Monday, June 6, 2011

The Turquoise Ocean Waters

Written by Ms. Berman, in Honor of Susan Garner
On my third glass of iced tea in an airport bar, starting to fade, my friend Heidi whipped out her camera insistent that I relive my frolicking moments in the turquoise waters of St. Maarten.  The liberation was instantaneous.  Just hours prior, after a full day of traveling, we were delayed at the last stretch of our journey at LAX, when the pilot of our airplane could not be found.  "Please, I begged the customer service agent, you have to get me on the next available flight; I am going to a memorial at La Jolla Shores in San Diego and it ends at sunset."  The young man tried to work with me, but the computer kept rejecting the request.  Customers noticed tears welling in my eyes and offered to give up their seats, but the stand-by list was rapidly growing.  I had to step back and accept my destiny... knowing there would be a reason for this turn of events, but not yet understanding.
Fixated on the spectacular pictures captured on camera, I thought about Mrs. G, and her memorial that was occurring at that precise moment.  I remembered our last conversation, standing in her front yard following a Teen Life Choices retreat:  "Your son is going to go far in life," I said as I hugged her good bye.    He is a genius you know.  They are the hardest kids to raise." 

"Thank you so much for your kind words, Ms. Berman.  You have no idea how much your reassurance means to me," she replied.  I was only being honest, I thought, as I drove off that Sunday afternoon. 
My reminiscing ended when the young waitress at the restaurant bar approached, asking if there was anything else we needed.  Not an unusual question, but as  I took the time to really look into her eyes, I saw an entire story there.  After teaching for so many years, that happens sometimes, but it is normally after working with a student for awhile.  "Where are you going to school?" I asked her.  She looked at me and hesitated.  I could see that she wanted to talk, but she wasn't sure what my agenda was.  And then the words just popped out...  words from the heart.  "You have a way about you," I said.  "I have been a high school teacher for a long time and I can tell that you are going to go far in life."  Such a random comment... she could have thought I was a nut and just walked away, but she didn't.  She proceeded to talk to Heidi and me, telling us how she had lived through a traumatic experience that had set her back and she was ready to go to college now, but needed someone to help her along.  She then asked for my email address, and wondered if I could be her mentor.  It was all very surreal.
When my plane landed in San Diego, there was an email waiting for me on my cell phone.  It was from my new mentee.  She said that I was the first person to ever tell her that she could make it in college.  Words I have heard so many times before, but they cut to my core every time.  I told her my mother, the college counselor, would work with her on the college process, Heidi could provide her with some therapy, and I could be her online mentor.  The complete package.  All because our plane was delayed, a life will be changed.  But it wasn't until I got home, processing my disappointment over having missed the memorial, that it hit me.  The words that I spoken to the young woman in the bar were the same last words that I had said to Mrs. G.   Both conversations focused upon succeeding in life.  Both were intended to cast forth comfort and motivation.  So although I couldn't be at La Jolla Shores saying my proper farewell,  I was opening a door for a young woman in need.  That was exactly how Mrs. G would have wanted it.  That was the gracious, loving, selfless woman whom she was.  This serendipitous occurrence was an offering of the gift of life in honor of Mrs. G.  A lover of beauty, she would have understood, more than most, that this entire interchange was inspired by the turquoise ocean waters off of the quaint little island of St. Maarten.


  1. This is inspirational writing, in reference to these beautiful ocean waters. Water, the symbolism for the cycle of life. I want to address my homeboy Drew Garner in this blog comment. It is very unbelievable to think that not too long ago, I had met Mrs. Garner at the TLC meeting. She was such a sweet person, and very hospitably, too. I think it really shows in Drew, the person that his mom was, and still is in his heart. I could not even tell in Drew, the way he approached me once, fist bumping like any other day. I felt he was very peaceful though. This may be a rough time for him and his family. I want to pray and send blessing for you and your family, Drew. You are a very strong guy, I admire you for what a great person you are. I cannot imagine going through such a change that you are, but everything happens for a reason, like Ms. berman says. I'm graduating and won't see you next year, but I want you to know, that we TLC'ers can and should still stick together for support. What is great is that you do have such supportive and good friends. I wish you great success in school and life, Drew. Your homeboy, - Abraham Avila

  2. Under these unfortunate circumstances, Drew has shown some amazing strength that one can only strive to have. This must not be easy for him and his family and I was surprised at how strong Drew was when handling this, and the positive perspective at which he looks at the situation. I met Drew's mom only once at a TLC retreat (she made amazingggg pizza!) where she graciously opened up her house to us and listening intently when we started to jam. Her face just lit up when she saw and heard Drew playing Pink Floyd. Just from that I could tell how much she loved him and how pround of him she was. I'm sure that wherever she is, she is looking down at him with that same grin on her face, proud as ever. Stay strong Drew, and remember you're TLC family is always here for you!

