Saturday, August 31, 2013

Eric Anderson

It's obvious I fell off the bandwagon on my New Years Resolution of writing monthly gratitude letters.

Tonight, I'm picking that resolution back up, to honor the most amazing man I have ever had the pleasure to call a friend.

Eric Anderson and I met my second year at USU. He lived next door to me, and we became inseparable friends from the very beginning.

Eric died on the first day of classes this semester, while riding his bike on campus.

I had no idea this had happened. When I got to class Tuesday morning, we briefly talked about the accident up at USU, where a guy ran into a rope while riding his bike down a hill and it killed him. Being nursing students, we talked about the physiological means to dying on impact, and we emptily voiced our hopes that the family was alright.

I can still remember the absolute anguish I felt when my old roommate, Brianna, called me and told me that the nameless boy who died the day before was Eric. The first second I was frozen in shock. I had just seen him post a witty quote on Facebook just a few days before. He had just liked my new profile picture on Sunday. Then, it sunk in, and I fell to the floor. In reality, I slid down the side of a row of lockers and crammed myself into a small space between the lockers and the wall. All I remember was the loud sob that escaped my lungs, while Brianna sat on the phone saying nothing. I hung up with her in-between sobs, and I tucked my head to my knees and cried.

Of course, practically everyone in the nursing program saw this happen in the hallway, because we were all on a quick break to stretch our legs. Immediately my professor was crouched on the ground next to me, asking what had happened. I managed to croak out that the boy we had been talking about just hours ago was my dearest, closest friend. I was ushered to my feet, my bags magically appeared in my hands, and my program director escorted me to the grief councilor on campus. I'm sure he meant well, but he did nothing to calm the pain inside my heart. I eventually got myself home to my empty apartment, and I cried harder and harder as memory after memory of Eric floated through my mind.

His funeral was today. It was beautiful and peaceful and healing. The Eric that I knew and loved looked nothing like the Eric lying in the casket, but his old dingy trumpet lay across his lap and I completely lost my composure when I saw it. Eric and his marching band trumpet. He had so many adventures with that old thing; it felt so right to see him lying there with it in his hands. I have never been to a funeral that had as much laughter as Eric's did. He was such a wonderful, funny guy. It was impossible to see him and not smile. He was my daily dose of laughter. His family was wonderful, and they immediately recognized me from a picture Eric and I had just taken in July, before my trip to Australia. They lovingly called me Eric's Ice Cream Friend, and it made my heart soar.

I tell this next part of the story with solemnity and seriousness. This part is sacred and special to me, and it has been integral to my healing process. Eric's father spoke during the funeral, and he said that Eric was likely going around to each person in the room and giving them a hug from Heaven. I thought it was an accurate and beautiful idea which fit Eric perfectly. He continued speaking, and a few minutes later, I closed my eyes and lowered my head. Upon closing my eyes, I saw Eric crouched in front of me, wearing all white, with a beautiful, kind and reassuring smile on his face. He looked me in the eyes, and placed a hand on my knee. I opened my eyes to stare into the space where I had just seen him, and an overwhelming peace settled on my heart. It was his way of telling me he was safe and happy in Heaven.

So, Eric, here is my gratitude letter to you, because I want you to know how much you meant to me.

Dear Eric,

My life has been made infinitely better by having you in it. I am truly lucky to have known you, and to have had a special place in your heart. How can I express all the love I have for you? I truly don't think it is possible, but I take comfort in knowing that with your new vantage point in Heaven, you can clearly see for yourself how much I cared for you. All my memories of you are incredibly important to me, now that you have moved on to the next part of your life. I will miss your humor, and all your witty posts on Facebook. I will miss you 'liking' my pictures, and calling me your wife. My heart aches when I think of the rest of my life without you in it, but I am comforted by the knowledge that you are watching out for me and rooting for me to succeed.

You always cared so deeply about the people in your life. I always felt important around you, and I was always so excited to tell people I knew you personally. The world has lost one of it's most selfless members, and there is such a big part of me that wishes everyone could have known you. I know that their lives would have been made better by it. I know you are now busy making Heaven a happier and brighter place, and I am sure there's a trumpet and marching band that have been waiting for you to show up since the day you left Heaven the first time.

It is obvious that you were a prized son of God. So much so, that He couldn't stand to be in Heaven one more day without you. I take comfort in the knowledge that when Heavenly Father decides to bring me back home, you will be waiting with Him to give me a huge hug. I look forward to that hug so much.

I will always dwell on our last text message conversation. We were trying to make plans to meet up again before winter, but our busy schedules weren't matching up well at all. You said we absolutely had to meet up at least once before I moved to Florida, or to another country, or whatever it took to fulfill my dreams. I laughed and replied that you were acting like I was dying and that you would never see me again. You laughed too and said that you would always find ways to see me, regardless of where life took me.

Oh, Eric, if I had only known. I think back to that hug you gave me before we left Brianna's wedding reception. It was so warm and loving, and we just stood in the parking lot, locked in a hug for minutes. I've never hugged a person for so long before in my life. Did you know? Did you know Heavenly Father was going to be calling you back home just a few months later?

The last time I saw you in person was our low key miniature golf date in July. You were so determined to give me my birthday present, so I made sure to find an open weekend to drive home to see you. We golfed for hours and made fun of each other, and eventually found our way back to your car out front. With excitement in your eyes, you pulled out a cooler from your trunk and handed me my own container of Aggie Blue Mint ice cream which you had driven down all the way from Logan (a two hour drive). We sat on the grass and ate our ice cream, and excitedly shouted "Airplane!" every time we spotted one on it's way to the Salt Lake International Airport. I was so excited for my trip to Australia that most of the conversation focused on me. But he sat there smiling, and we laughed and talked in the parking lot for at least two more hours.

Eventually you took me home, and I wish I could go back in time to hug you tighter and longer. It was a quick hug goodbye, because if someone would have told me then that you would pass away almost exactly a month later, well, I would have laughed in their face.

Eric, I am honored to have been your "wife" on Earth. Even though the nicknames of husband and wife started as jokes, I was so lucky that they took on a life of their own, leading us to care for each other more deeply than we likely would have if the nicknames hadn't existed. I thank my roommates for bestowing the titles of mom and dad on us that year at USU, because it lead to a close and lasting friendship between the two of us. I am so happy that I was able to fill that role of wife for you, even though it held no legal standing. I am thrilled yet slightly jealous to hand that title over to the woman in Heaven who has no doubt captured your heart. I am sure she's been waiting for you to show up for quite some time now, and I hope she loves you even more than I loved you.

You were always so supportive of my nursing education. You never missed an opportunity to encourage me in my tests, or reassure me that the hard parts would eventually pass. You knew I would be an amazing nurse on the days that I sincerely doubted myself. Thank you for your support, Eric. It meant the world to me.

I have decided to dedicate this last year of nursing school in honor of you. I know that even though you can't physically reassure me of my abilities, I have no doubt that you will find ways to reassure me spiritually to get me through this year.

So here's to you Eric. This last year of school is 100% in your honor. I hope I'll do you proud.

All my love

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