A/N. A year ago today the world lost an absolutely incredible man. He wasn't famous but he touched a lot of people and changed their lives forever. He was a son, a brother, a husband, and a father to one of the most amazing families that I've been blessed to know through my church. Even as they suffered with their devastating loss, his family reached out to comfort the others who were hurting. I didn't know him as well as I knew the rest of his family but I wish I did and seeing his family in such pain was easily one of the darkest times in my life because they are the least deserving people on the face of the Earth of such hardship. Anyway, like I said it's been a year. I wanted to write something in a sort of remembrance thingy for him so here it is. It was originally going to be the 'Heaven' theme for the 100 Themes Challenge but when today finally came I decided I wanted it to stand on its own because it's special to me. I hope it's at least okay because it could never ever in a million years come close to doing this man's life justice. I don't own anything.
"Why this happened I cannot explain.
Why write the script with such heartache and pain?
Could there not have been an easier way?
Watching life through this glass so faded,
I cannot see the bigger picture taking place.
Oh, to understand one day."
- 'My Heart Will Fly' by Mercy Me.
I've always heard the saying "all good things must come to an end" but I never once thought that it could be applied to a human life until last year. Still, what other explanation is there for losing you? Billy Joel's song, Only the Good Die Young, is fun and upbeat but he was on to something. After all, you were only twenty-seven. Life isn't fair but your death was a whole new level of unfairness because you were one of the most amazing human beings this world would ever see and when we lost you I thought for an instant that the world might come to an end because I didn't know how we would survive without you.
I remember everything about you. Your contagious smile. Your ridiculous laugh. The way your presence instantly brightened the atmosphere of a room you walked into. Your kind and sensitive and giving nature. Everything. You're unforgettable. And while this is all well and good because I think I would die if I forgot anything about you, it also means that I'll also always remember everything about the day you died.
It was a beautiful March day, not officially spring, but close enough. You were at the rink teaching a new group of little kids how to play your favorite sport. Even though you were talented enough to play for the NHL, you decided to share your love of hockey with others by becoming the neighborhood coach. Besides, that way you'd always be with your friends and family instead of traveling all over the country.
Jo called you that day and asked you if you wanted to meet her and Madelyn, your daughter who was only a year and a half at that time, at the zoo when you were done. You agreed right away because you always were a great husband and an awesome dad. You and Jo were the perfect couple and Maddie was "daddy's little girl".
The three of you had a great time. Maddie was still so young but we were already joking that she would be a vet when she grew up because she absolutely loved all kinds of animals. The zoo was her favorite place in the world. You and Jo wanted to spend as much time with her as possible because you had recently found out that in the end of October you would be welcoming a new little life into your family. Maddie was so excited about being a big sister but you both wanted to be with her before things changed and you had to devote more time to the new baby.
When it came time for you to go, you took your separate cars. Jo and Maddie left just a minute before you and even though you were right behind them from the beginning, you hit a red light and had to wait. You didn't do a thing wrong. You were always a good, safe, responsible driver. But not everyone is the same. So when your light turned green, you stepped on the gas pedal to cross the intersection and so did the driver across the street even though he had a red light.
The two of you met in a loud collision of twisting and smashing metal and you were killed instantly. I know it might sound awful but that was the lone comfort in the whole horrible tragedy. You didn't suffer. At least that's what the police and paramedics told us and I can only hope that they were telling the truth because besides the head trauma that killed you, you also broke your left arm and leg. So I really hope you didn't suffer at all.
It's strange how a day can go from wonderful to nightmarish in the blink of an eye. As soon as Jo got home with Madelyn, and heard the sirens and saw the helicopter flying overhead, she knew there had been a bad accident and because you didn't pull in the driveway right behind her, she knew it was you.
That was when she called us. Me and Carlos and Logan and Camille with their baby girl, Jessica. We headed over to your house, feeling afraid and apprehensive and yet hopeful all at the same time because we just had to hope. While Camille stayed at the house with Maddie and Jessie, we took Jo in my car and drove to the scene of the accident.
We couldn't get very close but it was close enough to see that one of the piles of scrap metal had once been your 1985 Mercedes that you bought when you were seventeen for $450 and babied so that you never had a problem with it. For ten years it ran perfectly despite its age but that day it was clear that it would never run again.
They wouldn't let us get any closer. The helicopter had landed in a nearby field but they were having trouble getting you out even with the Jaws of Life. That was when they told us it was too late anyway.
