Recently, I had to say goodbye to someone who in all honesty, I hadn’t seen in a number of years. But nowadays, with Facebook and Instagram and SnapChat, it’s so easy to feel like you still “see” that person or even “talk” to that person, even if you really don’t. With that said, myself and many of my high school classmates had the shock of our lives. We had to say goodbye to someone we had all grown up with in a number of different ways. Some had known him since they were four, others were his coaches, his sweet and loving family, or for some of us we met during those early years in our teens where everything you say, and do and the people you meet shape a significant piece of who you grow up to be.
Do you remember your first real date? Not the kind of date where your mom drops you off at the mall and you meet up with a boy – I’m talking about the boy drives his mom’s car over to your house to pick you up and take you to the movies. THAT kind of real date. And do you remember your first kiss? How about your first prom date? I bet you answered yet. These are important and people-shaping moments and memories in a teenager’s life. For me, the person I had to say goodbye to was all of those things. My first real date, my first real kiss, and my first prom date.
When I heard the news shock hit me, then I was overcome with complete sadness. The tears just flowed. I was sad for the people who love him so much and wouldn’t have him to talk to every day, I was sad for his two beautiful little boys, I was sad for the sports community that he had been such a big part of…I was just sad. Then the memories hit me like a ton of bricks. I shared some of the most important high school memories with him. I quickly realized that I was so lucky to have those memories with him and that every time I think of him or look back on those memories, I won’t be sad for long because they will make me smile.
His celebration of life was probably the nicest thing I’ve ever seen. His sister and family did an amazing job and it really celebrated him. It also brought so many of us back together again – many of which hadn’t seen each other in 20+ years! Yes, there were lots of tears, but there were also a lot of laughs and that helped everyone get through the day, and if I’m being honest, I think it’s what he would’ve wanted anyway.
It has been a tough couple of months for the large group that I grew up with. There has been a lot of saying goodbye recently to those who shouldn’t be leaving so soon, and while I hope this is the last one for a long time, I am inspired by the notion that in order to heal and support we are all able come together. My brother pointed something interesting out to me – my graduating class, which was the class of 2001, was very closely linked to the class of 2000 and the class of 1999. My brother also pointed out that not many classes after mine co-mingled, so-to-speak, the way in which 1999-2001 did and it was very evident at the celebration of life. We all truly care about one another and when the need to come together is there it will happen – and in huge numbers! Of course, we all agree that it’s nice to see everyone and we should do it more, however not in this way, but in times of need, sadness, despair, or whatever it may be that’s when those who truly have your back show up.
This loss has also put many things into perspective for me and has made me think about things a little differently: mortality, love, life goals, commitment, loyalty…the list goes on. Something like this makes you take a self inventory and ask yourself if you’re really making the most out of life. Do you need to make a change? Do you need to slow things down and embrace experiences more? All I can say is hold those special things and special moments a little closer and a little tighter to your heart, because you don’t know how long you’ll have with them, and just be grateful. Be grateful for what you have and even for what you don’t have.
For now though, I have found myself lost in my thoughts and sad for the weeks following. I appreciate the little reminders of him that I randomly see. Whether it’s my 6 year-old niece plastering an entire sheet of Star Wars tattoos across her chest (he loved Star Wars – made me watch it on one of our “dates” for the first time at his house), or seeing a “Beast Mode” t-shirt at the gym – these are reminders of him, and though they make me sad at first, they also make me smile and that is something isn’t it? My only regret is that I didn’t actually see him more after we graduated, but I take solace in knowing that I have some pretty amazing memories that will forever be mine and his to share. As I said before, this isn’t goodbye forever, it’s just goodbye for now.