“Oh this too shall pass. This loneliness won’t last for long.
I wasn’t there to take his place; I was ten thousand miles away.
So when you hear my voice, and when you say my name, may it never give you pain.”
– Gale Song, The Lumineers
I started this post a week after my baby cousin died and it’s taken me until now to finish it. Partially because I still can’t believe it all to be true, and partially because there are no words to convey all the feelings I have over the span of one day, let alone 6 months. However, I knew I wanted it to be done in time for his birthday, so here’s my best shot.
Over these past 6 months, my family has gone through what none should. Our Zachary was killed while riding his motorcycle in his hometown of Cave Creek, Arizona. My family lost a son, a brother, a cousin, a nephew, a grandson, and a best friend…it’s an indescribable emptiness that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
I go back to that night so many times. Getting the news the following morning instantly shattered me, as it did every member of my family. Anyone who knows me knows that my cousins are my siblings; there is no difference between the two in my mind. Losing one of my cousins is like losing a limb. I have very little recollection of the moment I found out he was gone, but I know I sobbed…and screamed…and tried to figure out how this could happen to my baby cousin, to our family. An unfathomable pain swept across my heart and as much as we know that time heals all wounds, our family will never be the same. He is irreplaceable.
Zachary would have been twenty-three today. My heart aches to know he won’t see twenty-three…or twenty-five, or fifty, or ninety, but I know that, in those moments of sadness, God stills my mind. He reminds me of His plan and the fact that we’ll all be together one day. People that know me, know that I am a planner; I get excited about putting events and parties together and being with friends and family, no matter what the occasion. I see this reunion as the ultimate “party.” We will all be happier than we could ever imagine because we will be together again in God’s kingdom and I honestly cannot wait for that day. To hug you again and to see your sweet smile and hear your hearty laugh…that’s all I could ask for.
I have seen things since we lost our Zachary that have really changed my outlook on this entire situation. Something that I heard a lot was acknowledgment of how tight-knit my family is. While this was absolutely true before April 20th, this tragedy has allowed me to see my family come together in a way I honestly didn’t know was even possible. We cried a lot, we laughed, we held each other up. We spoke when words were needed and sat in silence when they were not. And we hugged…we really hugged. For the first time in our lives, we knew what it felt like to wake up one day and have our entire world be broken. We made sure that each other was okay before ourselves. There was a selflessness between every one of us that gave me such a sense of security…we were going to get through this together. We saw friends and family from around the country, and around the world, fly to Arizona to be together, donate money, or send their words of encouragement. It’s easy to remember the anger and negativity surrounding this horrible tragedy, but it takes courage and strength to find a positive in it and I found my “positive” in my family.
During these 6 months, my faith has been tested. The devil tempted me time and time again to blame God. “How could He let this happen? If He was a true God, these horrible things wouldn’t happen.” In those moments, I am reminded that God’s plan is bigger than anything I can comprehend. As much as it hurts, the tears that I cry are because I miss him and I wish this painful experience didn’t happen, but not because I don’t believe that he’s in a better place. I admit there are times where I slip into a dark place and these questions taunt me, but I am lucky to have found our church, Fearless L.A., to remind me of that peace that God offers us every single day.
If I have learned anything from losing Zachary, it’s simply that I will live more freely, I will love more deeply and I will become more like him. Zachary lived a simple life with a motto that was essentially “Do What Makes You Happy.” In February, he posted an Instagram of his motorcycle in the sunset with the quote “Enjoy the view you’re given.” That seems so easy, but how many times a day do we take our “view” for granted? Or just say “yes” to things we really don’t want to do? Or brush off the simple every day things…our health, our family, our friends, a roof over our head, our jobs…? Or pass up an opportunity because we think we’re too busy? Or worry more about material things and less about the people we spend our time with? Zach really understood that the biggest things in life are your friends and family and just having a beer or two at a “beer-cade” bar in Chicago and grabbing a pizza at Lou’s is best way to hang out. During this time, I have learned really evaluate what I care about and what is important to me and hold on to it…and hold on tight.
Z – We’ve heard time and time again that you lived your life to the fullest. You never took a day, or a moment, for granted. I can’t give you a physical birthday present this year, but I can make you a promise to continue my life with your mindset…to not pass up an opportunity that comes my way and not be afraid to fail. To try for that promotion, to say “yes” to grabbing a drink with a new friend, to wake up early and look at the sunrise every once in a while, to thank God for everything He’s blessed me with in this life, to live every single second like the next isn’t promised and to face life head-on in all its excitement, hardships and quiet moments. Thank you for teaching me the importance of those things.
“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard?”
Happy first heavenly birthday, my angel. I’ll be missing you and I’ll see you soon, but until then, You’ll Be In My Heart…