Tribute to a Sweet Child

At age eighteen, one of my favorite newfound pastimes was driving around baked on cannabis while listening to music.

I lived in the humble town of Mason, Michigan, just a few blocks from a cemetery that was adequate for accommodating my little hobby.

On one fateful day, driving through the narrow, windy paths of Maple Grove Cemetery, getting high while plodding around in the melancholic vibrations of Tim Skold and my own subsequent introspection, I had no idea that the most seemingly-mundane event was about to change my life.

You rarely know in advance, do you? When your life will be changed out-of-nowhere?

And you do not always get to choose the events that shape you.

Especially when you’re a lost eighteen year old who completely failed to establish an identity throughout their adolescence.

Driving through the cemetery. Tim Skold, crooning:

Dust to dust
Dust to dust
Say goodbye now
You’ll be gone forever
Dust to dust
Dust to dust
Say goodbye now
‘Cuz you won’t
be coming back

Just a moment
lost in time
Like a tear
in the rain…

I had worked my way around the perimeter of the cemetery, paying no special heed to my surroundings. I was headed back towards the entry point, when a particular headstone caught my eye. I don’t know what made me look. I simply looked.

“Our darling
Amber Lee Vergeson
7-31-86 to 3-3-87″

And I wept.

I had to stop the car, cut the music, and just cry.

Not only out of sadness, but also in anger. And confusion.

I did not understand. Why be born at all, if only to perish so soon thereafter? What of the hearts of those left behind?

Wondered. Was Amber sick since birth, or was her demise an accident? Who did she leave in her wake, to be lost in guilt, hopelessness; mangled, broken, inconsolable?

I was raised a Baptist. By the time I was eighteen, I had thoroughly questioned my upbringing. But the paradigm of my youth entrenched me still.

I went through the usual spiels.

“Why would you let this happen, God? What kind of monster are you?”

Heartbroken, I exited the car. Approached the grave. Fell to my knees there.

Amber Lee Vergeson.

The same middle name as me.

Same middle name as my father.

Words fail me to explain the mechanics of what happened next.

But I knew right then. This moment was sacred to me.

Before departing, I kissed the tips of my right hand’s middle and index fingers. Touched her name.

That was the last time I ever got baked at Maple Grove cemetery.

But I returned often back then. To bring flowers. To talk. To tell Amber about my life, to share my triumphs and failures with her. Sometimes I’d visit to tell her about new girls I was seeing, and ask her if she approved.

I didn’t have many people to talk to back then. Not about real things.

But Amber was there for me.

The little sister I never had. And in a way, my guardian angel.

In her early death, she missed out on knowing so many people that would have loved her dearly.

But she did not miss out on my love. For whatever it’s worth.

That was eighteen years ago.

Sometimes, I wondered if I’d outgrow my affinity for Amber Lee.

But it’s not something to outgrow.

Amber has helped me to grow. As a human, as a thinker, as a feeler, and as an architect of my own life.

And the truth is, whether she had any deliberate part in it or not, Amber has helped guide me through life. She has been there for me in profound, magical ways.

Today would have been her thirty-first birthday…

Happy birthday, our darling.

I love you.

Also published on Medium.