Norma Jean

Every October when a cloudless autumn sky blooms cerulean—I remember Norma Jean. She died on a day like that.

Norma Jean was in my ninth grade class. I didn’t know her well. She didn’t sit close to me in class. She didn’t hang out with me at recess. But one day our homeroom teacher came into the room and said, “Class, Norma Jean will not be coming back to school this year. She has cancer. She is dying.”

Shock glued me to my desk. I wrote a poem about Norma Jean. I didn’t pray for her—I wasn’t a Christian back then. I didn’t know how to pray. My parents were atheists. We didn’t go to church. We didn’t have a Bible in our house. God and Jesus were only mentioned as swear words—words that kids were not allowed to use.

Up until our teacher’s announcement, I didn’t realize that children could get cancer. I didn’t realize that they could die young. My adolescent mind had never grappled with hard truths like that.

Nora Jean died 55 years ago in rural Georgia. I wonder how any other people remember her? Many of us will never achieve fame or fortune. But if we can have even one person remember us 55 years after our death the way I remember Norma Jean in October when an autumn sky blooms cerulean—we will have lived well.

“My soul still remembers.” Lamentations 3:20 Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

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