The Saddest of Occasions
By Marilyn Bardsley
Vienna, Va. (Crime Library) -- Drizzle, punctuated by persistent periods of rain, gloomy gray skies, and a chilling wind ushered in Taylor Behl's eighteenth birthday. I drove down Maple Avenue, once the center of Taylor's universe, past the Starbucks where she worked last summer, past Jammin' Java where a benefit concert was held in her honor. This day would have been a very important day for her, a kind of official rite of passage from girlhood into womanhood. Instead of the birthday cake and party that should have been hers, there were a few Happy Birthday balloons tied to her casket. Inside the funeral home, over a hundred and fifteen beautiful flower arrangements did their best to dispel the mantle of sadness that hung in the air.
Shortly after I arrived, Janet Pelesara, Taylor's mother, came in with family members. She was much prettier than her photos in the press and quite thin. This had to be one of the worst days in her life, but her composure and inner strength was remarkable. She was clearly determined to fulfill her role in this tragic event with the utmost dignity.
When she walked towards me, I stood and, in a stumbling torrent of words, poured out my condolences to her and apologized for arriving as an uninvited stranger to this private family affair. I was not there as a member of the press, but as a person who has grieved over the tragic loss of vibrant young woman on the threshold of life.