The Things We Learn From The Ones We’ve Lost

Everyone loves summer and anticipates it every year. Summer means more outdoor activities, sunny days, and my favorite holiday, the Fourth of July.  But for me, summer also holds a certain unwelcome anticipation, the anniversary of Beth’s death.  It has been five years to this day.  Whenever I think of how much time has passed, I always have to stop to convince myself that it’s actually true.  Life has carried on, but the memories still linger as if it was yesterday. After Beth passed people often consoled me with words like “It will get better with time.”  In some ways, they were right.  But I know ten years from now I will still be grieving, and a certain part of me will never heal.  There is no cure to fill that empty void left in your heart when someone you love leaves this world.  I still cry, I still wonder why life has to be so cruel.

I have always considered myself a pretty positive person.  I always try to look at the bright side of things, that is, after all what this entire site is devoted to.  Over the last five years I have tried quite hard to model my coping in a way that would make Beth proud, she was such an incredibly strong person.  If she saw the mess that I was the whole year after her death I am sure she would have kicked my butt and told me to get a hold of myself.  She was always such a hard ass, even that first day I met her…

It was October and the soccer lesson in my eight grade gym class was underway.  I played soccer for years throughout elementary school, which lead me to develop a secret hate for the sport.  I decided to take a poor grade and stand on the sidelines, refusing to participate.  I stood with my arms crossed, sure to prove my point, watching my fellow classmates scoot back and forth on the field.  I lost track of the ball when I noticed a girl standing on the other side of the field, clearly having the same thoughts as I was.  I slowly walked across the field, deliberately trying to get in the way of the ongoing game.  The gym teacher began to shout at me, “Get out of the way, Buelow!”  I just casually waved and continued walking towards this girl I had yet to meet.  She was wearing black track pants and a teal Nike sweatshirt, her long blonde hair tangled in her arms across her chest.  I casually stood next to her for a moment before I said “This sucks, huh?”

“Yup.” was all she said as she rolled her eyes and walked away from me.

I stood there kind of shocked, but was also amused by this girl so I decided to make it my personal mission to become her friend.  I was persistent in pursuing her friendship, regardless of how hesitant she was.  After a week or so of me bugging the crap out of her, I think she just gave up.  She asked me to be her CPR partner health class and the rest was history.

Beth and I on the last day of 8th Grade

Beth and I spent the next ten years building up a friendship that I was sure I was going to cherish for the rest of my life.  I know I will, I just never thought I would cherish it without her.

We used to do the silliest things, I’ll never forget the time we staged a turkey murder in her Aunt Nancy’s front yard the day before thanksgiving (the things high school kids do for entertainment).  We went to Cub at midnight on a secret mission to buy a frozen turkey and ketchup.  Lots of ketchup.  We dumped the turkey and fake feathers from a craft store in Nancy’s yard.  We then used the ketchup to make it look like there was blood everywhere.  It was so dumb, but the looks on her entire family’s faces was pretty memorable when they saw that monstrosity in the front yard the next day.  I don’t think Nancy even knew that was us until I told her after Beth had died; we had a good time laughing about it.

I think I have always enjoyed the silliness in my life, but Beth taught me how to embrace it and bring it to an art form.  She taught me so much, I always thought she was one of those people who was wise beyond their years.  She taught me to be silly and to dance like a fool and never stop to see if anyone was watching.  She taught me how to play card games and how to embrace heavy music such as Korn.  She taught me to never be afraid to say “I love you.”  But one of the most important gifts Beth gave me was the gift of friendship.  Both her friendship and the friendships she inspired in my life, especially with Christine.

Christine and I had been friends since junior high, but drifted away after high school.  I always thought about calling her, she was such a fun friend.  Christine went away to school in Illinois but her and Beth remained close.  Beth was always prying on both ends, telling me to call her and telling her to call me.  Neither of us ever did, I’m not sure what it was that stopped me.

After Beth passed away, we were instantly drawn together again.  Maybe it was that we were both looking for a connection to Beth, or that we both knew it was finally time to mend our relationship.  Or maybe it was our way of fulfilling a wish we both knew meant a lot to Beth.

Over the last five years, Christine and I have grown to a closeness I feel we never had before.  I have not seen her in over a year, but we talk every single week.  We both agree that we are each others last ties to Beth and her family.  We are the ones that are carrying her memory and legacy in our hearts.  She is the first one I call when I am sad and thinking of Beth and her family.  We call and send each other messages on her birthday, and on Mother’s Day when we are thinking of Ann and all the giddy afternoons we spent in that living room.

I don’t think I would have been able to center my grief as well as I have over the last five years if it wasn’t for Christine.  I always thought this was Beth’s way of taking care of us after she was gone.  She wanted us to have each other to support, and I am thankful everyday that we did.

Beth is gone and there isn’t a day that goes by that I haven’t wished that I could change that, but I am so thankful for so much.  I am thankful that I had her in my life for as long as I did, that I have so many photos, memories, and stories I wrote about her in my journals over the years, and for the things she left behind, both in my heart and in my life.