went out of his way to put a smile on the faces of friends and even strangers. So, in death, it is not surprising to me that he’s still attempting to help people.
That was his life purpose. And, for that, my heart is finally content. Sure I wish he were here with me – I wish that everyday. But, I’m tired of being even an ounce bitter. I’m tired of wondering what if. It’s time for clarity.