Anyone who is close to me knows about my best friend, Will. He was one of the greatest people I have ever met; smart, kind-hearted, funny, goofy, loving, inspiring, comforting, compassionate, friendly, motivational, trustworthy… the list goes on and on. He was an incredible friend, son, brother and prom date (to yours truly).
My hope is to share some light in the darkness for others who have words they wish they could share, hands they can no longer hold and empty chairs at a table. I am here to tell you that I am one of you and I want you to know that you are not alone.
Upon reflecting over the past five years, I became inspired to share some of the things I have learned since his passing. His presence in my life was a gift and his passing, though devastating, taught me more about life than any other event in my short 23 years on this earth.
- You are never given something you cannot handle
Will’s passing shattered my heart. For the first time in my life, I hit the bottom. I couldn’t make sense of anything. I had so many questions but the main one was, Why? Just. Why?
I used to live by the phrase “everything happens for a reason”. I realized that while I would never find a reason for his death, I could find trust that God would never give me something I couldn’t handle. I looked to the Bible (for the first time in my life), and found Psalms 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding”. It gave me peace to learn that I cannot make sense of all things in this world, but I can trust that any situation, big or small that comes into my life had purpose, and I gained the faith that I could get through any of life’s obstacles. So far, that has been true.
- The power of “I love you”
How many times have you said “I love you” today? I would argue not enough.
My biggest fear when Will passed was that he didn’t know how much I loved him. I worried that I didn’t say it enough, show it enough or express it enough. I now trust in my heart that he did. He spent his life surround by love from his family and friends. However, my fear challenged me to love more on a daily basis. I say I love you to all of my close family and friends as much as I can. More recently, I have started writing love letters to family and friends whenever it is appropriate. During Lent, I tried to write a letter every day to someone meaningful in my life. No doubt, I got more out of the experience than any letter recipients did. My heart was incredibly full after sharing with people why I love them and thanking them for being in my life.
Bottom line is that in the end, no matter who we are, we all want to be loved. So I challenge you to share your love as much as possible. It’s a powerful part of life because it keeps life worth living.
- Angels watch over you
I joke that I have an angel on my right shoulder (Will) and devil on my left (Hollis- another dear friend taken before his time less than a year ago). Will holds me to my standards, encourages me to be my best self and serves as my conscience. Hollis encourages me to be mischievous, live life outside of the box and bend the rules. I have to say…. I feel them there watching over me, supporting me and loving me through every moment of life.
Sometimes things happen that I know is Will’s doing. For example, giving me his family. All of Will’s family- mom, dad, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles and many others are all now some of the most important people in my life. They are my friends, confidants, mentors and truly second family. I am so grateful to have such incredible people in my life – what a blessing it has been to become close to them over the past five years.
- People show up
In times of grief, people show up: friends, family, teachers, classmates, family friends, friends’ parents, neighbors, my own parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, brother and other close family members- it is remarkable the people who rally for and around you in times of need. The letters, hugs, phone calls, text messages, emails, conversations and food that surrounded me following Will’s passing was overwhelming. I was amazed at the people who cared enough to think about me, his friend, in addition to caring for his family.
As the days, weeks and years have gone by, people still show up. Especially close friends and family who have spent numerous hours in person and over the phone through our laughter and tears (or sometimes just mine) talking about Will. Those are my truest friends and I am so grateful to have such loving people in my life.
- Live life beautifully
When I arrived at the hospital and learned that Will was not going to make it, the first thing that Will’s mom said to me was “he lived a beautiful life and now we must also live life beautifully for him”. How true that statement was. Will lived life beautifully through his relationships, experiences and day-to-day interactions.
I strive to live life beautifully for myself and for Will. Sometimes I have moments where I pause (if you know me, you know that is rare) and I realize the beauty of my current situation. Whether it is being at a table with my entire family, sharing a glass of wine with a best friend, seeing a purple and pink sky at dusk, hearing my favorite song (“September” by Earth, Wind and Fire), diving into the lake, running at dusk, laughing at work with my awesome colleagues, eating sweet potato fries, kicking into a headstand or dancing with my brother- life is beautiful.
Every moment is a gift and I encourage you to appreciate beauty in your life.
Finally, to those of you who have showed up for me in the past five years, even just once- thank you. I would not be the person I am today without your love and support. I can never accurately describe the impact you have had on my life and I am so grateful. I love you all. Willpower always and forever- Tricia