NPES students dedicate garden

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 11, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Many teardrops fell on the parched soil Wednesday afternoon at the dedication of a special memorial garden established for Lindsey Debman, a student at Nansemond Parkway Elementary School (NPES) who died last year.

Lindsey, just 10 at the time of her death, attended Nansemond Parkway from 1998 to 2002, up until the time she died from the brain tumor she’d had since age 2. She went from the first to fourth-grade at the school, and when she died she left behind a legacy set in stone.


Email newsletter signup

Around the edges of the memorial rose garden, most of the students at NPES expressed grief through tears as they stood along side the garden’s wooden split rail fence. This year’s fifth-graders were her classmates and wanted to remember her in a special way before they &uot;graduated&uot; and left Nansemond Parkway and moved on to middle school.

Two special &uot;Best Friends,&uot; Sarah Smith and Claire Wright, wept openly as they tried to address the other students who stood in pure silence while they spoke. The only sounds in the schoolyard Wednesday was the melody of birds chirping reassuringly in the pine trees and the unmistakable deep intake of breath as the teachers, principal and students let go of their grief.

Although Lindsey has been gone since last school year, one of her best friends, Sarah Smith spent almost every weekend with Lindsey. She said she would never forget the way her friend began calling her &uot;Mimi,&uot; as a nickname.

&uot;She came up with names for all of us – Ashley, Claire, Ashley Kitchens, Jessica Green, Tiffany Whittsett – all of us,&uot; said Sarah. &uot;I met Lindsey in third-grade and we became good friends and we almost got separated in classes in fourth, but they decided to put me in her class because I had been helpful to her in third grade. I will always remember Lindsey – always.&uot;

Another friend, Claire Wright, spoke in a soft whisper describing her friend.

&uot;No matter how bad you might feel, Lindsey could always make you laugh,&uot; said Claire. &uot;She had so much spirit and she loved to laugh. I will always love her and miss her forever.&uot;

Lindsey’s parents were at the memorial garden and as she struggled to hold back tears, her mom spoke tenderly of her daughter.

&uot;The end was very hard for her and she was home with us, surrounded by people who loved her when she died,&uot; said Wendy Debman, of Wood Lakes Subdivision. &uot;Lindsey was a brave child – very outgoing. She was a happy child, just an amazing child. Happy to be alive. She was always happy and upbeat and she would never give up. She never gave up.&uot;

Wendy added that her daughter deeply loved the schoolmates at Nansemond Parkway. She said anything Lindsey wanted – the students as well as teachers – were there for her. Devoted is the word she used to describe their attentions to her daughter.

&uot;And, in turn, Lindsey loved each and every one of them out at the school,&uot; said Wendy. &uot;Even when she had days where she couldn’t be at school, she would get to feeling a little better and want to get back to her friends as soon as possible. She felt such love from everyone at the school.&uot;

Kenneth Debman, Lindsey’s dad, said his daughter would have been amazed at the show of emotion from her schoolmates. He added that although she never would have expected such a gift, she would also have loved the roses planted there in her memory.

During the memorial ceremony, NPES Principal Dianna Gee spoke to those gathered around the garden. She talked of the way that Lindsey was loved by teachers as well as students and she invited all to participate in a moment of silence for the child. She also asked that Claire Wright come forward to set a small statuette of a girl with a basket of flowers near Lindsey’s memorial stone. Claire’s eyes filled with tears as she knelt down beside the memorial and the statuette.

The principal also thanked the Key Club of Nansemond River High School for their work in establishing the beautiful memorial garden. The NRHS Key Club is just one of thousands of high school service organizations involved in service to through Kiwanis International. The Nansemond River Key Club operates under school regulations and draws its members from the student body, and they are sponsored by the Suffolk Kiwanis Club.

Members of the club designed, dug sod, tilled soil, put up fences, planted flowers and laid stones and assisted by fifth graders, they created the memorial garden for Lindsey. Those Key Club members included Katy Toscanos, Jenna Rock, Lauren Parker, Ericka Selby, Brittany Edwards, Ashley Fulton, Erin Wright, Curtis Taylor and Cory Wells.

As Gee noted, the garden will also serve as a place for teachers and students to sit and read a book, or just to sit a few moments in thought. Plans are to include benches for sitting in the shade, and the garden will also stand as a living memorial to others from NPES.

&uot;Lindsey enjoyed reading and she knew the importance of reading,&uot; said Gee. &uot;Let’s let her life be an example to us. She enjoyed living, she enjoyed life, and she enjoyed reading and let’s live in a way to show that we are thankful for her smile.&uot;

Tiffany Whittsitt, a shy little girl who shared friendship with Lindsey and the other girls, perhaps summed up the feelings of everyone at the memorial service.

&uot;It makes me so sad that Lindsey is gone, and I’ll never forget my very best friend.&uot;