So I received some terrible news tonight… and while sitting alone in my apartment trying to decide just how to appropriately cope with the loss of a dear friend, I decided to turn to writing. I haven’t blogged in a while… not even sure what will come of this entry… however it seemed fitting that I turn back to writing by the loss of someone who inspired many of my hero characters of my adolescent stories. Because that’s what Dain was. That’s how I will always remember him… he was a hero. Not just in the sense that he died fighting for our country, although that would be enough. No, Dain was different… for those that had the honor & pleasure of knowing him, you know what I mean. For those that didn’t, you missed out, but I will try and put it into words, although words could never do him justice. He was a friend… and not just to those in his “clique” like so many in high school. I was never a popular person… that just wasn’t my calling back then. However, there was never a time that he let me feel outcast or unwanted. I still remember sitting in math class in 7th (or was it 8th) grade, passing notes back and forth on my calculator (that not only graphed but had a huge keyboard, making it easy to discreetly pass messages about how boring the class was). And he was funny… you could always count on Dain for a laugh. And smart… I think he always underestimated how intelligent he was, as did a lot of the people around him back then. But he knew things - both book smart and common sense smart. He would make it a point to sit near me during a test (I was a geek, alright?!) but I really don’t think he needed to at all… perhaps it was a comfort thing. But I can’t say I minded, because having someone like Dain in your life, in any capacity, was a pure blessing. In all aspects, he was a hero… the kind of guy that authors base their leading men around… the knight in shining armor who would do just about anything for anyone who needed him.
After high school, we lost touch. I moved away and didn’t much want to look back at all. But when I saw him last summer at a sporting event back home, it was like no time had passed at all. He still had his bright smile and friendly demeanor that just made everything seem perfect. Although we didn’t talk much, it was enough to leave an impression in my mind that I’ll never forget.
I remember first finding out earlier this fall that he was overseas fighting for our country. I immediately put together a care package and a letter… anyone serving overseas deserves at least that, but Dain especially. This past Tuesday, I received a letter back from him and just like that, my heart was light again. Despite everything that was going on over there, he was charismatic and funny, just like back in high school. He even started the letter out with “Dear Southdown”… a nickname that I don’t think has been used since he used it so many years ago. I’m so thankful for that letter, as it will be with me always. I had sent him a bag of Jolly Ranchers, which he informed me he had eaten in one sitting (some things never change!!) and made him sick. Typical :)
I had written in my original letter about how I couldn’t believe we had been out of high school for over 10 years, and how we were turning 30. His response is chilling now, but I wanted to share with those who knew and loved him… his words will be in my mind forever: ”I can’t believe we’ve left school over ten years past. Everyone was right, the time passes so fast. What a great time it’s been though! I wouldn’t trade any of it. Even though I’m here, I couldn’t be more content in life. Most days I wake up just thankful to be alive! Life is wonderful!”. Even in the darkest of situations over there, he still found time to appreciate the beauty in life…. how wonderful things are. I feel like all too often, I focus on the negative. This letter, his words, and his passing, all have helped me to realize just how beautiful life is.
I can’t bring him back… I bet many of us wish we could. Because dying at 29 years old isn’t fair for anyone, especially for such a great man. However, what we CAN do is read his words… focus on the beauty of life… and live every day to the fullest just as he would.
R.I.P. Dain - you will surely be missed. Thank you for your sacrifice, and God Bless!