  3. Drew,
    I don't think we have spoken one word before before, but you are a great double-dutch jumper (okay, not entirely true) but it made me happy to see you participating and enjoying life. Your light-hearted personality lights up those around you, including myself. Your presence is rejuvinating and pleasant. Although we have not spoken before, we (the I.S. family) is here for you always. We all love you. Stay Strong.

  4. rejuvenating* :)

  5. Drew,
    I never had the pleasure to meet your mother, but i know she was a wonderful woman through all the wonderful accounts i have heard about her from our friends at school. She sounded like she was a great individual. No... i know she was because she raised you. You are the deepest and the most entertaining individual i have ever met. Please do not change. You are the life of the party but also the zen. Every account i had with you was great and enjoyable event that i haven't forgotten.
    On a side note, I have the utmost respect for you Drew, on how you are dealing with your loss. I truthfully say that i could not stay as composed as you, during a moment of such grief. I know she is watching over you and your family. Remember that she loved you, she always will. If you ever need to have a deep moment or talk or whatever, just say the word and I'll be there.
    Your compadre Javier.

  6. Drew, I have never met you, but my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Just know that your mother will always be with you.

  7. Drew,

    They say that the only infinite resource on the planet is Love. I felt, from our first conversations in TLC, that you were one of the special few who realized this truth early on.

    Your positive attitude, humble charisma, and contagious smile will always inspire a tremendous amount of admiration and respect from everyone around you. Those beautiful traits alone will take you to some amazing places in the thrilling future that awaits you. I know you'll make your mom proud.

    I Love You Man,
    Alex L.

  8. Ms.Berman's sentiments were quite uplifting.
    Drew, we don't ever really speak often, but the general consensus among our mutual friends is that you're a warm, fun, loving terrific person. My heart goes out to you, and your family that have been affect by this tragic loss. I lost my best friend when I was 10th grade, and it was the most emotionally unstable I had ever felt. I couldn't imagine loosing my mother, but man, let me tell you- the way you've carried yourself at school has been dealt with such great composure. I was nothing like that, I and totally admire and respect you for being so strong during a difficult time like this. You're behavior about this reaffirms mine, and everyone else's belief as to how lucky your mother was to have you as a son, and how proud she will always be of you.
    If there's anything you need, you seriously shouldn't hesitate to ask.
    Kindest Regards, Liya Kidane

  9. Drew,

    We always hold short conversations and I know that this is hard for you right now and your mom will always be with you, not physically but spiritually. There is no words to say on how strong you are being because I have not experienced anything like this and I know that my world would tumble down, but there are brave people like yourself that inspire me as a human being and make me reflect on life. You are an excellent guy and keep it up, and you know you can talk to me about anything anytime. My family sends their condolences, your mom is right next to you everyday, remember that
    -Samantha A.

  10. Dear Drew,
    My heart goes out to you. I know that we have never met, but I'm one of Ms. Berman's old students, whome she also challenged and touched. I am so happy to see that you have such an amazing circle of support. Please take advantage of it. Don't worry about looking weak or ever feel like you have to be strong for someone else. Losing your mother, no matter what the circumstances, is possibly one of the most truamatic events of the human experience.
    You and I are kind of in the boat, but I'm nearly 10 years ahead of you. My mother started to die a few weeks before I graduated from high school. She was in a comma, when I walked across the stage to receive my diploma. She died a few days later. I didn't even tell anyone she was dieing, except my best friend (who is now my bridesmaid) and I only told her becuase she insisted that I had changed. I seem preoccupied and sad.
    At the time, I felt so independent and strong that I didn't accept the impact this death was having in my heart and soul. I neglected myself and focused more on other things like taking care of my neice's feelings and getting ready for college. In a little more than month after she passed, I was on an airplane, leaving everything I had ever known.
    This was a bad idea. I couldn't focus in school. I neglected my feelings and pushed people away. I behaved quite stupidly. I never graduated from college.
    If I could do it all over again, I would have waited to be in a better emotional place to go to college. I remember when I told my friend and all she could do was sit next to me. She wrapped her arm around me and cried with me. I think that if I had allowed a little bit more of that, I would be in a very different place today. I hope that you read this story and you realize how much love, care and time you should allow yourself. So, I hope my words of experience are helpful, when I say, "Take care of yourself."

