day 11 – a deceased person you wish you could talk to
Dear Mr. Dave,
We both knew this letter was coming. As I’m sure most anyone who knows me did. The easiest part was deciding to write to you. The hardest part? What to say.
When I look back at my thirteen-year-old self, cataloging the series of events that encapsulate the last seven years of my life, I can’t imagine it without your influence. How did I go from spending 20 hours a week with someone to having trouble remembering his voice?
The worst part of grieving is watching it slip away. Watching the person slip away, as you grow farther and farther away from That Girl You Were When They Were Still Alive.
Now, I look back and wonder if she would be happy with who I’ve become. If you would be.
You were the first person I lost whose death really shook me up. Challenged my faith in God, gymnastics, and myself. In the cold winter that followed, I gave up on myself and let the voices in my head override yours.
How do you justify taking someone away, removing them from the hearts of thousands of people across the globe?
After I calmed down on Thursday and drove my car back onto the road, I continued to focus on driving, but occasionally slipped back to the past. With each passing ambulance, each car accident, I was transported back to that cold December afternoon, standing in line at practice, shivering. Knowing with each whispered phone call that something had gone terribly wrong. Then, though, I couldn’t yet imagine the worst.
The words black ice freak me out. My heart rate skyrockets and I have to reassure myself that thinking something doesn’t make it happen. That I have met my car spinning out on I-81 quota for the year (twice).
And then I remember how much you’ve done for me. How much you’ve taught a group of antsy girls in leotards, too energized to stand still and listen. Too young to appreciate the lesson that transcended the sport.
You taught us to believe in ourselves, to be better people. You taught us to compartmentalize, to focus on one thing at a time. You taught us how our love can change the world by showing us how yours already did.
As we sat huddled in a packed funeral home, staring up at those older than us reading testimonies of a life cut much too short, we learned you had already changed hundreds of lives. That you were passionate about just about everything — coaching, your wife, and the sport of gymnastics.
We cried for days straight, leaning on each other for support. In part, we feared we had lost someone so great we couldn’t even yet comprehend it. And when all was said and done, we shared your love and lessons with the world.