Only The Good Die Young
I uncovered some heartbreaking news about a month ago…. Eden Dodd, a very important person in my life, had been killed in a car accident. She, along with her mother, was killed in an auto/train accident in Bucharest, Romania in May 2004. Although she passed away over 2 years ago, I just recently found out via a Google search so to me, my pain is quite fresh.
I last saw and spoke with Eden in August 1997 before I headed to Boston for business school. It may seem odd that someone with whom I had lost touch with for nearly 9 years would be considered such an important person in my life…but she was exactly that. She profoundly impacted my outlook on life and I have missed her terribly for the past 9 years and will continue to miss her for the rest of my life.
I met Eden in 1993 through the Everybody Wins Foundation, a mentoring program that matches elementary school students with corporate volunteers who work in the neighborhood. Although the program was intended to be just a weekly hour-long reading session, 8-year old Eden and I immediately hit it off and became very close. In addition to acting as her tutor, Eden also became the sister I never had. We would often go to movies and museums together and she would often sleep over at my apartment when her single mother had other obligations.
Eden could light up a room with her smile. She was a gorgeous girl but her outer beauty paled in comparison to her huge heart. To say she was creative was an understatement. Eden loved to dance, sing and act…. I remember falling off my chair sometimes with laughter as I witnessed her imitating everyone from her teacher to her fellow students to famous celebrities.
Eden would always speak her mind. I remember we were once shopping for clothes for her Ken doll at FAO Schwarz and she lectured the salesperson about "gender stereotyping" According to the assortment FAO Schwarz carried, Ken could only be a veterinarian or a baseball player. She looked at the sales assistant in the eye and said "What's wrong with the world when I can't just get Ken a pair of khakis?"
Upon visiting an amusement park and entering a haunted house, Eden promptly told the pale, dressed in all-white mad scientist that he would "benefit greatly from adding pastels to his wardrobe". When she came to work with me for "Take Your Daughter to Work Day", I found her, at the end of the day, sitting at my desk typing a resignation letter to her elementary school. She had decided to retire from 3rd grade and become an advertising executive. Yes, being with Eden was always an adventure.
Over time, Eden's academics improved along with her self-esteem. I helped her enroll in creative writing courses and in dance classes and she truly excelled. She began writing a "novel" and some of my most rewarding moments to date were watching her perform in dance recitals.
We had every intention of staying close when I moved to Boston for business school. Unfortunately, her mother decided rather impulsively to move to Romania with a boyfriend and she did not leave a forwarding address. I spent YEARS trying to find Eden but in vain. Her mother and she had a different last name and trying to find an 11 year old in Romania is a challenge, to say the least. I last looked for Eden in the summer of 2003 when I was finalizing Dave's and my wedding list. I SO wanted Eden to be a bridesmaid and see me marry the many of my dreams (believe me, she ALWAYS had comments about the old boyfriends I dated). I knew that she would love Dave.
Although I could never find her, what gave me solace was the fact that her personality was too big to go unnoticed by this world. I knew one day I would find her on the big screen, or on the cover of Time Magazine. I always knew we would have our reunion.
About a month ago, I had a very vivid dream about her and decided to search again. I was devastated to find out, via Google, that Eden and her mother had been killed. What has been so heartbreaking for me is that I feel like I have now lost Eden twice; 9 years ago when she moved to Romania, and last month when I found out about her untimely death.
Fortunately, I have gotten some closure by reaching out to her grandparents and her school headmaster in Romania. They have been kind enough to share stories and send writing samples to me that demonstrate that Eden's creativity and spirit only got greater as she got older.
I realize that the opportunity to change someone's life for the better is incredibly rewarding and I am so grateful that I was able to do so for Eden. She once told me that "you taught me what it means to have a big heart" – I was so flattered I was speechless. I never worked so hard for someone and it was worth every single minute. I just wish that I had more time with her.
Eden, I love you and miss you. Thank you for contributing so much to my life.