Today, April 10th, 2013, marks the first anniversary of the death of a true Princess.
As I explained on my blog last year, Princess Alexandria Tyler Cole - the 2012 Daffodil Festival Princess from Chief Leschi High School - was one of my best friends in the Festival, and one of the most amazing parts about being a Princess. She was a boxer, a beauty, and a brave young lady, whose gentleness and kind spirit stemmed from a place of immense strength and belief. A member of the Quinalt Nation, who lived on the Puyallup reservation with her mother, Alex was incredibly supportive and involved in her culture, and always loved to talk about her grandfather, a South Sound heavyweight, who inspired her love of boxing.
I knew Alex and I were going to be great friends, from the moment on our Princess Retreat, when she smiled down from the top of her bunk bed, nestled in her sleeping bag, and said, "I want to lick crumbled S'mores Pop Tarts off of Taylor Lautner's abs." By the time a month had passed, we had done it all - from practicing our dance moves for two hours in my living room (to the laughter of my family), sampling stuffed mushroom caps at BJ's restaurant at the Tacoma Mall (she proudly claimed that those of Chief Leschi's Pro-Start team were far superior!), and eating a whole lot of chocolate in the backseat of Linda's car with the third member of Car Group #2, Delaney Ferrell - spending time not only as Retreat roomies, but as backseat buddies, dance partners, and all-around close friends.
Because of all the times we had been stuck side-by-side, Alex once told me, during an afternoon at my house - trying to nail those hand motions to our favorite Journey tune - "God must have put us together like this for a reason."
Now, a full year later, even though I'm still questioning what sort of plans God might have had for the two of us, I've still gained a lot from our all-too-brief-best-Princess-friendship: to understand that no matter how many times you ask someone if they're okay, that they still might not be, and that that's not your fault; to accept that you'll never know everyone's true story; and to find a way to be a best friend to everyone, because you never know who'll want to be your best friend, too.
Now, in an effort to work something that actually has to do with books into my book blog, I searched a little more into one of the worst ramifications of Alex's untimely loss: explaining it to her biggest fans, the many kids we've met in the time since April 11th - when her death was discovered - who never really understood why they could never have all 24 signatures on our poster, or collect all 24 trading cards. I took some time to go to a local library this past weekend, and picked out a couple of children's books I could find in the databases and on the shelves, that I felt were actually helpful, in assisting children deal with grief and loss:
I Miss You, by Pat Thomas, offers an easy-to-understand look at how death is a natural part of life, and why it is not only normal, but important, to discuss your feelings about losing someone close to you.
What's Heaven?, by Maria Shriver, portrays the loss experienced by a little girl named Kate, when her Great-Grandmother dies, and the many questions that come from her curiosity about a difficult topic.
The Invisible String, by Patrice Karst, explains how love transcends separation, and keeps us all tethered together like - as you could probably tell from the title - an "invisible string." (This one was probably my favorite, simply because it didn't deal with death in an implicit way; instead, being focused on the strength of love in general.)
Please, if you're dealing with depression, thoughts of suicide, or simply even feeling a little alone sometimes, PLEASE know that you're not alone, and that you will get through this! Suicide is NEVER going to be the answer; getting help is always the answer! There are plenty of resources available to you for dealing with these problems, and know that you deserve that special attention! If you or a friend is dealing with suicide or depression, please call the following hotline, and just talk to somebody. You are not alone! 1-800-273-8255 is the United States National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Much love to everyone, Alex's family and tribe, and especially my Royal Family (most especially the amazingly beautiful, incredibly understanding, and endlessly exuberant Delaney Ferrell), on this very difficult day.