How would you feel if someone you had held in the palm of your hand was suddenly taken from you?
I still remember the day that I found out you were gone. I remember what I had done the day leading up to finding out that you were gone. I remember what I was wearing, what I was thinking the entire day. I remember every detail of the days prior and following the news. I remember it so well that it feels like I live a nightmare every day.
I was thirteen. You were twelve. I had just come home from watching the madrigal dinners at the local University with my middle school chorus group. I had just showered and thrown on a blue Hollister hoodie before sitting down at the family computer. I was trying to be sneaky and check my facebook before I went to bed without having my dad find out. I remember scrolling through Facebook and mindlessly reading what my friends were up to. It was a simple facebook browse until I saw your picture. It was a picture of you edited on Picnic. In fancy purple writing splashed across your face, it said, "RIP Austin, gone but not forgotten."
I remember thinking that it was a joke. I thought that maybe one of your friends had edited a dumb picture and was joking around. I clicked on your profile to further "investigate." It wasn't until I saw numerous posts, photos, and videos on your facebook wall that the sheer panic set in. My chest felt like it was going to collapse. I remember not being able to breathe. It felt like I had just been punched in the throat. I stared at the computer screen in shock. I couldn't speak. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't move. I stared into your now lifeless eyes through the Toshiba laptop and collapsed into a puddle of tears, shock, and sorrow. If I could go back and watch myself at that very moment, I know that it would painful to watch. The silent painful sobs consumed me and my back shook as I gasped for air clutching my chest. The words repeating in my head. Dead. Died. Dead. Killed. Young Iowa boy KILLED. He's dead. He died. Funeral. Dead. Died. Followed by the sounds of tires screeching and glass breaking made it that much harder to breathe.
Thinking back to the November night when I read that my best friend. My first childhood LOVE. Who I thought was my childhood soul mate was dead. He died. It took me a few days, months even to process that Austin Lane Vais was dead. That my Austin, my best friend, my Austy was gone. And he wasn't going to come back. For months I tried to process this. I couldn't comprehend that someone as young as him would die as tragically as he did. I had so many questions, I still have so many questions. Questions that will go forever unanswered. I remember my first true feeling of grief after I had gotten past the shock was anger. I was so angry with everyone. I was angry that he decided to drive to go check his damn hunting traps when he did. I was angry he drove alone. I was angry that I didn't know any details. I was angry that nobody would tell me anything. I was so angry that this God that I had always been told to believe in had taken him away from me. I was filled with this anger until recently.
When you lose someone you love at such a young age, it changes you. Maybe not immediately, but it changes you. It changes how you see the world around you. How you treat those close to you. It even changed how I looked at God and how I looked at death. I was so lost. For the longest time, I had a million questions for Austin's family. For God. For whoever found you. Thinking about who found you still makes me break down into silent sobs. It's been six years since you've been gone. Six years and I haven't been able to move on. What is it exactly that I can't move on from, I don't know. Maybe it's because you were the first person I loved besides myself and you left. You left me. You left your family. It's selfish, I know. But loving you with everything I had and having you leave in the way that you did haunts me. I can't let go of the love I have for you. I can't let go of the memories we have. I can't let go. I can't move on because I can't let go. I get scared with every person I start to love. If I get too close to someone again, are they going to die too? I know you didn't choose this. If it were up to you, you wouldn't have decided to die so young. If you had a say you'd still be here. I can't blame you, but I want to. You make it impossible to move on. To love again. What if the next person I open up to dies? You did. I know it's not right to "blame" you. I know it's not right to be angry anymore. I know that but I can't help it.
Losing you when I did taught me so much that I didn't discover until recently. Losing you taught me to cherish every person I encounter. To tell them you love them when you feel it. Because you never know what's going to happen. Losing you taught me that life happens. And no matter what you do, you can't prepare yourself for everything that life has to offer. Sometimes things happen when you least expect it and that's just apart of life. Another thing I learned from losing you is that life is short. Life is so god damn short. Your life can be taken away from you in the blink of an eye, so cherish this life. Cherish every day that you are given. Cherish the people you surround yourself with. Be appreciative to be alive and live your life to YOUR standards. At the end of the day, that's all that matters. If I could have you back for just one day, I'd say everything that I never got to say. I'd swallow my pride and confess my love for you. I'd put everything else aside and listen to your dreams. I'd soak in the sound of your laughter. If I could just have you back for one more day. I'd say everything I couldn't before.
If you were here, I'd tell you that you looked breathtaking in light blue. That it complimented your brown eyes in such a way that I found myself becoming lost in them the longer I stared at you. I would tell you that your laugh is dorky, but it is so full of life. I would encourage you to never stop laughing. I would tell you how important you are. How loved you are. And that yes, I did listen all the times you talked about trapping and hunting. I would also tell you that you're an idiot because of your unhealthy addiction to energy drinks. I'd tell you that your family is amazing. That your dad is watching me. That your dad has my back and we talk frequently. I would tell you not to worry because we will heal. It may take a lifetime, but we will heal. I would tell you that your dad is the strongest man I know. I would brag about all the conversations he and I had. I would tell you that we got along better than you and I and then we'd laugh.
I wish you'd give me just one more day. One more hour. That's all I want and that's all I need to have the closure I need. I know that closure won't come easy. I can't bring you back for an hour. I know that this isn't how it works and that one day I'll have all the answers I never knew I needed.