Editor's note: This column was first published on Aug. 11, 2013 - 6 days after Leslie Billings passed away. I later interviewed Leslie's parents, Brent and Lisa Billings, about their daughter’s suicide. At the time, I promised I would try to rerun this column every August. This column is dedicated to two of the strongest people I have ever met and to a beautiful young woman who left us too soon.
Dear D.J., Aaron and Brooke,
I feel a little silly writing a letter like this. After all, the things I’m about to say are the same things your dad and I have been telling you all your lives.
But today I feel compelled to remind you about a couple of things. After all, I’m a mom and mothers love their children with every bit of their being.
Since the day you were born, I have worried non-stop about your safety.
When you were babies, I used to creep into your rooms at night and gently place my hand on your chest to make sure you were breathing. When you were toddlers, I practically pureed your dinner out of fear that you would choke. As you grew taller and began riding your bicycle, I chased behind you for miles in fear that you would topple over and scrape a knee.
As you entered grade school and began mingling on the playground, I fretted that you would become a victim of some bully’s taunts — or worse — that you would make the bad decision to make fun of or hurt someone smaller or more timid than yourselves. When you began driving, I trembled in fear about the unthinkable.
But by the grace of God, a little shadowing on my part and good choices on yours, you have managed to so far live happy, healthy and relatively unscathed lives.
But things might not always be easy.
You aren’t children anymore. And as life for each of you moves forward, you will no doubt face struggles along the way.
You will meet people who are nasty and mean and enjoy hurting others — and when that happens, you will have to be large, look the other way and learn to forgive. Never forget that there are more people in this world who are kind, caring and compassionate. Model yourselves after them.
During your journey, you will face a variety of temptations which can lead you down a destructive path. Stay strong in your beliefs and never waiver from doing what you know is right.
You will make mistakes. Some might cause you embarrassment, but remember that it will be short-lived. People will forget and move on. They always do.
This past week has been a hard one for this community, particularly for the class of 2013. We lost one of our best and brightest young people. We hurt beyond words for the family left behind and her friends who are lost and confused.
Adults are struggling to find the right words to offer comfort and make sense of the unthinkable, but it’s hard. Someday, when you’re a parent, you’ll understand.
But for now, remember this: You are loved.
There is no problem ever too big to overcome.
Dad and I love you more than anything in this world. So do your grandparents and a slew of aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. If you ever feel alone, know that you have a family who will never stop supporting you. No matter what. Ever.
And never forget that hard times don’t last forever.
You have to trust the old people on this one.
Sara Vanden Berge is the managing editor of the Empire-Tribune and Glen Rose Reporter. She can be reached at 968-2379 ext. 240. Follow her on Twitter @ETeditor.