Hey kid. Shit, I can’t believe it’s been one year already—seems like it was just yesterday that Courtney messaged me on Facebook to tell me that you had died. It seems like just yesterday that I screamed in the darkness of my bedroom when I read that message, not caring if my neighbor heard me, my mind not even comprehending that you were dead.
Dead. You weren’t supposed to die, Z. We all prayed and begged the heavens that you would wake up, that we would get to see that goofy grin and hear you say “yooooo what’s good, why y’all look so sad…I’m okay”. That we would get to show you the pictures we took at the benefit held in your honor, tell you how worried we had been and how relieved we were that you made it, even if your brain and body needed some work. But you didn’t wake up. You died in some hospital bed in Metro because your body had just been through too much. You weren’t supposed to die, Z. You just weren’t.
I remember calling Reggie and Rico, texting Mike…not really being able to see my phone screen because I was crying so hard I was hyperventilating. I’m not a crier and yet I cried more tears that day than I think I have in my entire lifetime—so many tears that I had to throw my contacts away that night because they were so full of salt. Lydia came and sat with me on my porch while I cried and insisted that you weren’t supposed to die because you were Zach. You were so young and bubbly and kind and so full of life and you honestly were the last person I ever would have expected to say goodbye to in a funeral home. Even though I don’t want to, I can still see you in that casket, bow ties at your feet (because there really was no better way to pay tribute), hat on your head…I remember staring at your face, covered in that makeup that fails so badly at making a cadaver look lifelike, trying to find something that was you…I was in shock and denial and told myself there was no way that was you lying there. I remember looking at your hands and for some reason that triggered the switch inside me that said yes, this is Zach. I remember rushing past everyone to go outside and compose myself because I didn’t want to cry in front of everyone in that funeral home, but I cried anyway when I was back in that room, tears running down my face as I stood next to Maria and watched the video of you through your entire life. I remember thinking how unfair it was to have to say goodbye to you, how unfair that we were all so broken, how unfair that you were gone.
It’s still unfair. I lost my best friend. Your friends miss you, and your family aches for you. Your kids are doing well, your mother posts pics of them often on Facebook. I bought them presents for their birthday and so many of us bought them things for their first Christmas without you. I guess it’s a blessing and a curse that they were too young to understand what was going on, and too young to have really made tangible memories with you…it makes the loss easier and harder at the same time. They really are the cutest kids—your daughter is a beautiful little girl and your son has your personality from what I saw at the dinner after the funeral and from what your mom shares on social media. I try to check in on your mom every now and then, I know it’s what you would have done if roles were reversed in this situation. She’s such a strong woman and I see that you got a lot of who you were from her. You would be proud of her strength.
It’s been a hard year for me, and you dying was the first in the series of deaths I had to face—but you know that, because if there is some sort of an afterlife you are there with my dad and grandpa. I hope that you are keeping my dad company because I know he misses me and you two would get along so well. It was very hard to lose my dad and to not have you here to comfort me and to keep my mind busy, but you would have been happy to see that I kept it together and pushed through. I never realized how hard it would be to not have you here—other friends have stepped up, but it doesn’t fill the void completely.
I miss you. So much. It’s insane how often I forget you are gone and I find myself wanting to text you about the stupidest, most random things. I wish I could call you and sit on my floor and just talk to you—you had a way of being deep and inspiring one minute, and then silly and ridiculous the next. I miss you coming over and hanging out on my porch with me and just bullshitting while you sit on the steps and smoke your Black and Mild. I miss how you used to hide behind things and then jump out and scare me, and how hard you would laugh because you thought it was hilarious. I miss walking out of the craps pit with you, arm in arm, laughing and carrying on like we did when we still worked together, making fun of you on break when you still had that old ass phone that you had before your iPhone, and hanging out with you when we would all go to the club. I find myself scrolling through our old texts, looking at photos, laughing at goofy videos I have of you, and just reminiscing with everyone. Your death has left such a hole in our circle of friends—Craig and Daesha moved to Las Vegas, I barely speak to a few in the group, and we aren’t as close as we all used to be. I haven’t stepped foot in a nightclub since you died, and I haven’t gone Downtown to party since last June. It just doesn’t feel right.
I wish I could tell you that your family got justice in your death, but they really didn’t. The two men who killed you were sentenced to eight years in prison, and that doesn’t seem like nearly enough. Your life was worth so much more. You were truly a one-of-a-kind person who made an impression on everyone you met, and you were destined for great things that never came into fruition because you accidentally bumped into someone in a club. Yet again, I’ll say that wasn’t fair. So many things about your death were not fair.
I think about you all the time, I’m sure all your friends do. It stormed last night and I got this impulse to run in my backyard and play in the rain, and I decided that if there is some sort of a heaven I hope that you get to look down at us and see moments like that and smile. I hope you check in on all of us, that you have peace where you are, and that you are as happy as you can be without being on earth with us. I hope that you are wearing those skinny corduroy pants that you loved (cuffed at the ankles, of course), some Converses, that Army jacket you sweet-talked that lady at Chelsea’s into selling you, and your NY Jets cap, because no one could wear any of that like you. We all teased you, but you wore your unique style so well. You were a special individual that we were all so lucky to know, kid. I hope you knew that. I hope you knew that you made a difference in the world, and it’s hard for someone to do that–you managed to make such a positive impact on so many people in your short lifetime, and it breaks my heart that we will never get to see what you could have done had you lived.
I don’t think we truly knew how blessed we were to know you until you were gone.
I’m gonna wrap this up the best I can, I could probably go on, but I don’t have an eternity like you do! Keep watching over us, and we will keep trying to make your memory live on.
I love you, Boo Bear. Always will.