I remember the first time I saw her--I was in 9th grade and in my freshman year of high school. She was a senior and definitely one of the most popular girls. She was tall, blonde, slender, and beautiful. She had delicate features and yet, there was nothing very delicate about her. She was outgoing, bubbly, and appeared full of self confidence--you know--everything I wasn't. She was a stark contrast to me--the awkward 9th grader who felt like a duck out of water. This girl seemed to have everyone eating out of the palm of her hand.
It was Spirit Week in October of 1984 and the seniors called themselves the Senior Spirits. They wore white ghoulish costumes and ran through the school displaying all the spirit of a senior class enjoying their last year. Lisa was no exception. She happily displayed her 'Senior Pride' by participating in every activity and standing out as a definite leader. I remember watching her and being totally captivated by her presence.
Shortly after Spirit Week were class elections and it came as no surprise to me that she was running for Senior Class President. I don't know whether it was her nickname or what, but everybody was referring to her as "Toast". As a matter of fact, her entire campaign was centered around the word. I had no idea what it meant and frankly, I don't know if many people did, but it didn't seem to matter. "Toast" was plastered all over San Lorenzo High School and so was Lisa's face and name.
Then, one afternoon Lisa and I had a chance encounter and although I do not remember all of the details, what I do remember is the realization that Lisa was as beautiful inside as she was on the outside. As this captivating girl who 'ruled the school' crossed the path of an awkward freshman, she took a moment to flash a smile and say "Hi! I'm Lisa!". I smiled and introduced myself and couldn't imagine why she would even take the time to say hi to someone like me. But, I walked away feeling a little more special that day.
A couple of weeks later, in late November, there was a buzz around the school. Something wasn't right. The air was thick and the mood was somber. Nobody was talking loud, but people were definitely talking. As I walked through the halls some people were crying and others looked as though they were lost. Then I heard the news--Lisa Monzo was missing. She was last seen walking in the rain on the railroad tracks behind the school. She was on her way to work, but never made it. There was speculation around the school as to who had been with her last and suddenly everybody's lives were turned upside down. The school was filled with police officers as they questioned Lisa's friends and warned us to stay in groups and not to walk alone.
I couldn't believe it. How could this beautiful girl, so full of life, have just vanished? It's something you read about in the paper. It's something that happens at other schools to people you don't know and have never talked to. It definitely doesn't happen to girls like Lisa who, just a couple of weeks ago, took a moment out of her time to talk to someone that most people would have ignored.
Approximately four days later my mom woke me in the middle of the night to tell me that they had found Lisa's body--she had been raped, strangled, and left under some brush next to the railroad tracks. I remember gasping and saying "No!" and as I laid back down to go to sleep I felt my body begin to shake. It felt as though the wind had been knocked out of me and I knew sleep would not come that night. The day we met played over and over in my head like a broken record and I just could not believe that I would never see her smile again. However, with each passing year the wounds of that terrible loss for our school began to heal and by the time my class graduated in 1988--I seldom thought of her.
Over the past 26 years I have thought of Lisa often. I did not know her well--as a matter of fact, I did not know her at all and now, I can hardly recall her face that I once could not get out of my mind. But, what I will never forget is how she made me feel. Because of the way Lisa chose to live her life, she will forever be a part of mine. She left an imprint on my heart that the span of time can never erase.
I continue to grieve for her, but no longer as a young girl stunned by something so tragic and heinous, but as an adult woman with children her age. My heart breaks for the woman she was never able to become and for the dreams she was never able to fulfill. As I think back to her vibrant personality and the impact she had on those of us who went to school with her, I can't help but wonder what kind of impact she would have had on the world. Unfortunately, we will never know.
Tonight, as I did my homework and Lisa came to my mind, it dawned on me that I have never really shared this story. I have seldom spoken of her and on the rare occasion when I have told her story I have chosen not to share mine. Instead I have held it close to my heart--like a secret between lost friends. Somehow--tonight was different. I wasn't sure why, but for the first time I had a desire to share this part of my life. I am sure there are some who would say it is meant to bring closure to a painful part of my past, but I believe it is quite the contrary.
Even though Lisa has crossed my mind throughout the years I had almost forgotten about our encounter that day and the way she made me feel, but as I reflected on that day so many years ago God reminded me of something.....
People may forget what I look like or what I have said, but they will never forget how I make them feel--and I need to be careful about the imprints I'm leaving on the hearts of others.
Thank You, Lord for bringing Lisa to my mind tonight and thank You for that brief encounter so long ago. I pray she is with You Lord and that someday we are standing next to each other as we stand around Your throne praising You. I also thank You for using her to remind me of the impact I can have on someone's life--no matter how brief or long my time with them is. Help me to make others feel the way Lisa made me feel that day--special and important. I love You, Lord and I am constantly in awe of how You choose to teach me lessons. In Jesus' name...Amen!