Saturday, September 3, 2011

We’ll Miss You, Nessa.

I could tell you what Vanessa Bentley was like — how she acted, interacted with other people and carried herself — but as any successful writer would tell you, it’s better to show rather than tell. So I’ll do my best to give a brief glimpse into her short life with a few memories that are undoubtedly pure Vanessa.
  • She rated everything on a “1-10 scale” — it didn’t matter what subject she was asking you about or how hard it would be to give it an assigned number. She would still ask you. It was as endearing as it was frustrating.
  • Anyone who has spent over 12 seconds with Vanessa knows she was constantly smiling and laughing. But she wasn’t just a typical example of happy-go-lucky — her demeanor was completely infectious. Impossible to deny or avoid. And she had one of the best all-time laughs in the history of all-time laughs. You’d do anything to get hear it. Thankfully, with her, it didn’t take much.
  • I have an active imagination and tend to get sucked into scary movies fairly easily. But no horror movie could match the sheer terror of watching a movie next to Vanessa. And by next to, I mean within a 3 ft. bubble in any and every direction. It was not unusual to get an elbow to the jugular during a particularly scary part. That’s probably the reason we ended up primarily sticking to romantic comedies.
  • Vanessa Ann Bentley is single-handedly the reason why I crave chips so often and so fiercely. If I become overweight in the future, I‘m pretty confident I could readily trace the source back to her undeniable affinity for junk food.
  • Vanessa had an obsession with candy of all types and flavors — specifically dark chocolate. It wasn’t unusual for me to pick up something from the nearest 7-11 or grocery store on the way to her apartment and bring it over to enjoy during a movie. She loved it. We both did.
  • She was mildly obsessed with playing the “would you rather?” game on a regular basis. Except her version of the game meant that she would combat whatever option you chose until the scenario became one-sided and ridiculous. It still makes me laugh to think about.
  • No one ever asked Vanessa if she was going to paint her nails, only what color. I remember a two-week stretch where she didn’t wear any nail polish and I became inexplicably concerned.
  • The key to her heart was and always will be compliments. She craved them. They say everyone has a specific “love language” with which they prefer to express and receive affection. Vanessa’s was undoubtedly spoken (or written) words of affirmation and praise. She was equally as good at giving them out.
  • We used to play tennis fairly regularly when the weather got warmer with some friends of ours. While she may not have had the smoothest groundstroke or steady backhand, she was the scrappiest player you’ll find anywhere. I’d like to think we usually won. Just watch your back while she’s serving, though. You may very well get hit (hypothetically-speaking, of course).
  • When I was contemplating what music we used to listen to, I inadvertently found a trove of songs that reminded me of her. And, by extension, also discovered that virtually my entire collection of guilty pleasure music is devoted to her alone. I’m fairly certain “Body Language” by Jesse McCartney got more airplay simply because of her influence.
  • When I worked as an intern writing for the Daily Herald in Utah last summer, we used to instant message on our Gmail accounts regularly. I have over 150 individual records of our conversations in my inbox, discussing everything from sister missionary clothing to our plans for the night to how her youngest sister Rachel was going to be my publicist when I embarked on a music career.
  • I first met Vanessa at the end of my sophomore year in college. We didn’t get to really know each other until about 6 months later, however, when my roommate/best friend and I went to a rave-esque blacklight dance with her and her roommate/best friend. We dressed up in only black and white and at one point sprayed each other with glow-in-the-dark paint with small, plastic squirt guns. To date, it’s still one of my favorite dances I’ve ever been to. I was lucky to get to spend so much time with her from then on during the last 6 months leading up to her mission.
  • I took Vanessa’s current profile picture (shown above) during a trip we went on driving the Mt. Nebo Loop just south of Provo in Utah. I remember she deliberated for a while over what picture she wanted to be up there for 18 months before choosing that one. I couldn’t think of a better example of her personality and disposition.
  • I’ve always considered myself to be “a saver.” I’m pretty careful with money and don’t like spending it without purpose or thought. With that in mind, I say unequivocally that Vanessa put me to shame in that department. She was undoubtedly a penny pincher.
  • If Vanessa were homeless, I would have no worries about her being fed. I’ve never met a human being who could secure more free food from a seemingly random variety of people. It was a gift.
  • While preparing and teaching elementary school kids, Vanessa would often make me and whomever happened to be in the nearby vicinity listen as she read children’s books. It was almost impossible not to laugh when a full-grown woman was reading out loud to me like a 6-year old. It eventually became normal, though — proof of how often it occurred.
  • I can’t remember how they got started, but somehow we developed inner-city nicknames for each other. I was Chase “Swagga” Larson and she was “Shantay” Bentley.
  • Her personality had an interesting dynamic at play. While she loved to hear the latest gossip and “who’s dating who” rumors, she was also loyal and honest. She had a knack for reading people and was never one to shy away from discussion or clarification. I admired that.
  • I feel like a lot of missionaries enter the MTC with all zeal but not much education or realistic expectations. That being said, Vanessa was one of the few I witnessed with a well balanced, grounded perspective. Though she confessed to me at one point that she was worried she might not be a good missionary, I think the many instances of warmth and praise I’ve heard from the people in her area in upstate New York put any doubt to rest. Her success doesn’t surprise me at all.
I’m sure I could write down a hundred other memories, but for now I’ll leave it at the above list. Vanessa’s real legacy and memory will be the effect she had on her friends, family and everyone else she came into contact with in her young life. Her legacy will be her warmth and her kindness. The way her clearly apparent happiness seemed to be contagious. While I, with many others, mourn the premature loss of someone close to us, I also can’t help but take the time to be appreciative of the affection she radiated and remember to live out my life in a similar manner.

One thing’s for sure — we’ll miss you, Nessa.

1 comment:

B. said...

Thank you for this witty and charming post about my dear cousin. So fun hearing about her different sides and joyful moments :)