"You're in a better place, I've heard a thousand times,
and at least a thousand times I've rejoiced for you.
But the reason why I'm broken, the reason why I cry,
is how long must I wait to be with you?"
-'Homesick' by Mercy Me.
It hit Jo and Carlos first. Jo fell to her knees on the pavement and began shaking with horrible sobs. Carlos dropped down beside her, intending to give her some comfort, but weakening every second as his own grief began to build. Logan went straight into doctor mode even though he was supposed to graduate from medical school later that year. He demanded to talk to one of the paramedics to know for sure. Me? I went into denial.
They say that there are five stages of grief. The first is denial and as I stood there, trying to make sense of what the police officer had just told us, I could already feel myself trying to come up with a reason you couldn't be gone. There were so many. You were way too young. You had Jo and Maddie and a baby on the way. You had your mom and Katie and you dad and. . . you had us. You had all those little kids that looked up to you more than they looked up to Wayne Gretzky.
The denial didn't last very long. As I stood there, staring at Jo and Carlos huddled together on the ground and Logan beginning to waver, I began to feel angry. I felt angry at everyone for everything. I was angry and you and Jo for going to the zoo. I was angry at myself and Carlos and Logan for no particular reason. But mostly, I felt white-hot, searing anger at whoever had taken you away from us by driving so recklessly.
I was flying through the stages and soon my anger faded and I began bargaining. My world was spinning out of control and every thought was more irrational by the minute. I wanted to have the opportunity to take your place. I wanted it to be me that was stuck in the car, dead. Better me than you. I was single. I wouldn't be leaving such a beautiful family behind. It should have been me.
"N-no, James." Jo suddenly reached up and grasped my wrist with a shaking hand. She gave me a gentle tug to sit down with her and Carlos and I inadvertently made Logan join us when I reached out to steady myself and wound up pulling him down with me. "J-James," Jo whispered as Logan began to cry quietly. "Don't t-think that. He. . . he wouldn't. . . he wouldn't want you to think t-that."
She was right and that was when the fourth and the worst stage hit me. Depression. While the first three lasted only mere minutes at a time, this stage would hold us all in its icy cold grip for many months to come. While the first three were like the beginnings of a storm, the depression that followed was like a giant wave that knocked us off of our feet and pulled us underwater, down, down, down, threatening to drown us. Already my lungs had seemed to shrink to half their normal size and stopped taking the proper amount of oxygen.
You were gone, I finally realized. And you were never, ever, coming back. You were gone. Forever. Raw agony flooded through me as I laid one hand on my chest in an attempt to take away the blistering ache that was suddenly shooting through my broken heart. Dimly, I felt Logan gripping my elbow with one hand but despite the fact that I was surrounded by my friends I had never felt so alone in all my life. I started to cry then, quietly at first, and then more and more as comprehension fully dawned on me. I had never been one to show my emotions if it could be helped but that day nothing mattered.
Your funeral was so hard. Your dad got up to speak and tried to comfort us through his own pain. But then he broke down and as I watched him cry I tried to imagine something that might hurt worse. His tears tore new holes in my heart and I wondered if we would ever feel whole again.
In the months that came and went, we tried our best to move on. We knew that you wouldn't want us to take your death so hard and for your sake, we really did tried to move on. But then every time we thought we were finally going to be okay, something happened and seemed to set us back at square one all over again.
"Another rainy day.
I can't recall having sunshine on my face.
And all I feel is pain.
And all I wanna do is walk out of this place."
-'Keep Singing' by Mercy Me.
Easter came first. Spring. It came unusually early to Minnesota and while everyone watched new life enter into the world in the forms of baby animals and flowers that colored the dull patches of ground, we remembered your death and found it nearly impossible to rejoice in such a beautiful season.
Soon after that Katie graduated from college with a degree in Business. You would have been so proud, Kendall. We all were. But all of our pride wasn't enough to make up for your absence and Katie was so blinded by her tears that she needed help to cross the platform so she could get her diploma. More than anything, she wanted, she needed her big brother to be there for her. You weren't.
You weren't there for Logan either the way you should have been. He almost didn't graduate because your death sent him into a vicious downward spiral. But in the end, in typical Logan fashion that you would have been proud to witness, he pulled himself together and graduated. With honors, by the way. He didn't walk with the rest of his class to receive his diploma.
