What/Who inspired you this year?
Rather than try to explain it all over again, I just thought I would share this.
It’s been almost six months; in that time I’ve felt such a mixture of emotions that I had no idea how to explain it, and to this day I still don’t. But this is not about me, it’s about you. I feel like I’ve finally come up with a way to say thank you for all you’ve done for me, and all you continue to do for me.
I hate that I can’t remember how we met exactly, but it what most likely from somewhere or through somebody in high school; maybe because you played football with my brother, or through a very mutual (and kind-hearted) friend of ours. We didn’t interact or talk much at first, at least until I was a junior and you were a senior. And when we did talk, you always made me laugh or make my cheeks turn red with embarrassment. I sensed that there was something unique and special about you, like we were kindred spirits. It might have been the height factor or the fact that we usually had a way of surprising people. Either way, it was a different impression.
And we would become kindred spirits when you came to Iowa City during my second year of college. You introduced me to Spotted Cow beer and simultaneously made fun of me for being terrified to try whiskey (which I did eventually). The following morning, you serenaded me with Scotty McCreery and I thought it was so damn cute. I can only imagine you shaking your head at me for smiling at those memories.
And then of course there was the following night, which had me laughing so hard I thought I was going to pass out. But on a serious note, I’m beyond thankful that you helped keep me safe and calm when I was initially afraid of ending up in a bad situation. The whole reason I’ve never forgotten it is because two weeks later someone else would come up to visit and leave me in the hands of a creepy dude who probably intended to take advantage of me that night. So now anytime a friend is willing to walk me home or make sure I’m OK, I always take it to heart (in a good way).
I wish with everything in me that I had invited you to come up for my twenty-first birthday celebration. I thought about it often, but in the end assumed that it would be too hard to travel and find some place to stay. Still I can’t help but wonder how you would have reacted at the sight of me drinking like a crazy person; you might have very well joined in at some point, or maybe just offered to carry me home. Not that it wasn’t fun as it was, but it would having you and the others there would have kicked it up a few notches. That will always be one of my regrets about our friendship.
The other one is not taking part in celebrating your life in the days and weeks after I got the news. I wanted to put my arms around people and just be with them, but I kept saying that I needed to talk about it. The truth is, I was suffocating emotionally and making bad decisions because of it. On top of that, I was being given the message that openly grieving was only appropriate for those that were closest to you. But if there’s one thing that I’ve learned about myself, it’s that I don’t have to be the best of friends with someone in order to care about them. And from hearing about all your acts of kindness for others, both big and small, I’m sure you felt the same way.
Though you’re no longer here on earth, your spirit and your legacy have made such a profound impact. In the midst of the numbness I experienced, I began to take a hard look at what I was doing with my life; not just in terms of wisdom versus stupidity, but what my gifts were and the way I could use them to make a difference for others. At first I wasn’t sure if I would be able to, at least physically. But after talking with my therapist, I understood that everybody has their own strengths, and I just happen to have a knack for using words to show love and compassion.
But more than that, whenever I think of you I’m reminded that life is to be actively lived, not something to just exist or survive in. To make sure that the times I spend with my loved ones always end on a good note, and to not be ashamed of letting them know how much I care about them. I’ve been through a lot this last year, but I’m choosing to focus on the good instead of zeroing in on my anger and wallowing in pain. And above all, you motivate me to take chances because of how precious life truly is. It’s what keeps me going in my journey to become a published writer, as well as to have love in my life. I could go on, but you’re probably shaking your head at how sappy I’m being as it is!
I miss you so much; you’re a wonderful human being and a great friend, and I hope that I was able to do the same for you. I love you and cherish the memories I have of our friendship, and will never ever forget about you. In fact, I think I owe you a proper visit; while I loved talking to you at random moments as I’ve watched the sun go down, it’s about time I paid my respects. But regardless, thank you for what you’ve taught me and what I’m still learning.You will always be my pal, Otis, and have a special place in my heart.
Update: I also wrote a poem in his honor as well, and rather than post both links separately, I’m including it here