Before last year I had never been close to anyone that died. I had never experienced the shock or the grieving that follows. Death was a tragedy that other people, not I or anyone close to me, had to experience. That ignorance quickly vanished on September 7, 2008. There was no warning. There was no predicting dream the night before. Death, more than ever before, was real. I remember the phone conversation exactly how it happened that morning; my friend Matt, imprisoned by his sudden emotions, telling me that our best friend was dead. His voice held no panic, only an eerie calmness that seemed to paralyze time. The words were cold and unfamiliar. They crawled through the phone alone, without hesitation. Chad, a loving son, brother, and our best friend, was dead.
Chad died that morning from an illness that had no right taking his life. Death had no right being present that Sunday. And Death had no right petrifying a family that day. The day Chad died, and the weeks and months that followed, was the worst days of my life. The pain I felt then, and the pain I feel now was so real, so fresh, and so frightening. But these emotions are selfish, and carry overwhelming guilt. I may have lost a friend, but it can never measure up to the tremendous loss that Uncle Rob, Gail, and Tyson (Chad’s parents and older brother) feel. To say that Chad’s death was unfair is, in itself, not fair. It is a pain that I do not understand, and hopefully never will. I cannot grieve without feeling the guilt and sorrow I have for his family.
I stopped believing that everything happens for a reason the day Chad died. But in the days that followed his death, I became a believer in something completely unexpected: human strength. From the most unsuspecting source, I witnessed the greatest display and expression of human strength, of which I had never seen before. In a time when love and support was supposed to be for them, Chad’s parents and brother acted in a manner that was and still is beyond words. At the open casket viewing, just days after Chad died, hundreds of people lined up to say their goodbyes and show their support for the family. I didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t know what to say to his family, other than “I’m sorry”. But when I entered the funeral home, Gail and Tyson wrapped their arms around me, and made me feel a sense of comfort that had been absent since Chad died. I walked forward and saw Uncle Rob waiting for me. He stood just thirty feet from his dead son, but his appearance was calm, and his smile warm. He put his arm around me and walked me toward Chad. He was comforting me. We approached the casket, and Chad laid there, hands folded, in a position I had seen on my couch hundreds of times. He looked peaceful. Uncle Rob waited with me as I said my goodbyes, standing over his fallen son with the same warm smile he welcomed me with. What happened next was beyond explanation, beyond human strength. Gail and Tyson greeted every person that stood in line that day, and Uncle Rob walked each one of them up to Chad with the same warmth and comfort he had with me. The four of them were together that day, working as a family to calm the hundreds who came to comfort them. An indescribable moment, filled with the beauty and grace of a family together again for the last time. It was human strength at its finest, and it was a moment that can never truly be expressed in words. It was a moment I will never forget.