Sad life lessons
July 27, 2018
by Jenni Sebora

Where to begin. When the Fourth of July is here and over, that is a sign that summer is on the move. Just as summer passes quickly, like a good shower of rain, our children do the same.

Whether that means, as in the show, “Outdaughtered,” where the quintuplet girls are now walking, talking, and going to preschool; or as in my family. My son is now 21, a true adult; my middle child has graduated and will be on her next adventure – college; and my youngest will be in high school.

Our kids really do grow up. OMG! Where has the time gone? I now get advice from my adult son. Thank goodness he has a solid value system. (Whoever raised him, raised him well. Wink. Wink.)

He still does not come home very often. He is spending his summer completing a summer writing grant and working on his college campus. We touch base weekly; sometimes more, and, believe it or not, he still asks me for advice.

This I do know – no matter what age our children are, we feel joy when they feel joy; we feel disappointment when they are disappointed; and we ache when they ache. That will never change.

This summer, my son, his friends, and our family experienced a great loss – our dear Vindy.

She was one of my son’s best college friends. She had come to visit with our son on different occasions, as her family lives in California and India. Most recently, she shared Easter holiday traditions with us, Easter egg hunt and all.

A few days later, I had flowers delivered to me with the sweetest note – sent from adorable Vindy. The note pulled at my heartstrings as it included a wonderful message of how she felt part of our family. I will keep that note forever.

She and our son later surprised us and came for our daughter’s graduation ceremony. This was such a treat. They drove up the driveway and exited from the car, and I, of course, ran to them with hugs and tears. They both reciprocated with hugs, cheek kisses, and laughs.

Three weeks later, on a planned trip, our son, Caleb, Vindy, and some of their other close college friends packed his car and traveled to our daughter’s graduation party. (He would have brought more friends if he could have fit them in the car.)

We had a house full of guests, as he also had a college friend who lives in St. Paul and came for the weekend, as well. The house was packed with people, excitement, food, but best of all, overflowing love.

I love all of my son’s friends. They feel like part of the family.

Throughout the weekend, the house guests helped prepare for the party – cutting sandwich buns, decorating, and the list goes on. It is amazing what happens when they are adults. They offer help and follow-through.

We live on our family farm, which is now just a hobby farm, so the barn has not housed animals for a long time – other than stray cats or maybe some mice, as well as a family of skunks some years ago.

The barn and outside area were the locations of our daughter’s and her cousin’s graduation parties.

Preparing the barn for the party is a topic for another article, but long-story-short, it turned out great and the “best party ever.”

It was wonderful having these amazing young adults celebrate with our graduating daughter and us.

The morning they were to take off back to Omaha, they wanted to see some cows. All of them are from large cities in Arizona and California, and from Chicago. Cow introductions and greetings were in order, and they loved it – especially Vindy.

Pictures were taken of them with their four-legged cow friends, as well as at the party, in the barn, and on the farm.

It was sad to see them go, but I was so happy for their presence for a few days. Unfortunately and sadly, a day later, we received a phone call from our son that Vindy was killed in a hit-and-run accident.

We all were in utter disbelief. As anyone who has been through a similar situation and loss, we just couldn’t believe it initially. We just saw her, laughed with her, talked with her, and now she is gone.

The night of the party, after everyone was in bed, I was winding down in our den watching some television (it was about midnight), and I heard someone come down the stairs (our bedrooms are all upstairs), go into the kitchen, and sit at the table. It was Vindy.

She wanted to study for an upcoming nursing test she had coming up the following week. She was taking a couple of summer courses. Needless to say, we talked and chatted for a good half-hour.

I will never forget this intimate time with her. It will be forever etched in my mind. I fell asleep on the couch, while she sat at our kitchen table entrenched in her studies.

As it goes, memories unfold over the course of time and will continue to do so. My daughters, nieces, and I headed to Omaha the next day for a prayer vigil at the university’s beautiful church.

I wanted to be there for my son, his friends, and Vindy’s parents, who I had never met, but will always, in some way, feel a connection to. I am so glad I went. The church was full of people, and included church counsel available for anyone who needed it.

