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Topic: Molly  (Read 876 times)
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« on: July 10, 2018 12:40:02 PM »

(No. 2 pencil, ink, and permanent marker--I messed up the fingers/hand holding the dog's head something terrible!)

Meet Molly Rae Hakkarinen (pronounced "Hack-ah-rye-nen"; I believe it's Finnish, many European immigrants, particularly Finns, Italians, and Swedes, came to my area of Michigan to work the iron and copper mines generations ago, thus, lots of people here have last names like that). Molly was one of my childhood classmates, but she's been dead for almost a quarter of a century now. About half-past-midnight, early on Friday, August 19th, 1994, she was out walking with another young woman when the pair decided to try crossing US Highway 41. Molly never made it to the other side. Donald Ranta, a 59-year-old man, hit her with his car, near the National Ski Hall of Fame, claiming that he didn't see her because she was wearing dark clothing (I wasn't there, but I've been down that stretch of highway many times in my life, so, I know that it's pretty well lit at night, and, I'm obviously prejudiced in her favor, so, you'll have to forgive me if I'm inclined to sympathize with the dead girl). Molly was badly injured by the impact, in critical condition, and, despite everyone's best efforts to save her life, she died two days later at the hospital on August 21st. Molly had only been fifteen for a little over a month. Today is also her birthday; she would have been thirty-nine this year.

If you have children, never feel foolish for warning them to watch out for traffic, no matter how old they get--tragedy is never more than a single step away.

After all this time, I'm not sure why I still care so much, but I do. Beyond seeing each other in the hallways, at recess, etc., Molly and I barely knew each other. I didn't have the hots for her or anything like that. The one time I can even remember her speaking to me, she was quite cruel. And yet, I couldn't even type this up without tears and snot running down my face. All I really know about Molly's interests in life are that she was a member of the local chapter of the Salvation Army, loved Dalmation dogs (although she never had one) and enjoyed the music of the bands Poison, Slaughter, and Skid Row.

This is Molly's last school year book photograph (top left), from 1994, when we were both freshmen--she didn't even live long enough to begin her sophomore year in September. Even so, I also looked at the 1995 year book, and it upset me that I couldn't find any dedication or mention of Molly whatsoever, like she never even existed, which is just wrong. When we were in elementary school, an entire family perished (mother, father, and young children) when their house burned down, as a result of leaving Christmas candles lit and unattended when they went to bed (please, never do that), and I distinctly remember that the next school year book was dedicated to their memory, so, I don't know who dropped the ball in 1995. Molly deserved better than that.

And this is Molly's oldest sister's (Brandi) senior yearbook photo, from the same volume, just so you can get an idea of what Molly might have looked like, sans glasses, had she lived three more years and become an adult:

On a lighter note, I'll also share with you my "picture" from that same 1994 year book, which, like Molly, also happens to be my final "appearance" in those annual tomes. To put it bluntly, I was a troublesome chronic truant (I only lasted about two weeks at my original high school, and, if you added up all of the time that I was physically there during those two weeks, it probably wouldn't have even totalled a single full day). If I'm not going to attend class, I'm sure as hell not going to show up to get my picture taken, right? In fact, my last memory of Molly is from the previous year, in eighth grade; I simply wasn't around often enough to even encounter her, or many of my other classmates, in ninth.

I should have this page blown up and framed. My younger brother once told me, "You used to play hooky from school, and, now, you play hooky from life.", which I'm afraid is a very accurate description of me indeed! In all honesty, the school should have just omitted me altogether, rather than messing up the page layout like that. I don't recall ever going fishing whilst I was ditching school, but, if I did, I hope I caught a big one!

All right, that's enough year book reunion nonsense.

On Friday, May 25th, I made the trip to visit Molly's grave for the first time in years. I'd thought of going to see her again many times, but, for one reason or another, I always put it off. Sadly, it looked like no one had been there to care for her marker for quite some time as her gravestone was pretty well colonized by lichens. I pass by that cemetery several times every year and, if I really care about her so much, I could have very easily made the short detour to see that Molly's final resting place was being kept tidy, right? Well, long story short, over two days, I spent a couple of hours cleaning it up, and, from now on, I'm going to make sure that Molly's grave doesn't fall into disrepair again.

