How Are You Living?
I’ve never felt heartache like the pain that stung my heart on July 27, 2004.
He had the world at his fingertips. He was driving home from California after completing a summer internship. Football camp was set to start the next week and he’d be the senior kicker and punter. At 6’7″, his long, lanky legs let him make kicks that no Division II kicker should’ve been able to hit. There were rumblings that he could go pro. He was smart, though, too. At one of the most challenging institutions in the United States, he managed many times in three years to rack up a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
On a July day on his way home to a future that shined bright, he fell asleep behind the wheel in Utah. His car flipped and items he was bringing back to Colorado from California struck him in the head. He died that day in a hospital room in Utah, even though he fought to stay alive.
Yesterday, my old friend Scott would’ve turned 30.
After finishing a few stories, I decided to get in the car, go buy some yellow roses and visit the grave site I couldn’t muster the strength to visit for the last nine years.
I got to the cemetery, walked into the office and asked if they could help me find my friend.
A woman sat me down in an empty room and had me fill out information about Scott on a piece of paper. She then returned with a big binder and a plot map. She looked at the information I scribbled on the paper, looked up and me and said, “Oh wow. He was young.”
He was young. And he had the world at his fingertips. 21-years-old. We thought we were so old then. But we really were just babies.
The lady mapped out a route for me to go find Scott. Seeing the look of confusion on my face she said, “Why don’t I drive out to his marker and you can follow me. I want to make sure you can find him.”
So I followed her. As she parked her black minivan, I knew the moment I’d been dreading for nine years was about to happen. I grabbed my bundled up yellow roses, wiped the hair from my face and got out of my car.
Walking a few steps behind her, I watched as she would sweep off debris from graves that families and friends had forgotten. After several failed attempts to locate his, we finally found Scott.
She tapped me on the shoulder and said she’d be heading back to her office.
She hadn’t even gotten three feet away from me when I turned my head the other way and started crying harder than I have in ages.
The best person to ever come into my life would’ve turned 30 yesterday. I fought back tears as I thought about what he’d be doing now. The picture perfect family he’d likely have. The success he would’ve found in his career. The lives he would’ve touched with his warm spirit.
For as much as he lived and as right as he lived his life, the images that fluttered through my mind of what Scott would be doing yesterday were some of the most beautiful ideals I could paint for a life.
Eventually, the tears stopped trailing down my face as quickly as they started. I thought about how at 18-years-old, I’d linger after cheerleading practice just to get a hello from Scott. I laughed about how at the night of my first fraternity party–when I was on crutches–he stood by me all night as we improvised dance moves. I smiled when I thought about how I can’t even tell you who played in Super Bowl 37, because the football player and the cheerleader spent the entire game in the back of the room making each other laugh.
Selfishness set in as I lowered myself to sit down by his grave and wiped away the leaves that had fallen on it. As I placed the yellow roses in the vase and poured what little water I had into it, I thought about the corners my life has turned in the last nine years. I wondered what avenues I wouldn’t have traveled had Scott been around. I questioned how my life would be better if he were still in it.
Swept up in emotion and letting my imagination get the most of me, a couple walked past me, and once again, I remembered that he’s gone.
The point of this story isn’t a mystery. The point here, is to live each day to your fullest. The point is to chase your dream. The point is to let the people you love know just how much you love them. The point is that sometimes, you have to use heartache as a reflection of what you really should be doing with your life.
And most importantly, you need to ask yourself, “How am I living?”