Stasja & Molly
A rambling by Tom Knapp

Molly and Stasja were best friends for several years. Then, as friends sometimes do, they drifted apart.

Molly, my daughter, is just a few weeks shy of 18 and a high school senior. Stasja, also a senior, turned 18 a few months ago. On Sunday, she died.

The discussion of exactly what happened -- Was alcohol involved? Drugs? Why was she out driving friends around at 3:30 a.m.? -- is best addressed elsewhere. The simple truth is, although I hadn't seen Stasja for a long while, I was devastated by news of her death. Stasja for years was a constant presence in our home. She joined our family for holidays and special occasions. Sometimes, she even traveled with us, one among a select group of Molly's friends who have done so.

Molly & Stasja, 2010
Even more so, I feel terrible for her family's loss. Her immediate family includes two young siblings, ages 4 and 5, who now must grow up without their big sister.

But right now, I am thinking mostly about my daughter.

She's too young to be dealing with this sort of loss. And it's becoming all too common -- two of my nephews, both teenagers, have also lost friends in high school in similar circumstances.

Molly now is wracked with guilt for something she could not have prevented. She wonders what she could have done to keep her friendship with Stasja closer; maybe, she says, if they'd stayed together, Stasja would have been with her that night, and not at the bonfire party that immediately preceded her death.

And Molly is angry: at herself, for not somehow preventing this from happening; at Stasja, for making the choices that led to this point; at Stasja's friends who led her astray and didn't stop her from driving that night; at classmates who feel justified in "talking crap" about someone they didn't even know; at Fate and/or God, for letting this happen.

I'm letting her work through her anger on her own, although I am encouraging her to talk -- when she's ready -- to me, her mother, her extended family, her friends, the school's grief counselor if need be. But at her age, she doesn't need me reassuring her that everything is going to be OK. And I don't want to lie to her, anyway -- after all, for Stasja and her family and friends, it's not going to be OK ever again. But I am telling Molly that the sorrow and the anger will diminish with time, that life for the rest of us must go on.

She's a smart girl, and she'll figure it out. Hopefully, she and her peers will even learn from the experience, and maybe Stasja's tragedy will serve to prevent the same thing from happening to someone else.

Cold comfort, and a "bargain" that can never be quantified or justified. At the end of the day, Stasja is gone, and it's too late to fix friendships or change the course that led her to that bitter end.

And I must somehow stop myself from reacting to this by acting on my new instinct to call or text Molly every 5 or 10 minutes, just to be sure she's all right.

I'm proud of my girl, even though I worry about her, and I have to believe that she'll make the right choices in life. Even that's no guarantee, and today that fact scares me a little more than it did a week ago.

Rest easy, Stasja. Molly, stay safe.

by Tom Knapp
24 October 2015