"Rest in Peace man, I really can't believe it." That's the tweet that I saw to find out that my friend, Luke, had passed away. Getting the news wasn't the hard part, believing it was. I had to believe that this teenage two sport star athlete was no longer able to put that body into motion. I had to accept that I wouldn't see his crooked smile or piercing blue eyes anymore. I had to believe that he wouldn't be singing T-Pain while he played the ukulele that he stole from his sister anymore. The boy that made everyone around him feel so happy and good about ourselves would not be around anymore.
I was in denial even through his viewing. His casket was lying in the front of the church surrounded by beautiful flower displays but I couldn't get myself to look in that direction. Instead, I was observing everything around; the tables outlining the church with get-well cards made by elementary students with almost every word misspelled, the wedding video downstairs that was projected on the wall displaying the love in his life, and the years of baseball and basketball jerseys. I heard the laughter of his friends sharing stories and saw hugs everywhere I looked. I absorbed myself in the reds, yellows, oranges, and blues of the stained glass to keep my eyes busy. Once it was my turn to say my goodbyes, I looked in the casket but did not see my friend, the teenage athlete, but rather a shell of who he was.
I had accepted that the cancer had taken its course though so many were hoping and praying that he would beat it. My friend and inspiration was no longer around and I didn't know what to do. So many people were closer to him than I was but I couldn't help but feel so angry and upset that such a young, positive, and uplifting soul was taken away far too soon.
About a year and a half later, I just got myself to delete his phone number. For the first year, I would continue to text him, thinking everything was a bad dream and I'd get a response. One or two times I even called, not knowing what I would do if anyone ever answered. I began writing him letters to tell him how much he had done for me and how I still think about him all the time. That's when the healing began. I used to see him in other people, thinking he was walking around my campus or at a basketball game. That used to break me down. I used the letters to thank him for the signs that he is still around and still helping me through everything life throws at me just like he did throughout high school.
I am still healing, I have finally accepted, but I will not forget. Anyone that had ever come in contact with Luke would agree that his memory will never leave our community. Though the process is taking so long, the healing will come. Denying someone's departure does not mean that they are gone from your life. Rather, we need to accept this reality but never forget the impact this person had in yours and others' lives. We have accepted that he cannot be here anymore and he no longer is in pain, but we will not accept him being forgotten. Luke Blanock will forever be in our hearts.