Happy Thanksgiving From Our Family To Yours
On behalf of the Townsquare Media family, I would like to personally wish your family a million reasons to be thankful this Thanksgiving.
In the dark days following those harrowing moments on afternoon in April, we learned that our neighbors names aren’t always known, but iron does indeed sharpen iron. The bond forged in Tuscaloosa by her citizens is one few observers can understand, but the realization that profound change can be rendered in a matter of seconds is the tie that binds us all. Every moment spent with loved ones is a gift to be seized without hesitation.
In recognition of those we’ve lost prior to April 27th and after, I offer this beautiful tribute by Allison Pace for my niece, Holly Megan Rogers, who was tragically killed on November 11, 2007.
Today let us give thanks that although our loved one’s absence will be felt our tables, we were blessed by their presence. May we offer gratitude for those whose hands we hold in our own as we bow our heads in prayer.
Townsquare Media Tuscaloosa
A beautiful blonde. Hair in double braids with messy bangs tucked behind her left ear. Her jeans are just a little too long, but the frayed faded ends fit perfectly with her artsy, free spirited ideas. “Angel’s kisses” sprinkle her nose and cheeks – tiny freckles atop her porcelain skin. A long woven purse hangs at her side filled with life. Full of love. laughter, music, family, and friends swirl around her every step.
Five years ago today, on November 11, 2007, Holly Megan Rogers was killed in a car accident. She was 20 years old.
I have never met her.
I will never meet her at Taco Casa or go to a concert with her in Tuscaloosa or see a movie with her on Skyland or sit around at her mom’s house in Northport deep in discussion. I will never meet her here on this earth.
But I know her.
I know Holly Rogers because I know her beautiful family.
I know Holly because I know her mom, her brother, her dad, her grandmothers, her step-dad, her cousins, her family. I know Holly because I know their abundant love, life, resiliency. To me, Holly Megan Rogers represents God’s ever growing grace, spirit, and love.
Sentinel: (n) a person that watches over someone or something
I know Holly would scoff at my weak music collection and be shocked to hear that Widespread Panic played in Tuscaloosa last year. I know that Holly would laugh with me at her brother Jake’s obsessive cleanliness, her dad Randy’s never-ending one-liners. She would laugh with me at her mom Danette and step-dad Steve’s hilarious tendency to finish – or retell – each others stories. I know because her fun, carefree spirit is embodied in the way her family continues to share, love, and laugh. Holly had a special impact on every member of her family and her friends. She has had a special impact on me.
Danette’s process of finding the Lord’s purpose in such a tragic, untimely event has brought her closer to Christ. Talk to her and she will tell you she feels the Holy Spirit bring her comfort in the times of darkness that come from losing a child, a daughter. The spirit of the Lord meets us in our moment of deepest need. For Danette, it’s through birds.
Holly’s favorite song was the Grateful Dead’s “birdsong.” The lyrics say:
‘Laugh in the sunshine, sing, cry in the dark, fly through the night. Don’t cry now, don’t you cry, don’t you cry anymore. Sleep in the stars, don’t you cry, dry your eyes on the wind.
All I know is something like a bird within her sang, All I know she sang a little while and then flew off, Tell me all that you know, Ill show you snow and rain.”
Soon after Holly’s accident, Danette began to notice that whenever she was especially missing Holly she would see a red bird. It would land on a tree outside her house, show up out and about in Tuscaloosa, or fly into her yard. She and her husband Steve immediately knew that it was a special sign from the Lord to bring her comfort. When her son Jake moved to Jackson earlier this year, Danette came to help move him in and she had an extremely emotional weekend. Of course, it was (almost) no surprise that the next morning before she left Jackson there was a beautiful, perfect red bird perched boldly outside my parents’ house. The Lord meets us in our time of despair. He is constant in hope. Constant in love.
