Remembering Tyler

I wanted to talk about food. About cookies and candies and holiday goodies and warm soups and apple sauce and wedding cakes and all manner of deliciousness.

But something sudden, shocking, and deeply sad has happened that has shaken me, my family, my friends, and my community. I’ve debated at great length whether or not I should talk about it here, on a blog about food. But it seems somewhat odd, especially when so many of you are a part of my community, to simply avoid it, when I am finding it impossible to write about, or even think about, much else.

On Saturday, a friend of mine from high school perished, along with three others, in a plane crash near my hometown. I’m from a fairly small town, and I doubt there are many residents unaffected by the loss of one of these people.

I was not in Tyler’s inner circle of friends, but he is a part of almost every glorious memory I have of my high school years. An integral member of our close-knit Troupe 1096, an essential, deep voice in our choirs, a constant source of hysterics in all situations, and a giver of unconditional love and friendship to everyone around him. Gauky, lanky, and grinning, he was a beam of sunshine everywhere he went.

In the last few days, memories and messages from friends now spread across the country have found their way to Tyler’s Facebook page. His wall has become a place for friends and family to grieve, to laugh, to share, and to support to one another as we mourn the loss of this incredible person.

Having lost an uncle, my grandpa, and two other peers from high school in the last year, this holiday season is different from so many in the past.  My over-played Christmas CDs now play somber undertones I don’t remember from before, the glittering twinkle lights don’t shine quite as bright, and the starry-eyed joy I had as a child at this time of year is no longer as serene. I find myself not only reliving my memories of Tyler, but of the friends that I’ve grown apart from, the phone calls I’ve put off to another day, and the regret that I feel for doing so.

Yet I am also discovering strength. Strength to reach out, to reforge those friendships, and to set aside the reasons they faded in the first place. To remind my precious friends and family of how deeply I love them and how much they mean to me. Strength to endure the longing, yes, for things that will never be the same, but to get excited, too, for what is yet to come. My sister and I will still leave cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve. Weddings are being planned as we speak. Babies are about to be born.

To Tyler’s family, and his closest friends: my heart aches for you. I cannot even imagine the unfathomable emotions you must be feeling. I’m thinking of you and hoping for your peace.

To Tyler: I wish you could see the flood of stories people are telling about you. And the photographs we’ve dug up to celebrate your finest moments. And the videos of you eating slugs just to prove you can. You are unforgettable.

And to our community: I’ve seen several of you quoting Tyler in the last few hours: “If you’re not smiling, you’re not trying.”

I hope that, though there will be many tears, we can all find something to smile about. For Tyler.