Maintaining Molly's gravestone is the least I can do for her. Here's Molly's marker after I cleared off the lichen, carefully dug out all of the gunk that had filled up much of the carved lettering, and removed the dead leaves and other debris. I contemplated getting new flowers to replace these old synthetic ones, but then I reasoned that might be disrespectful to both Molly and her family, as they could have some special significance. It's not easy to make out in my photos, but, the bottom-most text reads, "She Gave The Gift of Life" and the animal in the right corner is her favorite, a Dalmation dog.

As anyone who really knows me can probably guess, I was delighted to find a doll on Molly's grave. This is a McDonald's Bratz Sasha from 2003, but Molly died before Bratz even existed (they debuted in 2001), so, it couldn't have possibly been hers. There's a chunk broken off the front of her sunhat, Sasha's hair has seen better days, and the color is wearing off her bellbottoms, but, all-in-all, considering that she's likely been exposed to the elements for a considerable amount of time, Sasha is in relatively decent shape. And, if you're wondering, no, I didn't take the doll--I'd never steal anything from anyone's grave, and most certainly never Molly's.

And then there's this cute plush Minnie Mouse. Like Sasha, she's probably been keeping silent vigil over Molly for years, as she's pretty sun-faded and moldy. Minnie's tag has been cut off (as parents often do), so, I can't tell you the plush toy's date or manufacturer, but, it doesn't really matter much in her case, because Minnie Mouse was around long before Molly or I were ever born anyway, so, unlike Sasha, Minnie is a character that Molly would have been familiar with. Besides, without the tag, even if it isn't true, I can still pretend that this particular Minnie Mouse did belong to Molly and maybe she even had it since she was a little girl (that said, Molly's cousin told me that Minnie and Sasha were most likely gifts from Molly's nieces or nephews).

My City annually warns us residents to remove objects like these from graves during the fall, before the snow flies, but, given their weathered condition, no one has disturbed this pair in some time. You'd have to be pretty heartless to take toys off a dead teenage girl's grave and throw them away. I sure couldn't do it. I get weepy just looking at Minnie.

When I returned on Monday, May 28th, Memorial Day morning, to finish cleaning Molly's grave, I suddenly spotted something beneath the flowers and dead leaves that I had missed on my previous visit: a Dalmation figurine wearing a fireman's hat and with a bucket stuck on its left front paw! On the bottom was written "To Molly" and "Bro" (Molly had two sisters and two brothers, but, as he didn't give his name, I don't know whether this was a gift from Shawn or Andrew). Investigating in the leaf litter further, I uncovered another two hidden firedog figurines, one with a firehose and the other with a fire extinguisher and wearing a fireman's coat. The pup with the hose was blank, but the other had a message on its bottom like the first one I found; however, it was too dirty and faded for me to make out what it said. I tried washing it, but I was unable to make it any clearer, so, I'll probably never know what it said, although the most logical explanation is that it's from the other brother. The dog with the firehose also had some structural damage; there are a couple of holes broken into the resin, revealing the hollow interior. I cleaned the trio off as best as I could with water and then lined them up together in front of the gravestone's left side, since Sasha and Minnie already had the right. Between the three canine figurines, and the Dalmation carved into the gravestone itself, Molly's favorite dog breed is very well represented!

Rooting around further, I didn't discover any other surprises (other than some lively spiders), so, I believe that I successfully found everything that Molly's family had decorated her grave with. While I was going to finish cleaning up her stone regardless, I'm really glad that I came back and found those three puppies as that told me a little more about Molly and her family's love for her.

And, yes, since today is her birthday, I went back to the cemetery to visit Molly again early this morning, before the heat got too unbearable. I promised her that I would, and under no circumstances can you ever break a promise to a dead girl. I didn't bring my camera, but Molly's grave was still looking good (summer sun and rain have doubtlessly helped), so, other than disposing of a rogue scrap of synthetic flower fabric, I didn't have to do anything but get comfortable and talk--Molly is a great listener, but she never answers. I don't believe in ghosts, but a part of me still hopes that Molly's shade will someday prove me wrong and make an appearance (even if she only does it to tell me that I'm an idiot).

