Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wendy Smiga Kirk, Requiescat in Pace

One-Act Play Cast and Crew, Edna High School, 1988

The photo above is of the one-act play cast and crew from when I was a senior in high school. The play was The Dancers by Horton Foote. This was a play we did for contest. We'd won district, and this photo was taken at area, where we lost. But all of that is irrelevant. This photo matters to me today because the girl in the pink and glasses at the far right was murdered yesterday by her husband. Her children, who are 13 and 8, were home at the time but knew nothing about it. The unsubstantiated rumor is that she wanted a divorce, and he did not.

She was in her first year of high school when I was a senior. We met because we were in theatre together. For the play, she was a part of the crew. If you read any articles about her, they all mention that she was sweet and quiet, and she smiled a lot. That's exactly how I remember her. That's how everyone seems to be remembering her. She was not a part of my close circle of friends. I'm not trying to claim some intimate attachment to her that doesn't exist. She was a part of my outer circle of friends, at least as much as possible between first-year high school students and seniors.

There were two memories that came to mine when I started thinking about her. First, she gave each of the graduating seniors in theatre a plastic cup that she'd painted with little designs like flowers and curlicues and messages of good luck. At the bottom, she'd written, "Love, Wendy." I used mine as a pencil holder in the dorms, but the paint started wearing away after a couple of years, and I think I threw it out. It might be in a box somewhere, but I don't remember having seen it in years. I also remember a weekend when I'd returned home my first month of college. A Friday night, some of us who were in college and some who were still in high school went out for the night. I remember that she was in my car, and I just remember a lot of goofing around and laughing. This stands out to me because she wasn't as quiet as usual but was being just as silly as the rest of us. I remember thinking that she already seemed older than before.

This afternoon, I went downstairs to find my yearbook from senior year to see if she signed it. She had, telling me how thankful she was that I was her taxi all those late nights when we were out at theatre contests. She also said that class seemed empty with all us seniors gone. I did go to see the contest play when she would have been a sophomore, and I'm pretty sure she had a speaking role then, but I don't remember. That was probably the last time I saw her, I'm sure, and that was in 1989.

There's an incredible irony here. Tomorrow, November 25, is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. I don't even know what to say about that. I look at the calendar with the date of her murder and the date of that commemoration and just shake my head.

I also can't help but think about her husband, the man who killed her. In no way at all am I trying to defend him in any sort of way, but I can't help but think about the way we treat healthcare and mental illness in this country. I know very, very few details, obviously, but he must have been sick to think that murdering the mother of his children was a viable option for handling whatever pain he was handling. I can't help but wonder if Wendy would still be alive if we as a culture took a more honest view of mental health or if there were more viable options for women and men to handle the pains of our lives.

But I don't know. That's a lot of speculation. My head is still swirling with all of this. I've thought of her now and then and wondered how she was. Now, all I keep thinking is that what happened to her is so, so wrong.


  1. Oh, Nels--I'm so sorry. This is so sad.

  2. Oh wow. That's terrible. I am, however, glad that her premature passing has caused you to search into your past for memories of her. May others do the same during this time. I'm so sorry for your loss.

    I'm stopping by from ICLW.