January 28, 2012

Ten Years Later

There are dates in your life you are certain will stick with you forever. They seem at the time so profound, so defining, so much longer than just 24 hours. They serve as markers on our personal timelines that state: Yesterday I was one person, Today I am another.

I am sure more and more of these days come and go, and the older people around us can vouch for this.

If I think really hard, I can use math and a calendar to remember the day I tore my ACL. The day I made my first overhand serve. There's a picture of a cake to verify the memory of my first made basketball shot. My first liberating NBC Camp. Driving a car. High school graduation. My first kiss. Meeting Marc. Committing to Europe.

But even as all those moments were important, the statistics take on a haze, and become statements like, "Oh, when I was 10," and, "I think that was my first year of college."

There are only a handful of days that are so seared upon our memory, we cannot lose them to history.

This week has those days.

January 22, 2002: my beautiful, light-hearted, slightly rebellious best friend never shows up to our basketball game. Post-game, our small school hears the "can't-happen-to-me" news: the family has been in a serious car accident. Everyone is going to be okay - except 15-year-old Kristie, who has suffered a severe trauma to the head and is now in a coma on life support. Even if she does survive, she will likely have permanent brain damage.

We prayed and cried and pleaded for her healing; for that miraculous recovery we know only our God is capable of. Time shifted and slid in strange new directions. Our fragile worlds shattered, all we had was our faith and misunderstanding to lean on.

January 28, 2002: But instead of coming back to us, God decided it was Kristie's time to go Home. The void was real, and the earthly loss of young life changed all of our lives.

January 28, 2012: Ten years later, Kristie is still very much a part of the lives of those who loved her most. Her mom has created an incredible non-profit organization dedicated to preventing the same kind of car accidents (police chases that put innocent bystanders in danger). But not only do they work toward impacting legislation, Voices Insisting on Pursuit Safety serves as a phenomenal support group all over the country for families who have lost loved ones in the same way. Candy turned her grief into overwhelming support for others.

And me? Well, you know what I'm up to: living the life Kristie and I always dreamed about together. She got me so many Paris-themed gifts for birthdays and Christmas, my room at my parents' house still tells the story of how I ended up here. As far as how my grief was translated, you can ask the thousands (literally) of NBC campers from past summers. Kristie's death gave these kids a new life, every single week she was shared on the stage.

I learned a lot from Kristie when she was here, more from the week her body lingered in the hospital, and most from these past ten years. I learned death is nothing to fear because it is completely unavoidable and simply acts as the gate to eternity. I learned how to take risks like Kristie did. I learned how to honor Kristie by sharing her memory with everyone I met.

When a person close to you dies, you have two choices: 1) to die with them, or 2) to live for them. Make the choice that honors your loved one, and above all, honors God.

We ate a lot of Nestle Toll House cookies. We sang a lot of karaoke. We did a lot of homework. We watched A Knight's Tale way too many times. We swam in the summers. Played basketball in the winters. And we laughed everyday in between.

We all love and miss you. We can't wait to see you again.