    If you need to talk to someone whose had a similar experience, I can make myself available.

  11. Desiree MartinezJune 7, 2011 at 3:33 PM

    Dear Drew,
    You are truly one of the smartest people i know and your always in a happy mood when ever i see you. You are such a great friend. I love you and I am really sorry for your loss. If you ever need to talk im here for you.

    Love Desiree

  12. Drew,
    We don't really know each other on much more than by name (except for when I broke your water bottle lol) but from what I do know, what I hear, and what I see, you really are a really cool, fun, outgoing person, and the fact that you have been able to keep that up through what is undoubtedly one of the most challenging periods in your life speaks volumes of your character. My god, I have never experienced anything near what you are going through, and I couldnt even hope to be nearly as strong as you in a similar situation. I can not think of anyone who could ever deserve to be more proud than your mother should be of you now. Bro, just remember that you have people here who love you. Even semi-strangers like me who care about you and who want nothing more than to see you make it through this. I have prayed for you and, still do. If there was ever anyone who honored a life passed with a life lived, its you, just through your own strength. I sincerely admire you, and if you ever need anything, you know where to find me.
    God Bless,
    Josh Fuller

  13. Mariana AngelinaJune 7, 2011 at 4:42 PM

    It is sad to say that I didn't even know about your mom until I heard you speaking to Mr. Strebler one day during nutrition break. At that point, I just wanted to give you a hug because the fact that you were able to go on with the same personality as always is amazing. You're a kind hearted man who has captured the hearts of many people both inside and out of school I'm sure. As a person who has also lost a parent, I know what it feels like, but you are a role model to all those who have, because even now after 14 years of not seeing my dad, I don't feel strong when it comes to talking about him - but you are. Like Ms. Berman said, you are smart and will go far in life and your mom will be there every step of the way. All of us love you so much as our great and crazy friend.
    Much Love and God Bless,
    Mariana (aka Pizza)

  14. "Don't worry about looking weak or ever feel like you have to be strong for someone else." This is beautiful advice for you, Drew. We often confuse the expression of emotions/turmoil with weaknesses when in fact it takes strength to face our life challenges. No one can tell you how to deal with this. It is your time to sort things out, knowing that so many people support you, no matter what.

  15. Hey Drew,

    We have never met or interacted with each other as well as me never meeting your
    mom but I am writing to you for words of encouragement and motivation. I know
    this girl who had lost everything in life mentally, physically, and spiritually
    but yet she always maintained a positive attitude and kept a smile on her face.
    People amongst her often wondered how she stayed so strong through all her
    trials and tribulations. When people asked, "how are you?" She would simply
    reply, "I'm blessed!" Not really understanding the true meaning of her response,
    she would only say it because she always heard her parents give that reply. In
    her later years as she started maturing and understanding that God is the one
    that never left her side and helped her through the storm the meaning of her
    reply became more clear to her. I know so much about this girl because she is
    the waitress Ms. Berman met at the airport so I am the young lady getting a
    second chance because of her delay. It goes to show you that right now
    everything might be unclear but your mother has instilled all her qualities
    inside of you and you have to use them as tools to help build you a solid
    foundation so that your future can be filled with success. You have very
    positive friends and a wonderful lady like Ms. Berman on your team that will
    help you in time of despair. Take this as a learning experience and know that
    her name will not be taken in vain.

