I Almost Shook The Hand Of My Dead Classmate’s Father

This past week has been crazy, and not in a good way. Not at all. Crazy as in this-is-something-you-only-hear-about-on-the-news-and-never-think-it’s-gonna-happen-to-you crazy.

Four teenagers got into an accident that resulted in one flipped car, two people injured, and one girl killed. Erika Hall was 16 years old. She’ll never see 17.

I first saw the news on Facebook. I was scrolling through my news feed and my friend’s post caught my eye. It was something about “the town lost another beautiful face RIP Erika” or something like that. I got this sinking feeling in my chest, and though “no, it’s gotta be another Erika.”

But it wasn’t.

I pressed the “Home” button to refresh my news feed. All of a sudden, there’s a bunch more of those posts, one of them tagging Erika Hall. I thought “ohshitohshitohshitohshitohshit.” Honestly, I’m surprised I was able to form any thought at all. I began to shake, but clicked on the name. I had to know.

In my heart, I already did.

It was here. My former classmate’s Facebook page. It was tagged in a post about her being dead… I sat next to her for a freaking year in 7th grade! And she was dead. She’s dead. Dead. Erika Hall is dead. I’m waiting for it to actually sink in. I thought typing it a few times would help. It didn’t.

I stared at my computer screen for a few minutes, feeling numb. It felt like forever. I just couldn’t comprehend it. How could she have died? She was supposed to do great things in life! She was so happy, wild and free, a fun person to be around. And she’s gone.

Erika

What do you do in this kind of situation? I think it’s different for everyone. For me, I just slowly act as if nothing happened, hoping that acting this way will make it true.

But it didn’t.

My mom was on Facebook or checking her email or something when she called me down from my room, where I was doing homework. She asked if I knew an Erika Hall. I was just like, yeah, I know, she died. Just like that. I think I regret that the most. Erika deserves more, even if I was delusionally trying to bring her back from the dead.

That was April 26. Fast forward to Wednesday, April 30. My school’s memorial service for her. I spent the first ten minutes of it not there, trying to be nice and not interrupt my teacher. Turns out, all I had to do was give up and walk out. My teacher asked where I was going, I replied “the service” and he nodded.

I wish I’d known that earlier.

I got the service (my friend Christina was with me) to find that the doors to the chapel were already closed. I peeked my head in the office and asked if we could quietly go in. The secretary said she didn’t think so, but we had to ask the vice principal. So we ran to Ms. McGuire’s office, halfway across the school, only to find out that yes, we could in fact go inside. So we ran back to the chapel and quietly sat down at the back.

I didn’t cry until Erika’s dad went up to talk. That was when I lost it. It’s just not fair. Why does he have to live without his daughter? Kids are supposed to bury their parents, not the other way around!

He only spoke for about a minute, though. After that, the priest said one short prayer, and then we all migrated into the AAC (Academic Achievement Center, just another name for library) for a power point with a bunch of pictures of Erika. It was beautiful.

It shouldn’t have had to happen.

After the power point was over, her dad thanked everyone for being here. Then he went around to hug everyone.

When he got to me, I was boxed in by Christina, so he reached to shake my hand. I didn’t think about it- I didn’t have to. I stood up and reached over Christina to give him a hug. Something told me Christina wouldn’t mind.

After I hugged him, I sat back down, shaking, and just stared straight ahead. I kept thinking, over and over again, I just hugged my dead friend’s father. It was so peaceful.

I’d trade it in a heartbeat for her to be here.

Even now, thinking about it, I’m shaking a little. It’s crazy. I just, it never should’ve happened. I never should’ve met Erika’s father, because, had she never died, I never would’ve met him. And, also, part of it felt so surreal, it was so weird. I can’t really explain it.

I don’t know why this happened. I just know it shouldn’t have happened. Why should a 16-year-old girl have to die?

She shouldn’t.

But there’s nothing I can do about it now, no matter how much I wish there was. I guess I’ll just have to live with it.

RIP Erika Hall

-Sam

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