His name was Ben.
I can’t remember his last name without digging through a yearbook packed away in some box somewhere.
He died in a car accident the summer after graduation.
This summer will be 25 years ago that he died.
I didn’t know him well, but I remember him as a nice guy. I also remember what he looked like and how he was a friendly, popular, smart 18-year-old with a bright future.
Jennifer Kearns’s former classmates will remember her too, years from now.
The 19-year-old will be remembered as a friendly, kind girl with a bright smile. She will be remembered as forever young, even as they age and their memories blur.
Death is never easy to understand but wrapping our minds around the death of someone so young is often incomprehensible.
Every memory becomes priceless. Every conversation becomes etched in our hearts. Every photo chronicling his or her life becomes almost sacred, even as the edges yellow with age.
People have been sharing memories of Jennifer Kearns since her death in a car accident on Feb. 22. Friends recall her radiant smile, her happy demeanor and the small things, like words of encouragement she gave them.
The messages left on an online legacy book on the Northwest Herald have a recurring theme. There are messages from her classmates, some of whom say they didn’t know her well, but remember her kindness. One person wrote that having Jennifer in class made high school bearable.
In her short life, Jennifer touched many people.
It’s easy to think someone who dies young did not get a chance to leave a legacy. But Jennifer Kearns did. Her legacy will be the in the hearts of those she touched with a kind word and a smile.
Today, her family and friends will begin saying good-bye. Jennifer Kearns’ visitation will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. at Bethany Lutheran Church, 76 W. Crystal Lake Ave., Crystal Lake.
The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 29. Burial will be in Union Cemetery, Union.