Who was the first person who died in your life and how did you feel?
There’s no escape
So keep me safe
This feels so unreal
Nothing comes easily
Fill this empty space
Nothing is like it seems
Turn my grief to grace
I was 14 years old, and on the Friday before high school broke for the holidays, I had just completed my first secret santa gift exchange. My mom picked me up from school and we were headed to the rink, as per habit, but that night was different. It wasn’t just a lesson or a practice session. It was the holiday recital. I had a brand new skating dress made to match the music “Last Christmas” by Savage Garden. I had just gone through my routine a dozen times the day before, and I felt ready to perform, no pressure, amongst friends.
But something was different. When my mom pulled out of the high schools circle drive, she wouldn’t look at me. Her face was white. Within less than 60 seconds, she pulled off the road, onto a side street. She turned to me, and told me that Cal had died. Cal, my skating coach, my role model, my mentor, was just 49 years old when he had a heart attack in his sleep, leaving behind a 37 year old wife who had just received news of remission from breast cancer, and two daughters – ages 13 and 9. I can tell you what I was wearing in that moment, how long it took us to drive to the rink, and who I spoke with when I walked in. I can tell you that I never put down the package of tissues that was placed in my hand, and that nobody else did either.
Twelve years ago, I lost one of the most important people in my life. It was the first death close to me, and I reacted the way each of my friends who knew and loved him did – for days and weeks after the funeral and the brutal winter graveside service, we talked. We cried. We exchanged memories.
And every year, on that day, we reunite, whether on the phone, online or in person. And we remember him. We remember the days and the moments and the ways in which he believed in us, in which he changed our lives.
At a time where things at home were rocky, Cal was the only one who knew. I had told him in confidence, and he took my secret to the grave. But he also took his role as a parent, and without my permission, without my knowing, changed into his role as my guardian.
Looking back, I knew then that life would be different, but it’s only now that I can tell you how just how different it has become. I’m still close with his wife and his daughters, his oldest just had a baby girl in January. We’ve all grown up, we’ve all moved on – but I know in my heart that he has been watching. I can tell you every single moment he has been proud, and every single moment he has turned over in his grave. I knew him. I trusted him. I loved him. And then he disappeared.
In truth, twelve years later, writing about it doesn’t make my heart ache any less, it doesn’t make me miss him anymore – it can’t, because he is with me every single day. That’s the resolve I have allowed myself to find, because without him here, life just wouldn’t make sense at all.
Amanda Kasper is a writer, reader, quote lover, CASA advocate, and non-profit believer, seeking space as a lifelong learner, passionate lover, and irreplaceable friend. Amanda tweets at @AKasper513 and blogs over at “& this I believe”