We live in an era where death transcends life—where those who have passed remain alive and well in both image and memory. Digital media invites us to revel in the energy that once was and the beauty that always will be and, in the wake of Maren Sanchez’s death last April, the Internet shined its light on an indomitable star that clearly burned out much too soon.
When I learned of the tragedy at Jonathan Law HS, my heart hurt in ways I’d never imagined. Though I’d never met Maren, it was as if I’d known her my whole life. She was in the very place I’d been just 10 short years before, you see. Based on tweets from throughout the community, one could easily deduce that she was every girl who’d ever walked Law’s halls, and like none other at the same time. She embodied the spirit of the school’s future and upheld the legacy of its past.
But it wasn’t until I came upon an old YouTube video that the looming emptiness began to crush me from the inside out. Maren appeared on stage—glowing like an angel, no less—to sing “Home” by Phillip Phillips, and I could no longer contain the muted emotions that had been brewing all day. I spent my evening train ride crying behind darkened sunglasses, broken by the fact that the voice emanating from my phone had been silenced for good just hours earlier. How? Why? But no answer would suffice. If only the rewind button could work in real life.
Yet, while the news outlets continued to dwell on how Maren had died, her friends, family, and teachers chose to remember how she’d lived. They mourned her death by celebrating her life. Even now, one need only search the #MarenMemories hashtag on Twitter to comprehend just how much this young woman meant to so many people. She touched so many lives and brought the entire community together under the umbrella of love and joy. In her memory, Law and Milford came together as family, forming bonds that exemplify how one life can impact so many others for the better.
No matter how many years pass, Jonathan Law HS will always occupy an immovable corner of my heart, making everyone who has shared those very classrooms part of my extended family, Maren included. She, too, had found her home and, though time cannot undo what’s been done, we have the power to choose love over hate—to remember the good and learn from the bad. “If you get lost, you can always be found.” Just know you’re not alone, Maren. Law will always be your home.
(Image via The Jonathan Law Advocate)