His life was taken too soon, but we won't forget him.
Part of me feels this isn't my story to tell. I am not his wife. I am not his child. I wasn't there when they found him. But ever since his death, I have found myself wrestling with so many different emotions that I haven't really been able to process.
I got the news near the end of my first quarter of university. I had just transferred from community college, and I was already struggling. My sister called me while I was cleaning out my refrigerator: to hear such horrible words in the middle of such a normal day felt wrong, disorienting. I could sense the vacancy in her voice that comes after intense grief: "He's gone. He was alone."
J's death was completely unexpected, and that's what makes is so much harder to process. He had a seizure disorder, but it was well managed, and he hadn't had a seizure in years. His wife and kids came home that day, and his seven year old son wandered into the garage to find his dad lying on the floor. He asked his mom why daddy was sleeping on the ground. This image haunts me, but I feel like I have no right to feel this way.
J was someone who was around during the most difficult and influential years of my adolescence. I met my vocal coach, S, when I was thirteen years old, and she eventually became my mentor and one of my best friends. J and S happened to be in a band together at the time, and I spent a lot of time caring for their sons when they had shows.
J and S were twice my age, and they played a huge part in shaping who I am today. They treated me like an equal, but also taught me so many lessons about life and growing up. They were incredible musicians, and I looked up to them for their talent and passion. They always encouraged me to pursue my passion for singing, and they gave me the confidence that I was also lacking.
I have so many amazing memories of J and how kind he always was to me. I remember how teary-eyed he got the first time he heard me perform, and all the fun I had with him, S, and their spouses hanging out at their houses, singing, laughing, playing music, drinking tequila and having deep conversations about life.
Even though he was a big part of my life, I still struggle with feelings of guilt. What right do I have to grieve, when his wife and children are struggling so much more?
Part of what's so shocking to me about J's death is the realization that life is so, so fragile, so fleeting. At any moment my life, or the lives of my loved ones, can end, and that is terrifying to me. This is the first time I have really lost someone who was important to me, and it has really changed the way I see life and death. I now find myself walking down the street and wondering if this could be my last day on earth. In reality, I'm scared. But I'm also trying to embrace the time I have here and make something beautiful out of it.
I still listen to one of J's songs in which he imagines the day of his death. In the song, he says he wants to be remembered for trying to spread love and truth, and so, even though he was taken from us much too soon, this is how I am choosing to remember him.
Rest in peace, J. We won't forget you.