Growing up in a small town is an amazing experience. Unlike growing up in a larger community, knowing all of your neighbors leads to a deeper connection. A forever bond is established. Even if you don't know everyone personally, it feels like you do. And somewhere along the way, someone you're related to knows someone they're related to and they have an impact... And typically it's not too far down the line.
When the football team wins, we're all right there like we won the game and are a part of the team, too. And one of the most remarkable things I've witnessed growing up in a small town is how effortlessly everyone is available when things become tough.
And that's why when the town feels a loss, a hardship - we pull together.
My small town has seen some of the hardest times. The universe lined up blow after blow to the community and somehow, against all odds they stood up arm and arm.
Loss when you're young is hard; you never expect to wake up to calls about your friends or your teachers... You never think that your last laugh shared with someone is your last laugh. You never expect for the most vibrant of people to be taken too soon. And while all loss hurts deeply, I think these are the ones that hurt the very worst. You began to grieve for the people they could have been - they would have been - and the life they would have built. And alongside that, you grieve for the people who did not get the chance to meet them because you know they would have loved them like you had.
Pain is felt so deeply within small towns. We hurt together. And just like within our own lives, towns have their ups and downs. Coming from a small community, you know you always have a friend, always a town full of people who will feel with you. And just like within our own lives, out of the hardships these small towns come out stronger, closer, and more loving.
To everyone we've lost, thank you for making goodbye so hard. You are forever loved.