Friday, September 14, 2018
September 11th, 2018 was a significant day. The anniversary of the biggest terrorist act the United States has ever seen, the day I came home from my first international trip, and the day that John H. passed away.
I won't pretend to have been really close to you. If there are pictures of us together I don't know where they are. We never had deep philosophical discussions. We never talked much outside of camp, except for maybe when one of us was in the hospital. Truth be told, I don't even know when it was we first met, you were just always there, a part of either the MDA camp or Camp Promise West family.
I don't really have any stories, just facts and observations. You and I were the same age, 26. As a kid 26 seemed ancient. I lost my first close friend with Muscular Dystrophy when I was 13 and by 20 I had lost 1-3 friends from camp a year. 99% weren't yet 25 and none of them had ever made it to 30. That amount of death at such a young changes you in ways you don't always understand. For example: I don't grieve “normally,” whatever that means. When I find out another person from camp has passed it can take days or weeks before it sinks in. I won't cry until I hear that particular song/story or see that picture. Even then, I only allow myself one good crying session because I feel like anything more damages the memories of my friends. I am more desensitized to death than I should be at this age. Or maybe I'm not desensitized maybe I just don't feel like death really cancels out life.
Anyway, now that I am 26, it does not seem so ancient. There is still so much I have to see and learn and thanks to medical advancements in my particular form of MD, I might actually have time to do said things. So no, 26 isn't ancient but it is lonely. Especially when cabins at camp that used to be full grow more empty by the year.
I said before that John and I weren't close which is true. But there is a special bond you have with someone when you grow up together and both have Muscular Dystrophy. It's being silent and watching the sun set while you sit right next to each other, because sunsets mean a little more when you know you might not make it to 30. It's knowing that our 26 does not emotionally or physically feel the same as the average 26 year old. It's sharing war stories of hospital stays, crazy caregivers/counselors, or the times we almost died. It's sharing a mutual respect for death while simultaneously giving it the finger because neither of us would go without a fight. It's constantly perfecting our personalities because we know it is the only thing we have to draw people in.
Speaking of personalities, yours was 1 in a million, John. When it came to sass and eye-rolling you were my male equivalent. When it came to your accepting heart and perpetual willingness to listen we were not equals; you were the master. You were the only proud, Republican who could make anyone love him and it was because your heart was beautiful. And while you would roll your eyes at my different beliefs you'd never shut down the conversation and that is a rare quality. I will cherish all the moments we spent at camp joking around or just being near each other. I'm not sure what camp will be like without your music, fart machine, t-shirts, and most of all your laugh. The Blue Cabin might just be a bit more subdued.
And if you taught me anything, aside from how to just be a better human in general, you taught me how to appreciate all the moments. Now I suppose I have to figure out how to go hunting, shooting, [insert any other country thing you were into] in Montana without you. Because Angie, Amber, and I owe you a road-trip.