Ricky and Karen were two young people who had known each other all their lives. They both lived in a small town and always attended the same schools. When they were small, Ricky would irritate Karen as little boys do, and even though Karen would fuss at him and tell her friends he was a mean ole boy and she couldn’t stand him, deep in her heart she held a special place for Ricky.
Years went by before Ricky looked at Karen one day and realized that he didn’t want to irritate her anymore, but rather, he wanted her to like him. As he would run out onto the high school baseball field, he would look into the bleachers to make sure that Karen and her friends were there. Every home run he hit or out he made, he would look over her way and loved it when she would cheer. It never occurred to Ricky that Karen’s cheering was for her school team, but instead felt it was just for him. It made him a better player.
Then in high school when the couple started dating, no one was really surprised but Ricky, who felt like he had won a prize, a jewel. Karen wasn’t surprised, though, because she had always known that Ricky was the one, and in her heart the love grew stronger.
Both sets of parents watched these two young people and were pleased that they had found each other. Their happiness was multiplied when the young couple announced their plans to get married upon graduation from high school. Although they were young, their parents knew they would accomplish whatever they set out to do because each supported the other so well.
Plans began for the wedding that both mothers had anticipated from the day they had first seen their babies. Karen’s mother had known both Ricky and his family for years and could see how he treasured her little girl. Ricky’s parents returned the feeling as well and were pleased to participate in the future happiness of their children.
The plans were made. They would be married in their home church with a huge reception afterwards and then on to Disney World for their honeymoon. As Karen’s mother listened to her daughter’s plans, she thought it appropriate that they had picked a place where dreams come true for their honeymoon. She could tell from her daughter’s excited words that she already felt her dreams had come true.
When the wedding day finally arrived, the church was beautifully decorated with garlands of white daises and bouquets of yellow roses, while the bride seemed to float down the aisle in a vision of a white cloud. All of us sitting in the pews marveled at the smile on Ricky’s face as he watched his soon-to-be wife smiling back at him. As we listened to the vows of love exchanged between them, no one doubted their sincerity.
The reception was filled with happiness and love as the young couple enjoyed being the center of attention. And soon it was time to leave. We waited outside, pelted them with rice and then went our separate ways to our homes.
After some last-minute packing, the young couple got into Ricky’s car and left the home of Karen’s parents. Kissing her mother and father through the open window, the last thing they saw was her waving as the car was soon out of sight.
The couple drove down the highway on their way to a life together, both feeling as if they were the luckiest two people in the world. That’s when the car topped the hill on their side of the highway, and Karen’s dream shattered. When she awoke, Ricky was dead, and she was now his widow.
I was reading John Myers’ article, News That’s Fit to Print: A Debate on Roadside Memorials, when I thought about these two young people I knew. Although I’ve taken few liberties and changed the names, a cross standing on the side of the highway marks the spot where these two young people had their lives changed forever.