Over the years, Molly Hakkarinen has become a defense/coping mechanism for me. Whenever I'm feeling sorry for myself, I'm reminded that I've gotten to live "x" number of years that she didn't and seen/experienced many things that Molly never got the chance to and that I should be grateful for it. From that perspective, most of life's difficulties are trivial and complaining about anything is like spitting in Molly's face. It doesn't matter how serious my gripes are, because Molly's death trumps anything I could ever bring to the table (and even if I died too, she could still put me in my place by asserting that she's been dead longer, so, I still wouldn't win). When things are really bad, sometimes I even wish that I could have died in her place, but, of course, one can't make deals of that sort, and certainly not after the fact.

I understand that Molly's story is finished and has been for some time, but, on another level, I still don't accept that and I never will. Molly shouldn't be lying in a coffin six feet under the ground at the local cemetery, she should be working in a career that she enjoys, raising children of her own, or just pursuing her dreams, but, thanks to an inattentive driver and, perhaps, some poor judgement on her part, Molly is gone forever and there's nothing that I or anyone else can ever do about it.

Molly died before the internet really took off, so, until publishing this today, there really wasn't much to be found online about her (almost all of the data that you see here I had to research in person at two local libraries and the cemetery, but I also got a bit of information about Molly communicating with her cousin). Aside from thinking about her a lot, the main reason I wanted to do this was that I feel that there should be some kind of electronic memorial to her existence for other people to see/find. I hope that she's never far from her surviving family members thoughts, and I would like to believe that our other classmates think of her from time-to-time as well.

I have never forgotten you, Molly, and I never will. Even if you stop mattering to everyone else, you will always matter to me.

« Last Edit: July 11, 2018 09:16:55 AM by Patraw - Reason: corrected the incorrect! » THIS ROCKS   Logged
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« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2018 01:05:01 PM »

What an incredible story. I had a friend (sort of, I only hung out with him one summer at the pool) who committed suicide when we were both in 7th grade. I think that was the first time I ever had to deal with someone my age passing away and I think about who he would have been today if he would have lived. That was a nice thing for you to do when you cleaned her grave. But don't forget, you are the lucky one who is still alive so enjoy it! The picture is very sweet.

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« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2018 01:15:46 PM »

You have pulled at my heart strings once again!

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« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2018 01:27:56 PM »

Thank you, both!

@gozer:  Wow, that really was young to commit suicide.  It really does mess with your head when you're young and someone your own age dies--the "we're invincible!" attitude goes out the window right quick after that.

Of course I'm lucky, I have an imaginary dream-gift shirt to prove it!  Grin
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« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2018 02:57:55 PM »

The drawing and your words are beautiful. Molly is given new life in your memory of her and sharing her with us. Thank you.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2018 02:58:20 PM by sheepBlue » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2018 09:34:46 AM »

Congrats! This has been chosen as a Featured Project! Smiley

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« Reply #6 on: July 25, 2018 05:39:32 PM »

As I read this I was reminded of this quote:

Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?
― Terry Pratchett, Going Postal

Great post Patraw and a truly lovely drawing.


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« Reply #7 on: July 30, 2018 08:54:52 AM »

Thank you, and I agree that as long as someone isn't forgotten they live on.

I also put this drawing and my words on a regional Facebook group I belong to, and a woman shared it with Molly's Mother, who got in touch with me and thanked me.  When I told her that I had also cleaned Molly's gravesite back in May, she thanked me for that as well and explained that both she and her husband are having health problems, so, they don't get out to do much of anything anymore, which made me feel like a complete asshole (which I totally am sometimes) for mentally judging her family for not maintaining it.  I really should have known better, as Molly's parents are probably about as old as my Mother, and she's almost 70.  I also found out from Molly's Mother that she had her daughter's organs donated, after Molly's oldest sister told her that's what Molly wanted, which gives the "She Gave The Gift of Life" quote on Molly's tombstone all new meaning.  At least Molly's death helped other people, which makes me feel a little better about the whole affair.  Social media informal group therapy works wonders!  
« Last Edit: August 01, 2018 10:57:18 AM by Patraw » THIS ROCKS   Logged
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