For the past few days I've been trying to find the words to write this, but kept getting stuck. I've been a little overcome with emotions and feel just a little out of it. That said, there's something I wanted to share- if nothing more than to give a friend the recognition he deserves. This past week my in laws came to visit. While I was rushing around cleaning and doing laundry, I saw on my phone that I had a new email from one of my old college roommates. She's moving across the country and given that J. and I did that last year she was asking advice on the moving company we used, the process, etc. Then she made a joke about how our last Facebook conversation (since Facebook keeps those all together so you can humorously look back on what "was so important" 5 years ago) was about a crush she had on one of my best friends in school- Josh- and asked how he was. (For the sake of this not getting super confusing, I'm going to use Josh's name instead of "J." since that's what I call my husband here.)
I was about to write her back to give her some hints/suggestions etc. about moving as well as to tell her that I called Josh about 6 months ago but hadn't heard back from him and that last I heard he was back in Athens (our college town) helping with his brother's new bar when I got another email from her.
"Apparently Josh died?!?!"
I felt like I'd be slapped. That couldn't be. I'd know that, right? I mean, it's not uncommon for Josh and I not to talk for 6ish months at a time- he's a guy, there's the time difference, and he's always been kind of a free spirit, but there was no way he was dead. Of course, thanks to Facebook and the internet, there it was in black and white. One of my closest college friends had died. SIX MONTHS AGO. The funeral had come and gone and I'd had absolutely no clue. As I saw pictures of his mauled SUV, I completely lost it. I kept trying to figure it all out, but there wasn't a lot of information. Apparently they think he feel asleep at the wheel, lost control, drove off the highway, flipped multiple times and crashed into the woods. He wasn't drinking, but I don't think he had his seat belt on (which also wasn't always uncommon, but looking at the wreck, I doubt it would have helped anyways.)
So there I was, wanting to talk to someone who knew him, but realized that I didn't really know his friends and he didn't really know mine. (I mean, one of the only two people that knew both of us just told me he'd died.) J. knew him (and lovingly referred to him as "jean shorts Josh" because that's what he was wearing when they met) but I didn't have anyone else I could really talk to about him- to remember him- so I figured if you don't mind, I'd just share with all of you.
Josh was a senior when I was a freshman and we met in a color composition class. He was on his 2nd or 3rd major by that time (I'm thinking forestry and landscape architecture maybe? I'm a little fuzzy on that detail) and I was chipping away at the prereqs for becoming an art major. He was always late to class, had a full on mountain man beard (which he then cut into chops before taking his fraternity composite picture), was pretty much always smiling, and shared my sarcastic kind of dry sense of humor. Although I thought he seemed fun, we didn't really become friends until one day when our professor told me to go copy something downtown during class. When I said I'd just do it after class (I was still new to the college thing and didn't realize this was my get out of class early card) Josh promptly stood up and said he'd take me because he had to copy something too. As soon as we walked out of the building he playfully shoved me and laughed- saying "Seriously, Courtney? You've got to take this less seriously. It's just skipping color comp 101. You'll be fine." So then we went and had lunch because I knew there was no way this kid letting me go back to class anyhow so I might as well have a good afternoon.
It didn't take long for us to become friends. He kind of became like an older brother. He was always there for me, would talk me out of doing stupid stuff, as well as talk me into taking risks "because life is short." He also was an amazing hugger. The kind of person who'd pick you up in the middle of crowded gallery just because he was so happy to see you. We'd encourage each other's work (he finally settled on sculpture as a major and was incredibly talented) talk for hours about who we thought we'd be when we were older (he went between being a husband/father and a crazy man who lived in the woods and made art,) and pretty much just enjoy each other's company. He pushed me to take "Outdoor Adventures" (which J. is grateful for because it introduced me to kayaking and hiking and all the other outdoorsy things I now know and love) and never laughed or judged any of my crazy ideas/plans/thoughts. When he heard I'd broken up with my first serious boyfriend because I'd fallen in love with someone else he never second guessed it. He was just excited to meet this new guy that I wanted to marry. (In case you're wondering, my husband J. was that "someone else" so thank you Josh for encouraging me.)
Josh was such a good person. Warm, loving, enthusiastic about life. He didn't hold back letting people know that he cared about them, he was thoughtful, and as I mentioned above, an incredible artist/designer. He always gave his all and never blinked at taking a risk (I remember one phone call in particular where he told me he'd decided to go on a night paddle- which is already dangerous- and how he was trapped under a fallen tree "but made it out fine so not to worry.") Not surprisingly, I got a lot of those "don't worry about me" calls. Once he'd flipped his car, another close call kayaking, etc. etc. He was always on the move, living in new places, trying out new careers, and was always full of stories. But even with all of his craziness, I never thought there'd be a day that he wouldn't call back. That he'd be gone.
Like I said before, we hadn't talked for awhile aside from random voicemails. I knew he was back in our college town helping his brother and seemed really happy about that. (I'd never met his brother, but Josh always spoke really highly of him and I think he was just so happy to get to hang out with him.) But even though we hadn't spoken for months, he was always on my mind. I always hoped he was okay, happy, and was enjoying life. And I have no doubt, that although it was short (Josh was only 31), he had one of the most full lives of anyone I've ever met and I'm so lucky I had the chance to know him and call him my friend.
So yea. That's where I'm at right now. I wasn't going to write about this at all, but it just didn't seem right to do that. And I'm not writing this as a " don't taken life for granted" or "make sure you say I love you to those you love" although that's all incredibly important and things Josh always did. I'm simply writing this because I never want the Josh I knew and loved to be forgotten.
Thanks for listening, guys.