I am incredibly sad tonight.
Around 11 AM, I found out via Facebook that one of the firefighters killed in the Yarnell, AZ, fire was someone with whom I went to school from elementary through high school. While I was in college, he was in a serious relationship for several years with one of my first cousins, so I would see him at holidays and other family events with her.
But my memories of Eric are not from those later years, but always from high school. I remember a cute boy, a really good athlete, soft-spoken and somewhat socially awkward.
And I am saddened by his death.
I am also saddened by the tremendous wave of nostalgia that has engulfed me as all the memories of high school have flooded back as a result.
For me, this was the time in my life of true innocence. I had yet to encounter anyone with an ulterior motive; good things seemed to happen to good people; I didn’t really know any “bad” people. I was blessed beyond all measure.
Life was: football games, homework, talking on the phone (a land line), passing notes (no texting), spending the summers at the lake, the smell of sweat in the school gym, cruising town on the weekends, going on dates, gossiping about who was dating who, trying to find enough money to go to McDonald’s after school, cheerleading practice, T-P’ing someone’s house….
That innocence, that fun, that lack of responsibility — it makes me sad to think about how I didn’t appreciate those wonderful days when I was there.
Everyone always says that “if they knew then, what they knew now….” If I knew then, what I know now, I would breathe in even more precious minutes than I did. Knowing now what I know now, there’s nothing stopping me from doing that.
And if I knew then, what I know now, I would take extra minutes to ask Eric (and Tammy, and Chuck, and Scott, and Kim and all the others that we have lost so young), “Hey! Want to hang out?”