I’m certain we went to junior high together. Somehow our paths didn’t cross until high school. And even then, we were sophomores before we really started to become friends.
You were an interesting sort of outcast, incredibly loving, outgoing, and hateful of nobody. Being plus-sized didn’t help in a high school filled with kids whose parents wouldn’t think twice of buying little Suzy a nose job for a sweet sixteen present. But all you had to do was open your mouth and sing and you’d leave them all with their jaws on the floor.
We laughed a lot. There was that day you pissed off one of the popular girls by telling her you didn’t understand how she was going to pledge the “Christian” sorority at the university you were both going to be attending, because the systematic exclusion of girls who weren’t “good enough” for the sorority didn’t sound very Christian to you. I’ll never forget that.
You went away to New Jersey for seminary. I still have one of your letters in a box of old memories. Your handwriting was very distinctive, and every time I find myself going through things it catches my eye and makes me smile.
One of your trips home for a visit we had coffee. I remember exactly where we were and what you were wearing. That was the day you came out to me. You knew about you well before I ever knew about me, and I was so honored that you chose me as one of the people it was important enough to you to tell.
Later, when I came out, you were one of the few who didn’t judge me for any of the things that had happened. You knew him and cared about him but you also understood and loved us both. We talked often, emailed often, and talked about going to our high school reunion only if we both could go.
The cancer hit hard and fast. You fought for a long time. A long time. You were too sick for the reunion, but battled long after. Your wife took over the email updates when you could no longer do them.
And then you were gone.
29 years old.
In your life you’d fulfilled your dream of becoming a minister and lived an authentic life. You loved someone who loved you.
Thank you for showing me what living your truth meant.
I miss you.