We were ushered to the front pew across from Vindy’s parents, and her uncle, who came from India. Our family, including our son, and close friends sat together in that pew joining hands. Sometimes, no matter the age of kids, they need a parent, an older adult, just to be there. I am so glad I was.

The service was beautiful, just like Vindy.

As an upcoming senior, she was in her second year of being a resident director at one of the dorms. She loved this job because she loved people. Her heart was so open to all.

Creighton is a Jesuit university with the premise that students give back. Vindy lived this principle and beyond. The Father of the dorm that she directed spoke those same words of her. It is not often that a senior will stay on to do this job, he shared.

The Father also reminded us all that we cannot try to figure this out, but we should know that Vindy is part of God’s plan – we would need not worry about Vindy. He was concerned for all of her loved ones and how they to deal with her loss – to be there for each other, to grieve, talk, cry, share, and laugh.

That is what my son and his friends did. The next day, a Father hosted a private prayer vigil for all of her closest friends, including my son. He said it was beautiful and healing. They did as the pastor said, talked, cried, laughed, and shared.

After the prayer vigil in the church, I approached the family, and with a heavy heart gave my condolences.

They did not really know Vindy’s friends, as they lived in California. As students and staff hugged and consoled each other, the parents and uncle were in the midst of it, but among mainly strangers. I felt such a need to connect with them, and especially to the mother.

I approached the mother and introduced myself as the mother of one of Vindy’s closest friends. She responded with an acknowledgement of my son, “You are Caleb’s mom, aren’t you?”

I just nodded my head and said, “From a mother to a mother, I am so sorry.” I can’t explain the connection. Only a mother can know it. We hugged, cried, and she just held on. This I will never forget for as long as I am on this Earth.

Life lessons. Our children were experiencing probably the ultimate life lesson, the loss of someone near and dear to them.

As the days unfolded, Vindy’s death was on the news in all media forms in Omaha. My son was interviewed as part of the television story they did on her tragic death, and this will again be one of my proudest moments. He was calm and tender-hearted, and shared Vindy’s legacy of beauty, curiosity, quirkiness, acceptance, and love. It was a beautiful interview.

As part of this television story, pictures were shared of Vindy, which included pictures of when she was on the farm, capturing her laughing with her friends.

On her Twitter account, I saw that she had posted the same picture with a caption that read, “When we are all secretly hoping we can be part of the Sebora family.” The most precious and most honorable compliment I will ever receive.

Vindy’s friends continued to honor her, as well as continued on their path of bereavement and grief by hosting a celebration. Vindy loved neon colors and old-time music, as she was an old soul, and loved trying different food. Thus, this celebration included all guests wearing neon colors, old-time music, and a variety of Vindy’s favorite foods. Stories were told, and they had a lot of them. Vindy was a free spirit. She was vivacious, quirky, and so beautiful inside and out, with a million dollar smile. They celebrated this.

Some days later, my son called me and shared that all of the celebrations and vigils were so beneficial and healing, but he needed a break from group grieving and just needed time to himself. I affirmed that I understood this.

Each time Vindy was at our house, inevitably, something of hers was left behind. The last time she visited was no exception, but this time, I knew it would be the last time I would discover some belonging of hers; so when I found her purse and a dress, I did what mothers do, and held them close to smell Vindy in them.

I have decided (with permission from my son) to make something special with the dress and gift it as a treasured memory.

Her purse did not contain much (I looked because I wanted to make sure there was nothing in it that her parents would need or want), but a bracelet that I remember her wearing to our daughter’s graduation party, and a poetry book which she purchased at the Mall of America when my son and I took her there.

The poetry book had a bookmark in it on the page of a most beautiful poem. God sends us messages; we just have to find them.

A couple of months have passed since Vindy’s passing, and almost every day, I find myself thinking of her in some way. I have a picture of her with my family on our refrigerator, along with the flower bouquet note. I think of her parents, her brother, and her family. I think of my son and her other friends who loved her dearly, and what life lessons they are experiencing.

You cannot shelter your children from such events. They are a part of life. I know that loving deeply also means hurting deeply. What would life be without love and people like Vindy to remind us that life is about laughing and living, and loving deeply, with sincerity and respect?

Vindy’s life mattered, and her legacy is treasured. I feel so blessed to be a part of it.

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