Monday, September 13, 2010


heart•broken: crushed with sorrow or grief
heart•ache: emotional pain or distress; sorrow; grief; anguish

On Saturday morning, I awoke full of excitement. Friends were on their way over, the carpet had been ripped up, the saws stood at the ready. We were finally getting around to replacing the floors downstairs! This project had been a long time comin' and the timing was perfect. Ethan was with my parents for the weekend and the beautiful fall weather made such a huge project much more bearable.

Minutes after our friends arrived, as I swept the dust off the concrete slab, my phone rang. Thinking it was someone calling to tell us they were on their way over, I took my time getting to the phone. When I saw the name of a high school friend pop up on the caller ID I thought, "that's odd", and answered. Laughing, I explained all the loud noises in the background and went outside where I could hear her a little better.

"Joye, have you talked to anyone this morning?" she asked, nervously. I hadn't, and I never like when I'm asked that question. It usually means really bad news is to follow.

I was right.

I screamed and collapsed on the grass when she told me that one of my best friends had been killed in a car accident early that morning. I sobbed and yelled for Jeramie, leaving her on the phone to hear all those raw emotions come spilling out. I apologized. "Honey," she said, "I knew you would want to know, and I knew you would react this way. It's OK." I cried harder.

I eventually hung up with her and gasped for breaths while Jeramie held me tight, not knowing what was happening. When I finally gained enough composure to speak, I looked up at him and squeaked out, "Michael's dead."

Michael was the guy that everyone loved. He was a laid-back, all around good guy. He seemed to know everyone, and everyone knew him. He came from a good family and respected those around him. We went to school together for as long as I can remember, but became really good friends our freshman year of high school. My parents adored him, and my sister looked to him as an older brother.

Our friendship grew, and we attended prom together our senior year of high school. Looking back on that night, I'm sure that he would've liked to have been with his typical group of friends, partying the night away. Instead, he spent the evening making me feel like the prettiest girl in the ballroom. I'll never forget that night.

I went away to college after graduation and Michael and I remained great friends. I had just gone through a break-up with another guy when Michael asked me out on our first date. What followed was a series of dates, a first kiss, and him spending part of every holiday at my parents' house with my family. We never established ourselves as a couple, but there was no denying that we each held a special place in each others' hearts.

Fast-forward to January 2005 -- Michael and I had grown apart and I met Jeramie one beautiful winter day. Not long after Jeramie and I began dating, Michael called, asking to go out again. Of course, I turned him down ... not exactly the answer Michael was expecting. It was not an easy conversation to have, and that was the last time I heard from him.

For five and a half years, I struggled with what Michael thought of me. It didn't consume my thoughts, but there were times I couldn't not think about it. Every time I went back home, I scanned the streets for his truck, wondering if that would be the day that we reconciled our feelings. I missed his friendship, but I was in the midst of experiencing a love greater than anything I had ever known. Jeramie understood; everyone has "that person" in their past.

At one point, I wrote Michael a letter. I told him that I was sorry and that I missed him. I told him I was happily married, and hoped the same for him. I included every piece of contact information for me that I could think of. Months went by as I waited for a response. Nothing.

Then, just this past spring, the time came to plan our 10-year high school reunion (which never happened, by the way). It was my job to make contact with different groups of people to let them know about the reunion. Michael fell into one of those groups, but I had no idea where to start. I ended up sending his sister a Facebook message, asking her for his contact information. When she responded with a phone number, my heart pounded at the thought of talking to him again. I knew it wouldn't just be a simple conversation about a party.

I was right.

We talked for hours that night. We cried. I told him about Ethan, and he shared some details of his life with me. Although I was nervous at first, talking to him became just as easy as it had always been. We kept in touch in the following weeks and decided to have breakfast together one morning while I was in town.

(PS - Jeramie is aware of every minute of our conversations, and encouraged me to meet with Michael in person. I have an excellent, graceful, compassionate husband. Just sayin'.)

We had such great conversation that morning. He met Ethan and was interested in everything about him. If only I had taken that picture of Michael holding him... He expressed interest in meeting Jeramie. He caught me up on day-to-day life, and let me in on some personal parts of his life as well; I heard parts of his soul that I hadn't had access to in a long time. He asked about my family, and we talked about typical small-town drama. It was perfect.

We managed to stay in touch through the month of July and were supposed to meet up during my sister's last weekend in Wilmington. He was going to meet Jeramie and have a chance to say bye to Jessi. For reasons I will never know, he didn't show up. He never responded to my text asking where he was, and I never heard from him again.

