A Candle in the Darkness

Candle Moments Candle in the Darkness

As per my annual tradition, every year around Halloween, I tell my students stories. Today, I will be entering class and telling a story about Josie. Josie, who at 7 years old, saved my life.

Sitting in a classroom on an unusually warm February afternoon, she came back to me. I had pushed it out of my mind. The whole thing happened so many years ago, twenty-five to be exact, that I’m surprised I remember the details as vividly as I do.

I remember it being sunny outside. A bubbly seven-year-old whose desire to chat superseded all else, I was not paying attention to the teacher as usual. I was daydreaming out the window. My, the trees’ leaves were so green. BANG! My desk-mate smacked me in the head with a crayon. I turned to her and started laughing.

“Now Kristen, you better behave yourself! Today is not the kind of day to be joked with!”

According to Miss Junneman, it never was. She hated me. For a second grade teacher, she was not very nurturing. The problem was that they decided to mainstream our school and I was so bored. We were learning how to spell words like “Cat” and “Rat,” words I learned how to spell in kindergarten; I was not being challenged enough. I made my own fun.

“Kristen Fusaro! Turn around! Pay attention!… Don’t give me that look. You were NOT paying attention…Don’t you dare raise your eyebrows at me! What is 10 times 10 then, Miss Smartypants?”

“One Hundred.”

“That is no excuse. Pay attention… 5 times 6?”

“(Sigh) Thirty, Miss Junneman.” Boy, I would have sure loved to throw a sock at her. I could not wait until recess so I could play with Josie and we could complain about Miss Junneman. She made me so mad that I doodled a picture of her with goblin teeth and horns.

“Kristen, what are you doing NOW?”

My goodness, when did this woman have time to teach? She was always so busy yelling at me.

“Okay, I’m going to bring you all down for lunch. Two lines. Size order.”

Finally! I could sit and eat lunch with Josie and get away from this horrible woman.

“Kristen, you are eating lunch with me today upstairs.”

No way! You have GOT to be joking! This woman lives just to make my life miserable. Who is Josie going to sit with? I HATE Miss Junneman. I hate her. I hate her. I hate her.

“Miss Junneman, can I please eat lunch with everyone else today?”

“After the way you behaved, absolutely not!”

I drudged down the halls with everyone else knowing I will be seeing the same halls on the way back up to the classroom in just a moment from now. I ran my fingers over the tiles. It was so cold. For a day so sunny I felt so cold. I wished I could talk to Josie. Josie would understand that Miss Junneman is just picking on me. Josie missed Mrs. Brooks, our first grade teacher, as much as I did. Brrrr! Why am I so cold?

“Miss Junneman, can I get my sweater out of the closet, please?”

“It is May, Kristen. It is NOT cold outside. You are just stalling because you are mad that you have to eat lunch with me!”

What does stalling mean? “Miss Junneman, I’m really cold.”

“Not another word out of you or I will call your mother.”

Lunch, as you could imagine, took forever that day. I picked at my peanut-butter and jelly sandwich, not eating any of it, just poking it. Miss Junneman received a phone call. She came back, ghostly white, and sat down.

“Kristen, I want you to go back downstairs and have recess with the rest of the kids.”

YESS!! I was so excited. I could play four-squares with Josie! Before I ran down the stairs, I grabbed the sweater I had sitting in the closet since January. I didn’t care about the rest of my lunch so I just threw it in the trash and joined my peers outside. I ran straight to Josie.

“Hi Kristen, wanna play four-squares?”

“Of course! I hate Miss Junneman. She’s so mean to me.”

“Don’t worry; everything will be better one day. Hey Kristen…Don’t forget me, okay?”

“Forget you? Why would I forget you?”

“When you get older and you learn how to drive, don’t forget me.”

“What the heck are you talking about, Josie? You’re so weird sometimes.”


Recess was over already. We ran back into the large group of first, second, and third graders. Somewhere in the commotion, I lost Josie. It didn’t matter anyway; since they mainstreamed us, Josie and I weren’t in the same class anymore.

We all settled down and got ready to listen to Miss Junneman again. She seemed very sad. She had a tissue in her hand, it was crumpled and missing the right corner; it was torn apart.

“Children. I have some very sad news. I just got a phone call. The reason why Josie did not come to school today was because she was hit by a drunk driver on the way to school. Children, she was killed in the accident.”

My world turned purple. Then red. Flashes of yellow. Then finally, it turned black. When I lifted my eyelids again, it felt like they weighed a thousand pounds. I was just talking to Josie; this couldn’t be possible.

Years passed. I grew up and I was okay. I had gotten over everything that happened. I don’t remember the mourning period. All I remember was that I spoke to Josie in the schoolyard that day. I told my parents, but no one else. I guess they brushed it off as my way of dealing with it. I guess after sometime, I did too.

Then I was suddenly nineteen years old. My friends and I went out together. My friend got drunk, and she was the one driving. It came time for us to leave and she wanted to drive. Josie flashed into my head…

“When you get older and you learn how to drive, don’t forget me.”

“Er, guys, I think she’s way too drunk to get behind the wheel.”

“Don’t be so paranoid, Kristen, geez.”

“She’s really not in good shape, maybe someone else who hasn’t been drinking should drive.”

“Kristen, we’ve all been drinking. It’s her car, just get in.”

“When you get older and you learn how to drive, don’t forget me.”

“Guys, count me out. I’ll call a cab.”


They got into a terrible accident that night. “If ghosts do not appear to validate faith, then faith remains just that – faith rather than fact…it needs to be acknowledged that our ghosts are also comforting to us” (Weinstock 6). While everyone knows that one should not drink and drive, it often becomes a faith issue. People sometimes take it for face value, and not to heart. I took Josie’s words to heart. She comforted and protected me in the only way she could, as herself. Her ghost saved my life; she was the candle in the darkness.


Weinstock, Jeffrey Andrew. “The Spectral Turn”. Spectral America: Phantoms and the National Imagination. The University of Wisconsin Press. Popular Press, 2004.

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