Wow, this is really hard. [Insert you grabbing my hand and smiling your beautiful big smile right here because life is hard but these simple gestures full of love are easy]
I doubt my head will fully comprehend the fact that you are gone any time soon. I know my heart understands, though. I know because I feel comforted by your kindness and your love even as I grieve for you.
This earth is a beautiful place, but you were really too lovely for this world anyway. We got your heart, your love, and your kindness for about twenty years more than we deserved it. As I sit in my apartment in Strasbourg, France, all I want to do is crawl into my mom’s arms and cry for all that you were to me and so many others…
Our biggest fan. Our most caring confidant. Our friend. Our brother. Our inspiration. You were so many superlatives to me, and I cannot imagine what you were to the people whose lives overlapped with yours even more than mine.
Zach, I remember the day we met. I had to make up a lifeguarding in-service at Dayton Country Club because I had been on vacation at the lake. We were in the dive well back-boarding Colleen, and it was executed perfectly on our first try even though we had never been paired before. I swear we laughed the whole time even though I didn’t know the two of you from Adam or Eve.
Then I remember the first day I managed Dayton Country Club later that summer. You and I had worked a couple guard shifts together, but this was the first time I was supposed to be in charge. I was so nervous going into it, but I swear you completely eased my anxieties and ran the show. You played with the (beloved) pool rats so I could run a clean close, and you showed me the ropes and reigns. When we were almost done with the close I can’t remember what caused it, but we all got into a full-blown water fight with the Gatorade water coolers… Amazingly neither of us landed in the pool, but our clothes were completely soaked anyway. I still look at this picture and remember the way you made me feel included in your guard family.
|please ignore the tooly caption and don't ignore how genuinely happy we are in this picture|
After that summer, we never guarded together again, but you kept in touch. You were the king of subtle “I miss you” messages over social media. I still remember how happy it made me to see your random comments on my pictures in Chicago or NYC… small reminders that someone out there thinks I’m pretty, or fun, or lucky to get to see the world.
This past August you came to Springboro, and we got together for coffee and ice cream at my favorite hometown places (Saxby’s and the K, of course). You came and picked me up, and I loved introducing “this dear old friend of mine” to my momma. I can still remember how much she loved meeting you, and how much I gushed to her about how amazing it was to see you after so long.
While we were together at coffee I can still cling to our conversations about the exciting years ahead of us. For you, it would be your freshman year at University of Central Oklahoma. Looking back, you loved growing up in Oakwood, but you were so excited to go learn more about yourself and the world somewhere far from home. I was excited for you too. You told me all about the house you would be living in, and how much you were looking forward to being with your friends that were basically family out there.
I think it’s probably human selfish nature, but more than our conversations about your future endeavors, I remember with precision the way you made me feel about mine. You were beyond excited for me to spend my year in Strasbourg. I remember few people outside of my dearest friends and family who were as elated for me as you when they talked about this opportunity of mine. You made me feel like I was the luckiest girl alive to get to run free here in Europe. You reminded me how easily I make friends, and how much fun it would be to take on life over here. I even remember showing you snapchats from my (at the time future) roommate Francisca, and telling you about how cool she seemed. I guess we pegged that part; she’s amazing.
I even remember, once we moved from coffee to ice cream, introducing you to a favorite teacher/coach/role model from high school, Mrs. Franks. She was with her daughters, and I remember how you immediately smiled so big when you saw them. It was the same smile you gave me when you would first make eye contact with me after not seeing me for a while… the same smile you gave all of the kids at Dayton Country Club when they would not leave you alone for even five minutes of your five hour shift because they loved their swim coach so much.
|please don't ignore the "with a face" request for these ice cream cones|
Leaving the United States for a year was scary. I always denied that because it seems easier to deny things than to talk them out sometimes. It was scary to leave because I was afraid of losing someone I loved. Unfortunately, my greatest fear of being abroad is realized. I did lose someone I loved. I lost you. I think it’s a funny thing though… how even in your death you cause me to grow. I’ve overcome the fear of losing someone while I’m here… just like you overcame a fear of skydiving when you jumped out of a plane midair.
How can I fear further loss when I’m living despite it? I’m hurting. Of course I’m hurting. But you’ve proven to me how silly it would be to limit the opportunities I seize based on my fears. If I were in the states, I could’ve attended the celebration of your life held last weekend. I would’ve loved to be there. But I know in my heart I’ll celebrate your life in my own ways… in my own time… in May when I can cry in my parents’ arms, and repeat again in person to them how lovely you were… and how much joy you brought to the world.
I hope I love people a fraction of the way you loved, and I hope you know you were always an angel in my life anyway... I’ll miss you dearly but that won’t change.