The post you are about to read has a different tone than my usual writing. I will share memories of a dear friend- in hopes people who knew him get to see a picture of him they may not have before, as well as my account with grieving- for those who have lost a loved one.
Life moves forward. Quickly. We can’t control it. We can’t hit a pause button. Over a year has gone by in what seems like days from the last time I saw him.
When we lose a person, all that is left are memories- no new experiences. So all we can do is look back. Don’t get me wrong- No human is perfect. If I focused on the bad, I could grow bitter of a person to whom I love: a person who cared for me and taught me to love myself. In light of that, here are a few beautiful memories to get a tiny glimpse of this amazing human being through my eyes.
We met when I was 15 in golf class. I know. Obviously we were the coolest kids in school. Straight out of Happy Gilmore.
I sat over with the larger group of students, at first, because I wanted to “fit in”. You sat with one other guy in the corner. You two normally kept to yourselves, but I occasionally made awkward eye contact- especially on days you wore the ugliest highlighter yellow colored shirt I have ever seen. So we were definitely on the way to a long friendship.
About a month into class while doing my usual accidental awkward eye contact, I noticed y’all laughing uncontrollably. This was the first time we spoke directly to each other- and I found out y’all would be better friends to me than anyone I was sitting near.
While other kids were doing drugs on the golf course and inviting strangers into our hotel rooms on trips (while I hid under the bed because I didn’t want to “tattle tale” but I also didn’t want to die), y’all were filming yourselves singing while skipping in circles around the green with your golf bags. From that day forward, I actually occasionally enjoyed golf class.
I talked to you a few more times during class on the days we didn’t go to the golf course, but we otherwise never saw each other. School let out for the summer and we went back to our own little worlds.
A couple months into the semester of my junior year, I met and started dating someone who I would soon find out was one of your best friends. I had no idea until the day I walked into a private sound room in the band hall and you were in there with your base. (Yes. Another sign of our coolness. We were also in band.) At the time you were only in the jazz band, so I never noticed you in the private room until I had reason to go in there. I didn’t recognize you at first, but dancing yellow shirt boy certainly knew how to leave unique impressions.
I have never met someone who didn’t physically know how to burp until that day, when I walked in and you burped and threw up on the amp your base was connected to. I will forever find your weird bodily function funny and liked that about you. (Who doesn’t physically know how to burp you guys? I’m allowed to make fun, he was my friend…and he eventually got it down better in his 20’s. Which I will later reveal)
As my dating life progressed (AKA we actually hung out outside of school. I know. I guess you could say things were getting pretty serious), I somehow ended up at a guys night with my boyfriend, you, and 2 other very interesting individuals (who came to be great friends to me as well). We were in a travel trailer and y’all sat in a circle for hours and debated about anything and everything. From politics to the most outlandish topics imaginable. Regardless of who else joined, that tradition stuck for years between you 4- through the last get together after your death. I know everyone missed your input, however serious or ridiculous it would have been.
You were a genuine friend, even at a young age. I know because I was a young girl who made questionable decisions. Do to some of my own background, I got controlling toward the boyfriend and only wanted him to hang out with me. I am sorry you didn’t get to see your friend as much during that period do to my own wrong doing. Thank you for continuing to be his friend while he was listening to a crazy, young, stupid high school girl.
Eventually the boy and I broke things off. (Like ten times do to both of us being little douche canoes. People. When you are young, don’t “relationship” it too hard. We would hurt each other and then lash out back and forth due to the hurt and it became a terrible poo cycle of two nice people treating each other like crap.)
You were there for both of us somehow. And somewhere within the mix, you became a best friend to me as well. You made me pull over and would drive my car home for me when my teenage hormones kicked in and I started crying uncontrollably. You listened to me for hours talking on repeat. You came over in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep. And while you were not afraid to say it how it is, you were still patient even when I didn’t listen. Which lets face it, it took me years to finally take any of your advice.
