Monday, January 20, 2014

For the love of Sarah

Yesterday, our community lost someone very special. This 47 year old woman was a personal friend of mine, but she was also unique in the way she touched every life she came into contact with. She is one of those exceptional individuals whom we are sure has been taken from us too soon.

Sarah was a school bus driver and she took her job seriously. She was more than just the person behind the wheel, whose responsibility it was to deliver children to school and back home again safely. This woman cared about each and every one of her charges and she made them feel as if each individual child were the most important person in the world. As each child came to know her, they quickly realized they’d found a safe haven, someone they could confide in, someone they could trust. “Sarah’s kids” were the light of her life and she loved each one as if they were her own.

Sarah was married and she and her husband had two sons. Sarah was immensely proud of both sons and she spent her days being the best wife and mother she could be. She also had a horse named Sandman. To say Sarah loved horses would be an understatement. Initially, Sandman was a rescue and at some point, Sarah became the proud owner of this wonderful horse, a fact that brought her much joy. Sarah and Sandman were a special duo and I believe Sandman loved Sarah just as much as Sarah loved Sandman.

My son and I have many fond memories of time spent with Sarah. We met her in 1995, when my son was seven years old and I was recently divorced from his father. I was doing my best to fill both parental roles while working several jobs in an effort to make ends meet and keep a roof over our heads. My son was not always a fan of riding the bus to school and for quite a while prior to Sarah’s arrival, I would end up driving him to school. There were bullies on that bus and for a small boy to be stuck in such an environment for nearly an hour each weekday morning and afternoon, was sometimes just too much to bear for either of us.

When Sarah became the bus driver for our school, things changed. She not only put a stop to the bullying but she actually befriended the bullies, finding out the reasons behind their negative behavior and helping them figure out how to change it. She didn’t pry into their lives. She simply cared…and they knew it. She was genuine, loving and non-judgmental. Every person who met her found an immediate, life long friend whom they knew was unique and like no one else they’d ever met before.

My son began riding the bus again. He actually looked forward to his bus rides because Sarah allowed him to sit right behind the driver’s seat. She shared jokes, stories, insights, advice. She was a listening ear and soon he began coming home with anecdotes from conversations he’d had with her. He’d tell me how she’d take an average expression, such as “I’ll get around to it,” draw a circle on a small piece of paper, then print, “tu it” in the middle. Later, that joke morphed into a game between them of who was going to be in possession of the “it” and how that person would manage to trick the other into being responsible for “it.” The game had continued to present day. Just one of the ways Sarah found to connect with those of every age.

I knew I had to meet this person and thank her for what she was doing in my son’s life. As soon as I met her, we became friends. Sarah was the kind of person who not only smiled at you but would make you smile, from the inside out. If you were in her presence, you were sure to find a smile from within. You just couldn’t help it. That’s simply how she was. A woman with a huge heart, an incredible zest for life, so compassionate and understanding.

We loved Sarah and wanted to find ways to make her smiles our own. One year, the last day of school before summer vacation fell on June 18, Sarah’s birthday. My son and I made a huge banner in bright colors that read, “Happy Birthday Sarah!” and I picked him up from school instead of letting him ride the bus that day. We hurried home to be sure we’d have enough time to put our surprise for her into place. We listened for the bus and as soon as we heard it, we flew into action, rolling out the banner and smiling proudly as she turned that bus up around the corner. When she saw us, she stopped and let us know what our gift meant to her. She could’ve just smiled, waved and kept driving but that wasn’t Sarah’s way. She always took the time to make someone know how they’d touched her heart, how special they were to her and lucky she felt to have them in her life.

As my son grew, Sarah grew right along with us. At age 15, he got his learner’s permit and Sarah helped by taking him driving, letting him drive her brand new Ford pickup truck.

She took us out on the ocean in her boat, a Grady White and on one of those excursions, we ended up at Burnt Island, off Boothbay Harbor, Maine. On our way back to the harbor, Sarah had the boat at cruising speed. I was standing at the helm, enjoying the feeling of freedom and sunshine. At one point, Sarah told me to duck down because of an oncoming wave but I didn’t hear her and got a mouthful of the Atlantic ocean! How we laughed about that one! Another thing about Sarah: she’d laugh with you but never at you.

My son graduated from the eighth grade in 2002. That event meant that his bus rides with Sarah would end. There was no bus service from our home to his high school so I would be his driver until he got his license and a car. However, every Spring he continued a tradition he’d started many years before. He’d pick one of the first daffodils that grew in our yard and wait for Sarah to stop at the end of our driveway at 6:50 a.m., the usual time when she’d pick him up for school. I know this sweet gesture spoke volumes to her and he continued that tradition until he went into the United States Army. He was away for approximately four years but when he returned home in the Springtime of 2012, his first surprise for Sarah was to meet her at the bus stop with the traditional yellow daffodil. Her smile said it all. She was beaming from ear to ear!

During the summers, Sarah drove the trolley for a local hotel in Boothbay Harbor. She made friends from all over the world when summer folks visited the harbor during vacations and had the fortunate experience to ride the trolley on the days she drove. She pointed out special sights for her passengers, always doing her research to assure that she could provide the most accurate, up to date information about the area. One of her proudest moments was telling her trolley passengers about a ship called, “The HMS Bounty” when it was at a local boat yard, in for repairs. The ship finally left Boothbay Harbor but later met its demise during a Hurricane in a treacherous section of the Atlantic Ocean in October 2012.

In 2007, I remarried and inherited two stepchildren. My stepson came to live with us fulltime. He had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and his prior experiences had given him the message that schools and bus drivers wanted nothing to do with him. As soon as he met Sarah, he became a definite fan, and throughout these past several years, she has worked hard to educate other students about kids with special needs without pointing fingers at anyone in particular, while making my stepson feel the honesty of her love and friendship.

My family and I have an immense love for our precious friend, Sarah. She touched our lives in her own special way and will remain near and dear to our hearts. Her presence has been a blessing and we are truly grateful.

I’m not sure what we’re going to do without her. Somehow, we must find a way to go on, learning from Sarah’s example and smiling because we had the chance to know her, at least for a little while.

To my knowledge, Sarah wanted to be cremated at the time of her death, her ashes spread from a Maine lobster boat in Maine waters. This seems fitting for such an adventurous, beautiful soul. I visit the ocean frequently and from now on, I will listen closely to the wind, imagining I hear Sarah’s laughter, envisioning her spirit running free.

copyright January 20, 2014
Tammy LR Meserve

No comments:

Post a Comment