Sometimes words fail you. Many times they aren’t enough. I’m facing such a time today; I’m having to say goodbye to someone that I shouldn’t even be contemplating saying goodbye to. I’m having to say goodbye to someone that, by all rights, I should never have really known in the first place…but, you see that just wasn’t the way she operated.
Lindsey Parker wasn’t Lindsey Parker when I met her; she was just Lindsey Ball and a member of the Harrisburg Middle School EAST program. You remember your middle school years, right? Gawky, socially awkward, confused….yeah, Lindsey was none of those things. She was composed, mature and effervescent. Shiny, she was shiny. Full of enthusiasm and eager to make you feel as excited as she was about whatever it was she was excited about that day.
I participated in a few presentations that the Harrisburg students were also involved in and came to realize that her natural habitat was spreading cheer and energy about EAST to whomever would listen. And that’s how Lindsey took over EAST (kind of). She traveled far and wide for her school and for the Initiative in general and presented at every opportunity she found. We went as far as Seattle, Washington, to a big national conference where the EAST presentation was a breakfast session that the participants had to pay extra for. We filled the room and after the presentation Lindsey and her “partner in crime,” Morgan, got a taste of full on mini-celebrity. They were sought out by conference-goers everywhere they went—they were followed into the bathroom by one overzealous teacher—they were recognized at the airport…they were probably impossible to deal with at school the next week.
Lindsey basically invented the current EAST Conference Ambassador Team Leader position. One of my fondest memories is her leading an impromptu call and response cheer for our “This is My EAST” Conference (2009). Two thousand people in the stands and she had them eating out of the palm of her hand. No big surprise, really, considering she had completely taken charge of the Governor’s appearance at banquet the night before. She was so organized and responsible that when her senior year came, she personally recruited and trained her “replacement” and I’ll be doggoned if she wasn’t an excellent judge of talent because her mini-me was a great pick and also did a great job.
Lindsey stayed home to go to college. She graduated from Arkansas State University and began teaching in her local schools. She was a small-town girl at heart. She married her high school sweetheart and they had an impossibly cute boy in 2014. My hope was that she would become an EAST facilitator (something we talked about and I know she wanted to do), or go for school administration and bring change and heart to a whole school or district or…..the sky was the limit.
Unfortunately, we’ll never get to see her do those things. On the morning of December 9, 2014, Lindsey had an accident on her way to her classroom and we lost her. It didn’t take long until my phone was ringing off the hook from friends and colleagues; a circle of people that appreciated her and loved her as much as I did. She leaves behind a family that loved her dearly and more friends and admirers than can be counted.
I was fortunate to watch her grow and become a young professional. I was fortunate to sit in the overflowing church at her wedding. I was fortunate to spend some quiet time in the bleachers at the EAST Conference in a secret ritual we started when Lindsey was Team leader.
The last time Lindsey presented for EAST (at least for me) was at our Summer Seminar in Jonesboro. She stole that audience’s heart, but then EAST facilitators are easy marks. I have to carry her in my broken heart now and be sad that so many people won’t get the opportunity to learn from her or be led by her. They won’t know the incredible woman she was becoming.
Our world is poorer today because she’s not in it. My heart is full of sadness. I am thankful she was a surrogate student of mine and I’m proud to say I knew her.
I’ve written this entire rambling remembrance because she was someone who helped build EAST and I don’t know how else to express my grief. I could keep writing for days because I have so many stories and memories. I’ve written it because I feel like the goodbye just isn’t enough. Unfortunately, it’s all that is left.
Rest in peace, Lindsey Ball Parker. You were special and shiny. EAST is better because of you and I will miss you terribly. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.