Dear former providence peers,

I remember our last day like it was yesterday. All us kids were outside while our parents were discussing where to go from here. I had Dewey with me as we all sat together, eventually taking him for a walk only to have his leash slip through my fingers as he took off. One of the older boys- I think his name was Corey, or Joshua- ended up catching hold of it and holding onto Dewey for the rest of our walk. It must have seemed a bit strange to the residents in the neighborhood to have about 10 school kids walking a dog around alone in the middle of a school day. It was all I could do to keep my mind off what was going on inside. 

Providence was a very small school… around 30 at max, so we all knew each other well. There were usually 9 kids in my classroom, 3 from each grade, but the school seemed to have been expanding a bit, to the point of having a 4th seat per row. I was in 4th grade at the time, along with 3 others: Rachel, McKayla, and Danielle. We grew close over the time in class together, “having plays” at the farm Danielle lived on, her way of saying hanging out. 

We had sleepovers for birthdays, once at my house, once at Rachel’s, and once at McKayla’s: we watched movies, stayed up past 9 and ate ice cream for most of dinner. Of course, with these friendships, we also grew close to each others siblings: David was Danielle’s older brother, so he annoyed us as much as he did her. Ben, and Tim, belonged to McKayla’s family, and often spent time with David in tormenting the girls. Then there was Mike, Rachel’s older brother, who was rowdy and loud, by still seemingly had a kind side to him… as long as he didn’t partake in too much junk food. I think she had a younger sister as well, but I don’t really remember. And of course, Rebecca’s family-the ones I stayed closest to for the longest- she was the oldest of 5 siblings: followed by Pete, Alisha, Taunia, and their baby brother Austin. We’d spend time at each others houses, taking turns in location.

After the school closure, Rebecca and her siblings all went to the same new school as I did, we didn’t talk much anymore, but her and I were into the same sport: soccer, so we occasionally saw eachother. I saw Rachel’s family a few times after the school shutdown, the last encounter being at the Wal-Mart photo center, I don’t think they remembered me at that point, but I remembered them. The siblings were attending another school at that point, and had moved away from their apartment building to live on a farm of their own. I heard from McKayla’s family… reaching out to Ben on Facebook a few years back, and having a short conversation about McKayla and school and how we were doing. Since the day of the shutdown, I have not seen or heard from Danielle. Not once. That crushed my 4th grade self to the point that I didn’t eat much for a few weeks after, but slowly, I moved on from my once best friend, knowing her absence from my life was necessary. 

I spent the rest of 4th grade being tutored by my old teacher, Mrs.Yolkman, and being homeschooled. She would often make her own delicious chocolate chip cookies when I’d come over, allowing me to eat a few, and often sending me home with a plate of them to share. On the days our lessons went short, we’d play the piano, her showing me how to play a full octave with one hand instead of two, a displine that paid off in the end. She was a wonderful teacher, possessing a patience as well as an encouraging attitude. She was bright, strong, and lived life in the Lord. After cancer took her home, the world lost a wonderful ray of light. 

My mom and I went to her funeral, and as I looked around, I didn’t see one familiar face… All those peers who sat beside me in her class, and loved her just as much a I did, were not there to say goodbye. But so is life, we move forward. 

Those who once were kids talking about buying a boat and travelling to Mexico to become missionaries together, are now three people with different lives. I found a note a while back, hidden in my old bedroom somewhere. It was from my old teacher, and it was a letter to my parents about her prayers for my life. She talked about my determination and positive mind, and about how, because I was so set on being a missionary back then, she believed I’d still do it…that I COULD do it. That letter was the reason I changed my major from music to foreign missions in college… because I wanted her to be right about that, I wanted to hold on to that dream we all had so long ago, and never lose my grasp on it. I still think it’d be a great experience to someday show God’s love to another continent, but for now, I’m living life in a small town, and figuring out who I want to become in the next 5 years. Maybe someday, I’ll see the world, bringing it Jesus’s love, but for now, it’s one day at a time.

Much love,

Melissa

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