in memoriam: sarah’s joe

Four years: The time one spends wandering those cliquey halls of high school.

Four years: The (expected) number of years one roams around a college campus, mostly drunk or hungover. 

So many good memories can occur in four years, but four years to my friend, Sarah, is the amount of time that she’s spent mourning the loss of her boyfriend, Joe.  Four years ago today, Joe passed away unexpectedly.  While I unfortunately never had the opportunity to meet him, I remember him today through Sarah’s memories and the love they shared.

To understand the impact that Joe’s death had on Sarah, it’s best for me to paint a clearer picture of my dear friend.  Sarah Donley: Fun. Crazy. Life of the Party. Flirty. Boy Crazy. Make-out Bandit. Get the picture?  Sarah’s looks and energy not only attract every guy in the room, but they also get her into trouble.  If I had a dime for every guy I’ve had a “Sarah” talk with…

But everything changed when Sarah met Joe.  Joe, bless his soul, made the greatest impact that one can make on another: Love.  Without ever seeing them together, I know that he loved her dearly because I saw just how much she loved him.  A love that can only be experienced when the one you love loves you in return.

The only thing worse than Joe’s passing was that Sarah was there.  As a nurse, let alone a loved one, she suffered the trauma of not being able revive him.  Having to deal with that on top of losing the man she loves…no words.  My heart breaks just thinking about her broken heart.  I hated knowing that I couldn’t do anything to help her, except be there for her.  Kristin, Ruth, Carrie- we could only just be there for Sarah.  And love her.

While Sarah’s come along way these past four years, I know that her heart is still broken.  Especially today, as I’m sure Joe is the only thing on her mind.  And for that very reason, my own heart is breaking today.  

But like everything else I experience these days, I’m going to try to turn this blue day into a lesson to be learned.  Instead of sitting here burdened by worry and sadness, I’m going to use today- the 4th anniversary of Joe’s death- to think about life. 

What is it about death that makes us think about life?   

When my Pap passed away last summer, I only cried twice: 1) The day after, before flying back to Pittsburgh, at CVS when Beyonce’s Halo blasted through the aisles; and 2) At his funeral when I saw my Grandma, as the loyal wife of a veteran, gracefully accept condolences in the procession line.

But besides those uncontrollable tears, I didn’t mourn for him.  I knew Pap was in a better place far, far away from the pain and suffering that he faced for 10 years.  Thinking about him, about the things he missed out on during the decade after his first stroke, I let him inspire me to live.   

And that’s what Joe is doing for me today. Thinking about him, Sarah, and the love they shared is inspiring me to live.  And live a lot.  We say it all the time: Life is short.  But sometimes saying it, acknowledging that fact of life, is all people do.  Why?  What are you waiting for?  Do what you want to do.  Say what you want to say.  Dream the dreams you want to dream.  Love who you want to love.  Be exactly who you want to be.

Do the things you’d regret not doing.  That’s been my motto this past year, and actually it is the reason I first moved to Chicago two years ago.  I knew I’d always wonder what if  if I didn’t go.  So I packed up  my bags and turned my back on a life of regrets by choosing to live. 

So, in honor of Joe, my Pap, and all of the loved ones that we have lost, let us remember them and celebrate their lives by choosing to live.


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