|Sarabeth was the very essence of a celebration of life; one so unlikely in such a brittle and embattled little body.|
This 17-year-old had more physical pain, higher mountains to climb and a bigger heart than anybody else I've ever known. Her grandmother, Elise Roberts, introduced her and me a little over a year ago over the months we became real friends, a kind of grandpa/grandgirl that rivals my relationship with my real granddaughter. Like Maddline, she often called me "Pampa."
I am, of course, broken-hearted. I've never lost anybody to death that I cared so much about, admired so thoroughly, whose future I couldn't wait to celebrate.
|She loved that kayak and all that went with it.|
She was a good enough writer--of a spectacular blog on Lyme disease--that we invited her to take part in a panel discussion at the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference January 27-28 at Hollins University. She would have been the youngest teacher at the event in our 10-year-history. She would be teaching middle-aged professional writers about blogging and was she intimidated? I need to show you her smile right now as a response, but the answer is, "hell, no."
|Interviewing for the Carilion gig.|
I told my friend Nancy Agee, CEO of Carilion, about Sarabeth in a casual conversation over lunch and Nancy wanted to arrange to have Sarabeth talk to her nurses and physicians about how medical professionals should treat patients. It had not happened yet--the sponsor got really busy--but Sarabeth's ideas and her preparation were superb. The docs would have learned a lot they could use, I am confident.
I haven't cried in a long time, probably since 35 years. I suspect I will find a time and a place to let it out for Sarabeth. She deserves my tears and my love and the preservation of her memory in a splendid place.
|Sarabeth's painting of us kayaking.|
It will be a perfect way to honor both Sarabeth and the woman who receives the scholarship in her name. If the recipient can be like Sarabeth even a little bit, she will be a far better human being.
I'm better because I knew her and I will love that kid and her warm memory until I'm gone.
(Those wishing to contribute to the Sarabeth Hammond Memorial Scholarship fund at the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference should send checks, with the notation "Sarabeth Hammond Scholarship," to Dan Smith, 2508 Edinburgh Dr., Roanoke VA 24012. Hollins is not able to process the checks, so I will set up a separate account.)
|She'll always be the smiling girl in the tree to me.|