Annually, December 15 brings dread. It has since 1992. 20 years ago, at just about this time, there was an interruption in the universe that so many people were unaware of, but shattered life as I knew it. One man's poor choice in life ended my best friend's life. It wasn't in a flash, his demise was a drawn out circumstance. A series of poor decisions. One that could have been prevented a thousand ways.
He was a suicide survivor. He'd faced death and found a new life once he lived again. He discovered a new mission. His future was laying at his feet, and it was so ridiculously bright and full of light. He had a heart, a mind, a smile and a relationship and work ethic that inspired so many around him.
And, just like that, his light was snuffed out.
He didn't get to have a diagnosis. He didn't have the chance to consult with doctors. He didn't have the opportunity to have surgery. He wasn't lucky enough to have chemotherapy as a tool.
All he had time to do was to get hit head on by a drunk driver at an intersection, then sit in his car, legs pinned by a steering wheel, wait for emergency services, ask for help getting out, and, with one person's turned back, he and the car were gone in a flash.
As I've been fighting my fight, as grateful as I am for the support network that has emerged, largely out of the woodwork, I'm just as aware, and mournful, of absent friends. Those that I'd give anything, absolutely anything, to hold hands with, consult with, laugh with, and share with.
Aaron comes to mind immediately. I swore to myself I wouldn't forget what his laugh sounded like, but as time passes, I'm starting to have to sit down and think hard, and then, I struggle to remember. Then I remember his smile, which is marked indelibly in my mind, and his laugh makes me smile. I remember the first time we danced. I remember the close friend I had. The hugs and embraces, awkward and loving, we shared.
Aaron was my guardian. He made that abundantly clear, not only because he told me repeatedly, but because he showed that in his actions. Even after he was gone, his protection was apparent. He's still here, even though he's not. It's a curse and a blessing.
But when I close my eyes, it doesn't matter, because I can see his face, his smile, and I feel safe again, if only for that moment. I know his presence is here, keeping me safe.
Tomorrow, I go in for Round 3. I won't see him. I can't talk to him. But I know he'll be there, by my side, watching over everything. After 20 years, I know that much hasn't stopped.
Aaron is the one who taught me not only how to LIVE STRONG, but that I had to LIVE STRONG.