  16. It's crazy how a person can be with you one day, and the next day when you wake up, their gone. Drew is such an inspiration to me because of how he is able to stay strong for his family, friends, himself, and of course, his mom. It must be a horrible pain that no one will know until they themselves experience it. Drew has shown us all that his mom meant a lot to him but that she would have wanted him to move on. And relating back to Mrs Bermans post, closing one door, means that you must open the next to find out the surprises that await you. I love you Drew Garner, stay Strong.
    Yours Truly,
    Iman Khatib

    RIP Ms. Garner

  17. Drew,
    Your mom was one of the most hospitable people I have ever met. The fact that everyone has echoed this sentiment speaks to its truth and her character; she was generous, kind, and loving to everyone she came across. The world has certainly lost a wonderful person.
    Your dad said at the memorial that only the death of a wonderful person like your mom could bring together North and South Side surfers. The power that opened the minds of those surfers also opened mine. You know that you and I have disagreed on things, mostly based on the fact that you are very spiritual and I generally believe in rationally proven facts. But when a butterfly that Devon released at the memorial landed on your shoulder, it was impossible not to believe that it was an re-incarnation of your mother's spirit, her hand reaching out to you to guide you. Remember that where ever you go she will be there to aid you, and that whenever you need it, I, and everyone else that wrote on this blog or attended the memorial, will be there to help you. We all love you and your mom.
    If there's any teenager strong, intelligent, self-assured, and motivated enough to make it through this terrible ordeal, you are it.

    I love you brotha,
    Will Krueger

  18. Hey Drew,
    This is Elizabeth Sykes, I only met you for a short period of time in November of last year when you were in wrestling for a brief period (I was the manager of the tea,) before deciding surfing was better. Our feelings were not hurt by that decision, and in fact I think it's cool you do what you love. I'm so sorry to hear about your mother passing on. I see you at school sometimes and you don't act mopey or sad, and you stay strong for your friends and family, and I truly admire that. I don't know how I could deal with the loss of a parent. When we made the decision to put my cat down earlier this year I was such a wreck. He was my best friend in the world and we'd always been such a big part of my life. I've moved on but it's been difficult. I would like to just let you know that you're a brave dude and there will be bad days and there will be good ones, so look forward to the good ones and make your mom proud of what you'll become in life.
    <3 Elizabeth

  19. My Sweet Baby Boy,

    The most beautiful tribute to your mother is... you! You know, my love, at first I was sad her and I never had the chance to meet as I suspect we would have been fast friends. I now realize that in knowing you I get to know her too! What a blessing that the universe gifted her to you, to guide you, to put you on your path, and now surely to light the way of your journey. You are strong, wise , and inspirational, clearly all a reflection of who she Is. I hope you know how much we love you, how honored we are to be a part of your life and how grateful we are that you choose us to share it with. I can’t wait to be a part of all your successes. Always remember that you are a beacon of light and that with every breath She is there. Love you!

    Momma Hernandez

  20. To Drew,

    I've only ever seen you around campus, however I wanted to let you know that I'll be keeping you and your family in my thoughts. Please know that everyone in the IS Community is cognizant of your loss and we are all here to support you in anything.

    Rebecca Chhay

  21. Brianna HernandezJune 9, 2011 at 8:33 PM


    It's such a shame that I never got to meet your mom, but by knowing you I feel like I know what kind of person she must have been. She must've had a beautiful soul just as you do. Your strength through all of this is inspiring and astonishing. You always project such a strong beautiful energy, that I can't help but smile when I'm around you. You are such an incredible human being. I am so grateful and I feel so blessed to have you in my life. If you need anything or you need to get away for a while, just pick up the phone and I'll be there. Although, we're not blood related we are family. I love you with all my heart. Stay strong


  22. Drew,
    You are the wonderful kid who made it cool for other boys to say "I love you" to their moms. I heard you say it so many times when you called her from our home and I was always impressed by the ease and closeness of your family. Your mother had the most generous spirit and beautiful smile and I can see what an exceptional mother she was by how sensitive and poised you and Devon were at the memorial service. It was a beautiful and very personal tribute. We all could see how loved you are by your Dad, family and so many friends. Most of all, I can see the traits of your mother in your manner and soul. The lyrics of your song were very moving and it was an inspirational moment when you stopped and acknowledged the light touch of the butterfly Devon released that landed on your shoulder. Your mother's presence will always be with you.
    You are always welcome at our home.
    Meg Bouher Krueger