Your birthday came next and Kendall, even now I have no idea how we made it through that day. Birthdays are happy occasions when you celebrate someone's life. You were dead, Kendall. We could never really celebrate your birthday again.
On my birthday I thought of how I was older than you now and how much I hated that. I thought of how badly I wanted you to smash my face into the cake or tease me about how old I was getting. The hardest part though was the fact that me, Logan, and Carlos couldn't really be your younger friends or brothers anymore. Jo turned a year older too and so did Madelyn. But Madelyn's birthday was the only one we celebrated that year and even that was a pathetic excuse for a party.
In October we welcomed your second child into the world, our hearts breaking all over again when we realized that she (it was another girl), would be growing up without a father. She would never even know you. It didn't make it any easier when we all looked at her and saw your green eyes staring back at us. You should have had two "daddy's little girls" by now. You didn't. Instead, Jo was a single mother with two fatherless little angels. Jo named her Alyssa Joy, by the way, the daughter that you would never hold in your arms.
Thanksgiving. That's the day when everyone is supposed to be grateful for the blessings they have in their lives. But all we could think of was the curse that had taken you away from us. Christmas was kind of the same only a thousand times worse. Maddie asked Santa to bring you back. In case you didn't know, it's impossible to tell a two-year-old that Daddy can't come home and expect her to understand.
"The hardest part I'm told is letting go."
-'Safe and Sound' by Mercy Me.
The final stage of grief is acceptance.
Your parents, and Katie and Jo found comfort in Maddie and Alyssa. Those two little girls brought joy and hope and peace and light into the darkest time of their lives. They reached past their own pain to help me and Carlos and Logan. At first it hurt to look at them and think of how they would be growing up, making friends, going to their high school prom, and walking down the aisle in a white dress without their father by their side. But then it helped to see you in them.
Carlos was the first of us to wake up and shake off the suffocating blanket of sorrow. Slowly, but surely, what we thought was an eternal winter, began to end. Sometimes, it literally hurt to think about you but over time I found that the pain lessened and that thinking about all the good times we had helped.
Logan took it harder than he ever let on. For so long, you had been the one he could depend on when he was afraid to turn to anyone else. He didn't have you anymore. Camille told us all how he often left the house for a walk to be alone and came back with red eyes as if he had been crying. After she told us that we grew too worried to let him be alone too much for too long. He slowly started opening up to us and now I think he's going to be okay.
It's been a year now and like I said, it hasn't been easy at all. It's never easy to let go of something or someone you once loved so much. You know how life gives you a mixture of ups and downs? The past three-hundred and sixty days have all been downs with an up every now and then, giving us just enough strength to keep going. Sometimes it still hurts a lot to hear or speak your name. Today is really hard because. . .one year ago you were still with us and then. . . just like that you weren't.
I used to wonder why bad things happen to good people. But in the midst of the storm in our lives that was your death, I came to an understanding. When bad things happen to bad people, they fall and don't get up. They let their pain and sorrow claim them and it causes their cold hearts to harden even more. But when bad things happen to good people the end result is different. Good people may stumble and fall and even remain laying on the ground for some time. But eventually, they find strength in each other, get up, and move on with their lives, using their pain to bring some good to the world, lighting the dark corners of the Earth.
You were such a good person, Kendall. Maybe too good for this world. You left so much behind and I like to think that we all deserved you. Losing you was without a doubt the darkest period in all of our lives. But now? I think it's okay. Because even if we really did deserve you, Heaven deserved you more.
"I'm coming up to breathe.
Oh, I'm coming up to breathe.
I've held my breath for all my life,
but I am breaking free tonight,
and I'm coming up to breathe."
-'Coming Up to Breathe' by Mercy Me.
A/N. I changed some details but the story is actually pretty accurate. The other day in church I had his older daughter in Sunday school and then our pastor mentioned him and I cried a little because it still hurts and I still miss him. It's been a long week to say the least and tonight and today have been especially hard. Honestly, if I could have taken his place that day I would have in a second but as much as it hurt to lose him and see everyone in my church hurting so badly, we all know that he's in Heaven bringing even more glory to God. So, I hope that this was okay. All the song lyrics were obviously from Mercy Me and they are so incredible and their music has gotten me through a lot, like Casting Crowns. I love music. So, reviews are encouraging. Thanks for reading.