Randy, Holly’s dad, sees birds too. There are two little brown birds that tend to flutter outside his window at breakfast. They are there almost every morning in the same place, at the same window. And there’s always two. He told me once that one represented Holly and the other was Carrie, his wife that passed away from ALS in 2008. The little birds represent comfort and peace that only the Lord of the universe can bring at a time of utter and complete brokenness. And they come to breakfast as a new reminder for him every day. Talking to Randy you will be impressed with his unshakeable faith. Losing his daughter in November and his wife a few months later, the joy he expresses in his constant laughter and love is such a testament to the power of the Lord in his life. Even through life’s tragedies and storms, he stands firm in Christ.
Thank you Lord, for Your unending love.
Holly’s little brother Jake may not be as quick to acknowledge the bird phenomenon, but the Lord has brought him peace and comfort from his sister’s death in a different way. Jake has this special, complete love and acceptance for every person he meets. Talk to him sometime, you’ll be blown away by how wholeheartedly he cares for every human being. This love for others is expressed out of peace and faith he has found in Christ through his loss. Here’s how he said it:
“A few months into my freshmen year, my older sister was killed in a head on motor vehicle collision. Not only was I supposed to somehow balance my first year of college and moving away from home, I was now faced with a horrible tragedy that completely changed my life. If you had asked me five years ago where I would be or what I would be doing now I wouldn’t have a clue what to tell you. I was hurting and I was lost.
After my sister’s accident I applied for a position to be on staff at a Christian based summer camp in northern California called the JH Ranch. That summer the Lord completely changed my heart and filled the hole I had from losing my sister. He showed me my weaknesses and areas where I needed Him more. He also showed me strengths that I didn’t know I had, such as working with people. By pursing my faith, I found I could grow in those areas. After that summer in 2008, I went back to school with so much peace.”
Peace. What is it to find peace?
What does it mean to find peace after you lose your best friend, your sister, daughter, niece, cousin, granddaughter? I cannot say that I have ever been through any kind of grief even close to what Holly’s family has gone through. But what I can say is that I’ve been inspired -even grounded-through their unique individual experiences with faith. The undeniable fact that each – Danette, Jake, Randy, Steve, Mimi, Grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins – has found peace through Christ and expressed that peace to the world and to me. This has moved me beyond what words can express.
David, Holly’s little cousin, was hanging out with me on the playground at Tuscaloosa Academy on a spring day in 2011 as we waited to pick his big brother John Todd up from school. At one point, out of nowhere, he said – “Allison, have you heard about my cousin Holly in heaven?”
Shocked that a ten-year-old would bring this up, I hesitated, “Yeah, David, I have. Why?”
“I was just thinking about it. You know she was killed by a drunk driver? A guy drank too much beer and hit her in a wreck and now she’s in heaven. Yep, cousin Holly is in heaven.” He said, matter-of-factly.
“Yeah, David, your cousin Jake told me about that.” I responded almost at a whisper. I was still blown away that I was having this conversation with an elementary school kid about death, loss, and heaven.
“Well, I was just wondering if you knew about my cousin Holly in heaven. Because I miss her sometimes.”
David, I miss her sometimes too. We all do. We miss our friend Holly in heaven.
“O Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. He makes the clouds his chariot
And rides on the wings of the wind.
He makes winds his messengers, Flames of fire his servants.
I will sing to the Lord all my life:
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. Praise the Lord.”
Praise the Lord that five years after Holly’s death we can celebrate in the joy of her life and the assurance of her unity with Christ. Praise the Lord that Holly’s family embodies the spirit of love that is found through Christ. Praise the Lord that Holly is in heaven. Praise the Lord that I know Holly through the laughter and love that overflows from her family.
Holly’s grave site is known as her “garden.” There are always flowers, figurines, and little notes. It is a place of life. Of growth. Laughter, tears, love.
Holly’s “garden” – her legacy – has grown and spread over the past five years to touch so many lives. Her stories, her family, her friends continually share and grow that 20-year-old beautiful blonde’s essence of life, laughter, music, love.
And even though I will never meet Holly Megan Rogers on earth – I see the birds, her family, the garden. And I, for one, know that I have been so blessed by knowing her.