I originally published this five years ago the day I heard April had passed away. I’m reprinting it now in her memory and her honor.
Seventeen years ago I started my first teaching career at Woodmont High School with two classes of English IV and four classes of English II. One of the students in one of those sophomore classes was a little slip of a girl. She was blonde and blue eyed and cute as a button. She didn’t have much to say on the first day, and to be truthful about it, she wasn’t very talkative the entire time I knew her. Her name was April Pruitt and because of a quirk in scheduling, she and many of her classmates from that first sophomore class would be in my English III class the next year and would finish up with me in English IV the year after that. I guess about a third to a half of the WHS class of 1998 had me for English as sophomores, juniors, and seniors. They were the first of my favorite students and quiet, short, but smiling April stood tall among the ones nearest and dearest to my heart.
April wasn’t college bound. She graduated and went into the workforce. From all I’ve been able to ascertain, she held down her job well. Like many of my former students who stayed in this area, I would run in to her at the grocery store or WalMart from time to time. When Facebook came out, she was one of the first of my former students to “friend” me and using that wonderful network of Mr. Zuckerberg’s, we kept in touch over the last few years. Like a great many of her classmates at Woodmont, she never married, but she did have a devoted boyfriend and two beautiful little boys who looked remarkably like their mother.
I never heard anything from or about April these last seventeen odd years to worry me like I had to worry about so many of my former students. She steered clear of drugs as far as I can tell. The picture at the left was taken in April and her face shows none of the ravages an addiction would create. She wasn’t a heavy drinker or a wild party girl. I don’t even know if she smoked cigarettes or not. Every picture in her Facebook album shows her happy and laughing with friends or, even more often, with her two boys who were obviously the apples of her two eyes. I was more than a little proud of her because she was successful in the quiet, steady way that is so typical of a Southern woman. She was 32 and doing well for herself and her boys.
Until a week ago Friday when she had her accident. From what I can gather through Facebook and other channels, she and her boyfriend were riding his four-wheeler — sans helmets, of course and unfortunately — when they lost control of the ATV while going at a pretty fast rate. Apparently, her boyfriend was able to hang on to the machine and let it bear the brunt of the crash, but April was thrown from the back and flew some distance through the air before landing hard on her head and neck. She was rushed unconscious to the hospital where she spent the last week in a coma with swelling on her brain. I planned to go to see her in the hospital every day last week, but something constantly seemed to come up. Now, I won’t get the chance. April passed away early this (Sunday) morning. She fought hard, but she never regained consciousness.
For several years, I kept a list written on an Olive Garden napkin of all the students and former students I had lost over the years. It was on such a medium because several of my former colleagues and I were at Olive Garden on the last day of school one year discussing the “Woodmont Curse” which seemed to take at least one or more of our students each year. In just the short time I was at WHS, I put nearly 20 names on the list. By the time the napkin disappeared, it held over thirty-five. If I still had it, the total would be somewhere around 42. Forty-two lives cut tragically short by disease, accidents, suicide, and several other reasons. I knew each one personally and very few of them were nearer and as special to me as April.
I wish her family, especially her boys, able to find peace. I don’t pretend to have anything wise and transcendent to say. I don’t have the answers I once thought I had. All I know is one more little sliver of my heart will join many others in graves, tombs, and even at sea in places far and near and the world will be all the poorer for having lost such a lovely and smiling light.
In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, Resquiescat In Pace, April. Coach Wham will miss you.