This is always a hard week for me. I dread it every year. I always want to fast-forward through it or just hide in my room until it passes. This could explain why I have been in such a weird mood all week.
Five years ago, I was a junior in high school. My brother and his friends had just graduated in May and I was ready to be the only one from my family at the high school since my brother and I had shared the same teachers and homeroom for the past two years.
On Saturday the 23rd, my family and I were driving up to South Carolina for a football game. I was sleeping in the car when my mom woke me up and said I had a phone call. That's when I knew; my sweet friend A.J., who I had known since I was 8 and was battling cancer, had passed away. I cried the rest of the way to South Carolina.
In the months leading up to A.J.'s death, I had been to many fund raisers for him. He had a very kind and giving spirit. He made it his goal to raise money for better furniture for the families who spent extended amounts of time at the hospital he got many of his treatments and surgeries from. It didn't really seem real until I got that call that day. I guess I was hoping for some sort of miracle, even though we knew it wasn't possible. The cancer had spread far too much.
That Monday back at school, everyone was very quiet and somber. There was even a makeshift memorial set up to honor A.J. that students placed pictures and cards on.
That's when my friend Joe walked up and told us there had been an accident. Jacob, a good friend to my brother and a brother to my very good friend (it's a close-knit community) had been in a car accident and did not make it.
I felt everything drain out of my body at once. I thought I was going to pass out and my friends must have thought the same thing because they took me straight to the nurse. I called my mom and all I could get out was, "Mom....Mom....Jacob." And then I found out another friend, Matt, had been in the car with Jacob and was now in a coma fighting for his life.
That day was one of the hardest days I have been through. Me and my friends, along with our entire school, were forced to face our mortality. It was a scary feeling.
I remember staying in the school's auditorium the rest of the day. I was too unstable to be in class, but I couldn't bear the thought of being home alone. My friends and I shared stories of the boys, added more letters, pictures, flowers, and candles to the memorial, and held one another.
My brother came home for Jacob's funeral the next weekend. When we walked out of the church sanctuary, we held on to each other's hand. It was only for a moment, but it was a bond only siblings can feel. I held him up when he needed it, and he held me up when I needed it.
The boys were only 18 years old and they died one day apart. They both had kind and giving spirits and I think of them often. I am now three years older than they ever will be. It still hurts when I think of them. I will never understand why two wonderful young men had to be taken away from our community so quickly. Maybe some things don't get easier, but no matter what, they always make you stronger.
My song this week for Goodnight Moon is a tribute to these boys and the other friends we have lost along the way.
While I was writing this post, a mass email went out from my college's president. Two freshmen from my school were killed in a car accident last night and two were critically injured. Maybe this week will never be easy.