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One year ago today, I lost someone very special to me. Debby West was my middle school chorus teacher. Yes, she taught me about the notes on the page and how to breathe from the diaphragm, but she did so much more than that....She was more than just my teacher, although the lessons she taught me about life and love were invaluable, and have stayed with me throughout the years.
Debby West was my friend, and honestly, the closest thing to a mother I have ever had. My home life as a teen was pretty rough...I was surrounded by addiction, and certainly didn't have much love or support. Like many teens in a bad situation, I lashed out. I wore all black, dyed my hair funny colors, hung out with the wrong crowd, and did a lot of things that were pretty self-destructive. My immature thinking at the time was, "If no one else cares about me, why should I?"
Mrs. West saw my struggles, and she took me under her wing. She was there for me when no one else was. She gave me rides to work, invited me caroling in her neighborhood during the Holiday season, and always offered a great big hug and a shoulder to cry on, when needed. She always told me I was the daughter she never had....The feeling was mutual.
Even after I became an adult, and had children of my own, my friendship with Mrs. West was a constant. Something I could rely on, even when things seemed hopeless. She was there for me through ups and downs. She was there for me when I was stuck in an abusive marriage, and she rejoiced with me when I remarried a wonderful man who treats me like gold. She celebrated the births of my children, and all of their milestones. Even though we lived hundreds of miles apart, Mrs. West was always an e-mail or a phone call away.
Then one year ago today, my world fell apart. My "Mama Hen" was gone. It felt like a part of my heart was gone, too. Family isn't always about biology, after all....So in a sense, I had lost a mother. No, she didn't give birth to me, but she loved me, encouraged me, and helped mold me into the person I am today. For that, I am eternally grateful.
Today, I just can't seem to shake the grief. They say time makes things like loss easier, and to a degree, it does. But it still hurts. I have so many regrets. I wish I could have seen her one last time...Hugged her...Took my kids to see her in Delaware, and build sandcastles on the beach. There was always something that prevented us from making that trip...It was usually money or scheduling. I thought I had plenty of time. Time. That's almost laughable now. Time is not guaranteed, and even if someone seems perfectly fine one day, tomorrow is not promised.
Most of all, I regret not telling her how much I loved her. What a difference she made in my life. That without her guidance and love, I may have gone down a very dark path in my youth. SHE was my guardian angel. She saved my life, in ways I didn't even realize at the time.
Thank you, Mrs. West. Thank you for your love. For the music. For being my friend and Pseudo-Mom. For not giving up on me, and for not letting me give up on myself.
You are still so loved. And so very, very missed. I'm sorry I never got the chance to tell you how much you meant to me...
But somehow, I have the strange feeling that, wherever you are, you already know.