But, this time, I never will.

My heart has literally ached ever since I found out about Michael's death. I looked up "broken heart syndrome" and I'm pretty sure I'm self-diagnosing myself. I've walked around with red, puffy eyes since Saturday morning, and I burst into tears at random times. I hate, hate, hate that I didn't get to see him one last time, but I'm extremely thankful for that perfect morning we spent sharing our lives over breakfast. I am thankful for reconciliation, for forgiveness, for love, for peace.

I am in deep prayer for Michael's parents and his younger sister. He, along with two others, died in that tragic car accident, affecting more people than I can even fathom. I am praying for those families as well, that they will be afforded the opportunity to experience that same level of reconciliation, forgiveness, love, and peace.

I will be going home tomorrow for Michael's services. In a tragic, sick way, it looks as though we'll have our class reunion after all. I will see people I haven't seen in years, and I will say my final good-bye to Michael.

And then, when his body is placed in the ground on Wednesday morning, I will be burying a little piece of my heart with him.


Jen Foster said...

What a beautiful tribute to a very special relationship. I don't know what to say other than I am shedding a tear with you and will pray for his family. And for you.

Dana Enzor said...

Thanks girl for sharing such a great story with us. I only know a bit of your pain, but know that I am here for you. My heart breaks with yours over this loss. I love this picture of you two, you look so carefree and happy - I'm glad that he could give that night to you! I would love to hear more about Michael if you ever want to talk, I know that sharing those memories of him is both hard and freeing, so if you just wanna walk and talk let me know.

I'm praying that you experience any and all of your feelings freely, without shame and that at some point in your life you will be able to look back at your time spent with him and laugh at the good times without a sad cry.

Love you girl, and I'm here when you need me, anytime.

Tiffanie said...

Joye i know how you feel i have been crying as well. My birthday was Friday the 10th and i knew i was going out to celebrate but didnt know what i was going to do yet so when i was hanging out with him downtown two weekends ago i didnt say anything b.c i knew i had his number and i was just going to text everyone when i knew what i was doing. well i text everyone including him wed night but did not hear back from him. really didnt think anything of it figured he was busy or something. went out for my birthday and woke up to a phone call from my mom she was asking me if i knew the sessoms, told her no, (she was online with a friend of hers that was telling her what had happened) but asked her why so she was telling me the story as she was getting it from her friend and started listing the names of everyone in the truck when she said michaels name i started crying and saying no over and over again. mom was like calm down it might not be the same person she is thinking this guy is 22 or 23 i was like no thats my friend he is 28 i calmed myself down and said well i will call him and pray that he answers, thats when i found out his number had changed and he never got my text. then when i saw your post on facebook it confirmed it. all i could think was if i had only said something to him two weekends ago when i saw him i would have known his number had changed and could have gotten the new one unless he changed it within the two weeks. and he would have more then likely been out with me instead of at the bar that is if he didnt have anything set in stone. and maybe this would not have happend but i know you can never tell and if he would have left from where we were and had the same thing happen i would have felt a million times worse. i went back looking for pictures from one night we hung out at the bar and then went to the waffle house and can not believe i didnt take any pictures i always take pictures unless it is the same thing over and over again but this night was something new had not been to that bar in a while and was hanging out with different people so very odd that i didnt take any. always worse when you look back and say damn why didnt i do that now i will never get the chance to. but i am so glad that you got that morning with him and was able to reconcile. if you need to talk or a shoulder to lean on i am always here just a phone call or message away. i know we have not seen each other in years and hate that we are going to see each other for the first time in YEARS under these conditions, but either way i am always here for you.

Jenn said...

Joye, I'm so sorry about your friend! I will be praying for you and for his family and the others as well. Love you!

Stefenie said...

I am so sorry about your friend. What a wonderful husband you have to have been so supportive of you mending that friendship. Not many husbands would have been so understanding. Glad you had that opportunity to reconnect.

Saying lots of prayers for healing for everyone.

kirsten michelle said...

I'm so, so sorry Joye. So sorry.


The Smith's said...

Oh Joye, I am so sorry to read about the passing of your dear friend. When I was six months pregnant with Luke, I lost a dear high school friend as she was hit by a van biking to work. It is so hard and I am so sorry.

Jen said...

I am so sorry about the loss of your friend. I have a person like that in my life, too, and I can't imagine losing him. My prayers are with you and the other families as well.


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