I have been meaning to write this entry for a few days now... but have not been given the chance. It is a story of my past that some people may know already but also one that many are not aware of.
John's death was not my first experience with death.
It was the MOST traumatic event of my life... but not the only.
And every year I remember the day November 10. It's been implanted into my memory as I am sure April 22 will now be for the rest of my life. I really thought no day could ever be as bad as that day has been. I knew that would be the worst I would have to experience. I wasn't prepared to lose John. I wasn't prepared to lose Dennis either... or... Mr. Kusy.
This year marked 10 years since he died in a car accident in Lake Wales...around 7pm.
That day is still very fresh and vivid in my mind. Not to mention I have that afternoon on videotape... his last hours of life captured in red, blue, green.
It was a regular day of school on a Friday.
I was in theory class with my director and mentioned the fact that I had never been taught how to drive stick shift... did I mention I barely knew how to drive anyway??? He then had the idea to teach me after school. Yes, this is a big no-no for teachers... but it was 10 years ago and it was Polk county. Things are a bit different. Sort of. Did I mention I had a huge crush on him? Oh yes... he was a handsome man. He was 24 when he passed. He was weeks away from his 25th birthday. When I decided to take on the path of being a band director and go to the same college as Dennis I was a little nervous about the age 24... like it would curse me. But alas, I am 26. I out lived him. And I outlived my John.
That afternoon when I went out driving with him I was joined by my two very good friends at the time.. Danielle and Zack. Before the driving lesson we had to take video of a swimming competition Dennis was doing with another teacher at the school (Stanchu... who taught math). They did a friendly rivalry competition thing every other week for our school news. I held the camera and filmed those moments. Moments of laughter and fancy free. I was behind the camera... laughing the whole time. When we dropped off the other teacher at school Dennis said something that we would remember forever... "see you over the rainbow..."
Why did he choose to say that at that moment? I don't know.
But the song "Somewhere over the rainbow" has been a tear jerker for me ever since.
Then it was time for driving lessons.
Both Danielle and I got a try at it. We drove all around the small town... grinding gears and all. It wasn't so impressive. I remember at one point I had driven off the road. It was scary. And dangerous. I remember how nervous I was when he had put his hand over mine on the shifter... and when he touched my leg to tell me to push the clutch. I was 16 years old. I was a girl. These things happen.
He dropped us off back at the school afterwards. I remember him smiling at me and his last words were "practice for All County" I am sure there was a goodbye after that but that's what stuck in my head.
Always a band director.
When I got a confusing phone call at 7pm from a friend I didn't know what was going on. No one was really positive of what happened. All I knew was there was an accident and someone said he may have died. It just couldn't be. I had just seen him a couple hours before. I remember calling his house and leaving messages on his answering machine. I remember saying "people are spreading this rumor...so you should call me so I can tell you about it... " I remember the panic. And then I called around until I had enough people telling me he had died. Then I looked at my dad with horror and screamed "we have to go." My dad didn't hesitate. He was crying right along with me... and we went to the place where the accident had been. By the time we got there everything was cleaned up and there was no trace of it. Then my dad called his friend at a impound place... and sure enough his car had been taken there. When we pulled up I ran to his car... mangled and twisted on his side. I grabbed a magnet from the back and went to open the drivers side to climb in. I had no idea why I had chosen to do so. Panic and pain make you do silly things. There was blood in the seat and some plaques in the passenger seat. I was pulled away from the car screaming.
My dad took me home and I stayed up all night crying and holding his picture.
That was my first real punch in the face from life.
The months following are a blur. I was given some of his possessions. I was allowed to leave class if I needed to. I would always go to his office and lay on his couch and cry.
Eventually...life went on. I continued with school... I graduated... I continued to remember him... and still do to this very day.
I have dreams with him still. I have even had a dream where both Dennis and John were in it. SO WEIRD.
I really envy people who go through life without having to experience a close death. How can people be so lucky to avoid it? Maybe there are those that choose to not have many close to them in order not to experience the pain. I have thought about it... but the thought of not loving anyone is completely unbearable. I need love. It's how I survive. But how nice would it be to not have to deal with it... death, mourning, pain and grief. And that's why people may avoid me... so they don't have to deal with it either. I guess I get it. But at the same time I don't. How can you possibly just ignore it? How can you act like I am ok? How can you appreciate me just faking through days.
Lately I suck at faking... apparently. I have had more comments than ever of people asking me "is there something wrong?" "what happened to you?" "are you having a bad day." A stranger today in the vet's office said to me "it really looks like you are having a hard time right now.." At this point I broke out in tears. He felt so awkward. This man... with cut marks all over his arms. Saying MY life was hard. One of my students even came up to me Friday and said "Ms. Hassell... you look depressed." Wow. My psychiatrist even noticed that something was wrong with me. Although I denied it. Because what do I say?? The answer is always the same. There is no magical new answer. It's always John.
Ok, that's a lie.
Layers are being added daily. Things are getting complicated.
As time goes on I find myself constantly discovering myself. The good things about myself and the bad.
I am human. And this is becoming more and more apparent each day.
And I am discovering that I am just as weak as I am strong. If that makes sense. John can't fill in my gaps anymore. He can't cover my flaws. And I can't put my energy into helping his either.
I am discovering the true meaning of friendship.
I am slowly drifting from people...
and I am finding new people to add into my life... when I need them most. Almost as if God pointed them in my direction.
I HATE losing people.
But it's happening. As much as I try to prevent it... it's not always a choice for me to make. And for someone who likes to be in control and have things fixed right away... I am not doing so well with this part.
I want to make everyone happy.
But I have to focus on myself right now.
Or else I will lose myself.
I am discovering how special my love was with John.
How one of a kind it was... and how I may never be able to find THAT love again.
John's quilt project has hit a wall. I have not gotten any donations lately. And I am getting nervous. I don't have much time left. I was hoping to put in my order by the 20th.... and that's 5 days away. So please... if you can help.. PLEASE let me know. I really want to make these by Christmas time!!! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.