You had your own struggles as well. Our friendship grew deep through struggles kids shouldn’t have to deal with. You took care of me, and I took care of you. You came over almost every night. You taught me how to make the best mac and cheese ever (I don’t know how we weren’t obese from eating that much at 1 AM) and fell on your face trying to learn how to “twerk” upside down on the living room wall. You made me watch “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” in some unbelievable long extended edition… 3 DAYS IN A ROW. (I would like to say that I earned major friend points there. Who does that. ) We went to movies, stalked girls you liked at the Golden Corral, and drove around aimlessly talking about our lives. Every time you wanted to get my attention, you would scream, “LOOK WHAT JESUS DID”. (If you don’t understand the reference, watch “Ted”) You would blurt out the lyrics in the car to “I got sunshine”, until I started trying to film you for evidence at which point you acted like you didn’t even know the song. But now your secret is out!!! You became like a brother to me. We never lost that connection into our adult years, even though we didn’t see each other every day.
When you got into some trouble and ended up in Colorado for a few months, we emailed almost every day. You came back ridiculously in shape from running on a higher altitude and tried to kill me by taking me on runs. I would want to stop and you would jokingly yell at me about being old, which was partially serious because my metabolism definitely slowed downs. So thanks for keeping me good looking so I could get a husband ;). Even though afterwards, we would basically cancel our whole run by ordering foot long chili cheese dogs from sonic.
You started getting handsome one day and all of a sudden the ladies wouldn’t stay away. I bet its because you laid off the bright yellow shirts and went for other random free shirts you somehow acquired. (Seriously. He would just have all these random T-shirts and tell me someone passed them out for free at some event. That was pretty much his full wardrobe for awhile. It was beautiful.) I remember your first girlfriend, and your last. Someone who didn’t know you would never guess how big of a heart you had. You were the biggest goofball for always calling me about girls, even when I lived in a different state. But I was always flattered you thought my opinion high enough to be excited for me to meet them.
You know that whole “took me years to take your advice” thing? This is where it comes in to play. You were patient and soft when you needed to be, but extremely blunt and honest when I needed it. I was 19 when I got engaged to the love of my life. Everyone saw it as “too fast” or said I was “too young”. I was scared. Not because I wasn’t sure, but because nobody else was. How could they be? They weren’t the one’s getting married. I was run down. I came over to your apartment late one night because I couldn’t sleep and asked you what I should do. You looked me straight in the eyes and said “Is he good to you? Honestly. Not like you have said in the past when the person actually isn’t great for you” I nodded yes (although he already knew because he had seen every one of my relationships), in which case you immediately said, “Well, I like him. But that shouldn’t matter. If you love him and know it is right, who cares what everyone else thinks? Who cares about your age. Marry him. It is your life, don’t let others control it.”
Thank you. I am forever grateful for that moment. The kid I met in golf class 4 years earlier had finally taught me what he showed me in class so young- Not to base my actions solely on the opinions of others. Don’t be afraid to skip on the golf course- it is much more fun than hiding under a bed.
You were at my wedding in a plaid shirt. Fanciest. I. ever. saw. you. dressed. I was secretly disappointed it wasn’t your tuxedo T-shirt. (which he wore to prom) A month later, I moved to a different state.
It was a hard adjustment. There isn’t really warning for how much everything can change when you get married and suddenly move away from a tiny country town you lived in your entire life, full of people who have known you since you were in diapers. While I wouldn’t have it any other way, I loved having a 2 year period away with my husband- my social anxiety was at an all time high. All of a sudden people I talked to every day silenced. Friends and family I saw constantly, I wouldn’t hear from for months. Some I never heard from again.
But there you were.
You were one of 2 friends that kept in touch with me consistently.
I would get random comical texts about your work days and love interests. We would have genuine conversations about how our lives were going. You were one of very few who actually asked and kept up to date on all of the crazy shenanigans Allen and I went through in Virginia to end up back in Texas. It meant an extreme amount to me that you put in the effort to actively care and it helped me a lot through the whole experience.
One of my favorite calls from you was one I received at 3 AM. It was Allen’s first time out on a ship and I was being a lone wiener. I texted everyone in my phone “Are you awake?”- trying to act casual even though it was the middle of the night.
You didn’t even answer the text, just called and immediately said something along the lines of- “WATCH OUT FOR THE MURDERER OUTSIDE YOUR HOUSE. Kidding. Nobody is going to come into your house Brittany, it is going to be okay. Allen wouldn’t leave you if he had any feeling you wouldn’t be safe”. You stayed on the phone with me until I fell asleep, and got me through my first night alone in a strange new place.
Every time I came to Texas to visit, you were the only person besides family who made sure to see me every single time. And of course, when I moved back at the ripe old age of 22, I finally got a first hand experience of your new found power of burping without puking- my proudest moment of watching you become a man.
