Wednesday, October 5, 2016
The first text came while I was at church on Sunday morning. Then a Facebook message from another class mate. When I saw the words, "News about Tracy Fentress" I knew. I didn't want to believe it, but I knew.
Tracy and I met in elementary school. We became fast friends and then when the school district reorganized, I went to a different school until we were reunited in junior high. She had become active in girl scouts and so I still saw her on occasion - as my mother was one of the troop leaders. The year that my mother organized a troop trip to Bermuda (of all places), I got to tag along and stayed with friends of my parents while the girls camped not far away. I have a great picture from that trip of Tracy, throwing some shade (before throwing shade was a thing) while we are all on the beach. But you can see it even in that picture, the bubbly friendly personality that embodied Tracy.
We graduated high school and went off to different colleges and our lives diverged further. When my mother died in 2006, one of the people I remember seeing at both the wake and the funeral was Tracy and her mother. Tracy continued in girl scouting, becoming a leader for her daughter's troop and cookie mother. Tracy would often contact me at cookie time, because she knew that I would buy boxes from her, knowing full well that I wasn't going to be able to eat them - but I made the donation to her - because that's what she wanted (and it's what my mother would want me to do).
Once Facebook began to bring old friends back together, Tracy and I reconnected as I did with many others from my high school class. I now am the moderator for a group dedicated to my class, which is a little weird for me, because I wasn't the most popular kid in high school, I was just one of the class, in the middle of the pack. But I am happy with the way the group has turned out and that so many of us from our class (we were over 500 people in our class) have been able to reconnect and reminisce about old times. I post each week the birthdays that are ahead and almost without fail, Tracy would be one of the first people to comment, wishing everyone a heartfelt happy birthday.
In 2010, I attempted to use Facebook to organize a 25th Reunion, which did not manifest itself very well - though those of us who came had a good time. Tracy was involved in that reunion planning, but unfortunately she had begun her battle against cancer and she was unable to attend our mini-reunion. I was urged by my classmates to give it a go again for our 30th, set for 2015. I knew my own limitations and found one of the few remaining reunion companies to help me organize the reunion the right way. Once again, Tracy reached out to me and volunteered to be there for whatever I needed as the plans moved forward.
As several of us met in the bar before going upstairs to the ballroom for the reunion, I got tapped on the shoulder and turned around to see Tracy. As with so many of us that evening, it was like we were back in high school and not 30 years later and the night just got better from there. Later, as we tried to get everyone's attention to say a few words - it was Tracy who managed to get everyone to listen for a few minutes so that I could express my thanks to everyone for making the night such a success - but it was Tracy's words that echoed with everyone - because when Tracy talked, you listened.
She made a point of saying to several of us that evening that she would be back for the next reunion - but unfortunately that won't happen. A few months ago, she posted on Facebook that she was back at Sloan-Kettering because she was having some pain. I commented then that I was sure she would get through this as she had been doing all along. But after fighting the bravest fight, Tracy lost her battle with breast cancer on Sunday morning. She was 49 years old. She leaves behind her husband and daughter, her sister and brother, both her parents, and all of us from the Class of 1985. Tracy is the 14th Brave to leave us from our class - Once a Brave, Always a Brave.
Tonight family and friends gathered to remember Tracy and tomorrow she will be sent home. I really wanted to be there - but couldn't make it happen. I know that Tracy would have understood, but she would have also given me a little lip about it. But she didn't quite know how to stay mad at people.
God speed my dear friend. You are free of pain now. I am sure that you and my mother are having a grand time talking about anything and everything. And eating girl scout cookies.