I sat alone in the forest and gave a gentle cry as the tears barely hit my gritty orange shirt. A preconceived game of hide-and-seek lasted forever as everyone gave up on finding me—no one cared. I criss crossed my stubby legs and looked into the ever growing roots of a tree covered by my size 7 vans. I heard movement from behind me and turned to meet the legs of a 6 foot giant with orange-red hair, cut up jeans, and gentle face. He found me. Shocked at his precedence, I just stared. He broke the forest’s silence with, “you’re Zion right?” I mustered my strength to whisper a “yeah.” He gave me a half-pitying smile and helped me up. He said “My name’s Chris.”
Chris Petershmidt was my best friend throughout my journeys in prepubescent adolescences. As I moved from a public school to a charter school in seventh and eight grade, I learned the best friends always show kindness to others. While I indefinitely attracted bullies with my bowl cut, chubby faced, skittishness, Christ held his own through his height, yet he chose to be friends with me even though others bullied me. He defended me. I respected his choices and never forgot his kindness.
My family enjoyed Chris as well. He was always polite to my mother and grandmother and constantly defended my sister even though she knowingly deserved the trouble she caused. I would often pickup Chris before church and bring him with me and my family. He would spend many days with my family because he lived in hard conditions. To keep it brief, Chris always had a rougher home life than most, which reflected the strength he was required to have as he persevered through school.
As our time in middle school came to an end, we slowly grew separated. I moved away to a boarding school, and Chris transferred to a new public school. With both of us reset, we again started our lives in our new schools, which resulted in a weakening of communication that ultimately led to me losing contact with Chris. When high school finally came to an end, I tried to find Chris in the summer. With his constant moving of addresses, lack of consistent phones and social media, it made it nearly impossible to find him. I quickly gave up when time was not lacking.
Last night, nearly a year later, I heard from Chris’s family in sadness. I learned that a few months earlier Chris had passed away. He committed suicide to escape the loneliness and hardship of life. No note. No letter. An early death for such a young, kind, and loved person by the hand of his own sadness. I cried again like I did in middle school and remembered the times I had with Chris. I was angry. I was sad. I felt helpless and like a child who had something stolen from him. And with his death, I felt as though I lost a part of myself.
In the loss of such a close family friend, a brother, I couldn’t help but feel responsible. I felt responsible for my lack of strength in finding him or keeping in communication. I felt responsible for the tears his mother and sister felt when they found him. I felt responsible for the degradation of someone so close to me. I wish I could go back and change what I had done, but the past is only something I can learn from. It’s always hard to feel as though something can be learned from these events. In my mourning, I try to find some of these answers.
Constantly, we are consumed in our lives by small events. Work seems more important than family and soon we lose time with the people we love. We have all lost someone before, and we can all relate in the fact that it will hurt forever to know someone is gone. In all this realization, we continue to live our lives speeding down a highway of life. We pass people, different roads, and different places in the blink of an eye. Perhaps the important things in life are forgotten as we are consumed with ourselves. In my hubris, I forgot about what was important in life and again I am reminded how little our day-to-day lives can be.
Our day-to-day lives are also filled with small moments of the people we love. Those moments fill the cracks in a broken armor we attempt to wear around others. When those people are gone, the tiny moments are the ones we remember. I wish I had cherished more of the moments I had with my best friend. He truly was a person of kindness and virtue, and I wish I had more time with him. He will forever live in my heart as I fight my own demons, and I hope we all can learn something from Chris—make time for the people you love. As we all hide in our forest’s from the problems of life, cherish the people who find you.
May the heavens forever greet your kindness.