9 years ago today I received some news. It was tragic news. It was the kind of news that just makes you go numb. You're unsure of how to react. You'd panic, but you're too stunned to panic. You want to do something but your mind and body can't get it together to figure out what to do. I remember standing in the stairwell of my dorm at the University of Colorado at Boulder wanting to cry and scream and punch something all at once before a wave of disbelief and shock settled upon me. 9 year ago today the world lost some of the kindest, most loving and giving people it could lose. Terry and Wendy Allie (known affectionate as "Bud & Wendy") were not my parents, but they were family, and they treated me like a son.
During my junior high years I found myself a deeply angry, bitter and confused kid. I couldn't make sense of a lot of what was going on around me and felt a burning fire of discontent and disillusionment. I tried to bury all of that, to build walls and hide from the world what was within me. I tried to struggle with this alone, but Bud & Wendy wouldn't let me. I would see them weekly (Bud was a youth pastor and ran a youth group for junior highers Wednesday nights) and slowly but surely through listening ears and soft voices, they would help me sort it all out. I trusted them like no one else and felt understanding or at the very least comfort from them no one else had been able to provide. Their loss 9 years ago left a gap in me I'm still figuring out how to mend.
These were amazing people. I am not the only one who has deeply mourned their loss ever since. They left behind two children (I love you, Lauren & Bryan) a church, and a wider community that I know felt suddenly empty. They had impacted so many lives. I remember being overwhelmed by the number of people who had attended the wake and funeral. Every death is difficult & seems meaningless but these ones seemed so much harder to understand. How could two people who bring so much love and positive vibes to this world be taken away so easily? What would we all do without them?
I think about death a lot. It's a recurring theme in my life, and I've written about it before in a post called "Death. Loss. Change. Transition. Where Do We Go From Here?" I also wrote a few months back about Loss and Life After. In both of those posts I grappled with the meaning of events like this. I struggled to find the next steps, and ended up realizing healing only comes through community. Bud & Wendy meant the world to me but I know there are so many others out there who would read this and think back fondly of the impact those individuals had on their lives.
Their death still doesn't make sense to me, and never will. I'm still going to cry every September 20th, and frequently throughout the year as I'm reminded of them. But as I continue to grow as a man I can directly think back to what role they played in molding me into this man I'm becoming. They're not with us anymore in the flesh but what they gave this world and the people that got to know them can never be taken away.
I know they're with me in spirit and still inspiring me the way they did all those years ago. I feel like Bud is still watching Bears games with me, wearing his Dick Butkus jersey, and Wendy is still cheering me on while I run.
Those are comforting thoughts, but really the most eloquent words that sum up what I cannot come from the band Switchfoot and the song "Yesterdays". I've included it below. As the lyrics say "Every lament is a love song...and until I’m with you, I’ll carry on."
Flowers cut and brought inside Black cars in a single line Your family in suits and ties And you're free
The ache I feel inside Is where the life has left your eyes I'm alone for our last goodbye But you're free
I remember you like yesterday, yesterday I still can't believe you're gone, oh... I remember you like yesterday, yesterday And until I'm with you, I'll carry on
Adrift on your ocean floor I feel weightless, numb, and sore A part of you in me is torn And you're free
I woke from a dream last night I dreamt that you were by my side Reminding me I still had life In me
I'll carry on
Every lament is a love song Yesterday, yesterday I still can't believe you're gone So long my friend, so long