Thank you so much for genuinely caring for me through so many years of friendship. Thank you for your patience and brotherly love. Thank you for supporting my marriage and pushing me forward when I was sitting still. Thank you for leaving such a lasting impression. I hope you knew deep down somewhere how much you have changed me for the better, and continue to do so even though you are gone.
One year, 2 months, and 13 days ago I got a call from a friend, a call he never should have had to make, telling me I would never again see one of my greatest friends.
Let me tell ya, grief has a funny way of making you feel you took everything for advantage. No matter at what level we actively love a person, when we lose someone to any type of death we will always feel like we could have done more, said more, helped more… our emotions will constantly push the thoughts into our brains. But it doesn’t mean it is true.
I am about to get very blunt and honest on the way my mind and body reacted initially. As long as we are able to cope with the grief and move forward, it is completely normal to have a grieving process. Everyone goes through loss and grief differently. Just make sure you have family/ friends around who will help make sure you aren’t doing anything permanently or immensely harmful to yourself-even if the last thing you feel you want is to have others around. I will openly admit some of the ways I reacted were not physically/mentally healthy but, I had people in my life who saw it and helped me push forward through it. If the things I was experiencing continue for you longer term- don’t be afraid to seek medical help.
A lot of my initial reaction included:
Struggling with very specific thoughts-
Why did I feel “too busy” to answer texts.
Why did I cancel our meet up one month before.
Why did I not see anything coming?
If I was a good friend like he was to me, I would have been there for him when I should have- just as he had always been there for me.
Friends… NEVER focus on what if’s and why’s. You will never find peace with the situation that way. I loved my friend and the time I got to spend with him, and I did everything I could with the experiences I had to be a friend in return.
I lost my appetite. Which was DEFINITELY the most alarming thing for my husband. I never stop eating. He made sure I ate enough to remain healthy until I became a little piggy again.
I lost sleep. When I did sleep, I had really vivid nightmares where my brain recreated a death I didn’t see happen so that I had to see it over and over. I had dreams where I would try to stop it from happening but could never get there in time.
I was hypersensitive to everything around me, but held it in most of the time. For the first few months I didn’t cry at all except when I initially received the news. Then randomly in the car on the way to a game night with some friends, it hit me. After that, I had very sporadic cry fests- when I heard songs, went to places we had gone together, etc. Sometimes things effecting me at one point in time would not at another. It just depended on the day.
I went through every old text, photo, video, and any other memory I could find just to try to not forget him. I tend to suppress memories as to not feel the emotion.
I had a hard time during holidays. (He liked to come after family festivities and get all the leftover food).
The most drastic thing my brain did was about 7 months after his death. I passed a place I had not passed since the last time I saw him there. I glanced over and physically saw my friend standing there looking at me. That was the hardest I cried. Of course, I knew it was not really him- only my mind wanting it to be.
I still sometimes get sad.
I still sometimes cry.
I always think about him being places I would have invited him to join- and how it would be if he could be there.
I occasionally have dreams, but now they are not always nightmares. Sometimes they are good dreams of us getting to hang out again.
I still get reminded of him in things he enjoyed and places we went.
I see qualities of him in people I may not have normally noticed before. I know my brain is searching for ways to experience seeing him again.
I sometimes think I see him walking in front of me, then realize it is someone else who is wearing similar clothing to his style/ has similar hair/ etc. (Especially if I see a hideous bright yellow shirt :P)
But, over time the harder reactions decreased, my appetite grew back, I stopped being such a sensitive ninny and went back to being a regular ninny, and I began to talk to friends out of my own free will instead of avoiding everyone except people I had to talk to (work, school- you know, adult stuff). I still miss him of course. But I have a beautiful life ahead of me. While I will always wish he could have been a part of it, I ultimately will not let it stop me from enjoying the life God has given me.
Guys. Find peace. You will always miss loved ones, but unless your soul is at peace- you won’t be able to move forward. Sometimes there is no peace in the situation. It is just a sucky situation. It is a situation that is not okay, no matter what way you swing it. But, our God has supernatural comfort if you turn to Him.
You are one of the greatest friends I will ever have. Not to say you are any less important to anyone else. Only to say you personally impacted me in the years I knew you in extreme ways that will effect me for the duration of my own life. I love you like family, and I miss you every day.