  23. Dear Drew,
    I have not had the chance to meet you, nor did I your mother. But I would like to express my deepest condolences to you and your family. I lost my father in May of last year, and I don't know exactly what you're feeling, but I am sure we feel and have very similar emotions in regards to this traumatic situation.
    I offer my words to you in hopes that it will give you the strength you need to get through this hard time. Life does go on, and it does (with and in time) get substantially better. Remember that your mother will always be with you, in the closest place possible, your heart. Memories and Love never die, they last and flourish forever. Never hesitate to think and speak of your mother, it makes things easier on your person, emotions, and your mental state of mind.
    I wish you all the best in your time of recovery, hold your head up high, the path ahead is still one that is rich, and brighter than ever. You now have a guardian angel watching over you from up above. Wherever your mother may be, she is looking down on you, proud as ever, smiling at you just as she used to. She will protect you and guide you through lifes encounters and challenges. Stay as positive as you can be and don't forget, hold your head up high.
    If you ever feel the need to talk to someone other than family, feel free to call or text me at 619-450-3598. I can also provide you with information that you might consider looking at in the future...
    Your Friend,
    -George Zavala

  24. This so story is interesting and is such an uplifting story it almost sounds fake. I think that in society today there truly are good people out there in the world. Starting from the costumers that were willing to give up their seats for you. They saw how much it meant for you to take the plane and despite the result, tired their best to make you go. But, even though you were unfortunately able to the plane you were able to give a young person hope. This makes me think of the saying 'everything happens for a reason' I am a strong believe in this. I am sure the young waitress was truly grateful and felt good about herself when you made the unusual but extraordinary comment. This is what we need in society, people who are able to recognise and commend peoples actions to give them hope and confidence.
    -Maya Miller

  25. Losing someone close is never easy but it takes time to heal the wounds but everything happens for a reason. Drew I don't know you at all but I'll be praying for you and your family.

    And it is completely awesome that you can give someone hope. Hope is the best thing you can give someone. We need more people like this in the world. Hope is one of the best things you can have.

    - Roxana Lopez

  26. All through the years that I have known Drew he has been one if the strongest people I know.
    Always keeping a positive attitude on life.
    While sitting with him, having no idea what to say to him about his mom passing, not wanting to say the wrong thing, I just kept quiet.
    As the awkward silence continued, Drew turned to me and said, "I'm not going to take this as a negative thing. This may be a blessing and we just don't know it yet. If I can't get through this, I can take on anything."
    At that moment I knew that Drew was truly an amazing person that I have ever had the pleasure to know.
    I have met a lot of people in my life but no one that has had such a major impact on me as he has. And I feel that everyone should strive, in some way, to be like him.
    Finding joy in the little things and knowing that everything happens for a reason. And no matter how much crap life throws at us to know that it, some how, in some way, makes us stronger.

    Susan Garner was an amazing and loved woman. Even though not a lot of us had the pleasure of really getting to know her, hearing how much Drew, Devon and their father loved her, we didn't need to met her to know how wonderful she was and still is.

    Through all of this, Drew has made me realize how important it is to appreciate the little things and how quickly life can pass by.
    Not even tomorrow is guaranteed.
    I love you Drew.
    Continue to keep you head held high. Have no regrets, your mom loved you and ddont ever let yourself think other wise.
    Rest in peace Susan Garner. You were truly loved in so many ways. And no matter how much time passes by you will never really be gone.

    Her spirit takes shape in any living thing, even as simple as a beautiful butterfly

  27. Dear Drew,
    I have only heard amazing and positive comments about you, but have not had the pleasure to meet you in person. I can hardly imagine the emotions and thoughts that you are experiencing but know that you are inspirational. Even if you are feeling down, know that the IS community is there for you to lean on and support you every step of the way to recovery. I wish you the best in your time of recovery and I will pray for you and your family.

    -Maria Mendoza

  28. Drew
    I have never met you but from what I heard you are a great person. I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason in our life. Sometimes we are presented with an opportunity in our lives that we have to take, and we just can't sit there and let them pass by. Its nice to know that in this day and age we still have people that go out of there way to help others.

    "Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark"- George Iles

    -Miguel Preciado