this past week i lost someone very dear to my heart. i'm realizing how much i absolutely hate that phrase. i didn't lose him; i know exactly where he is. but it is the best way i can courteously explain something that i don't even know how to put into words. at his funeral yesterday there was a portion of time set aside for his friends to stand up and share their favorite memories of him. every part of me wanted to stand up and share my fond memories and let everyone know how much this great man touched my life, but i am a writer not a talker and if anyone knew that about me, he did, so here i am.
i'm always being told what my last blog post is all about: how i've got an "old soul." there aren't many like us who see things with the kind of eyes most others can't in this life. my dear friend roman, he had an old soul like mine and because of it he saw a side of people no one else could, including myself.
i will never forget meeting him. in jr high we both played in a symphony. every monday after school we would rehearse in one of the music rooms at what was then known as uvsc. the room was absolutely tiny and every week i'd have to squeeze between the brass and winds to sneak back to the percussion section. and every week there was a trumpet player who had long, curly blonde hair and he always wore these pajama pants that had chickens all over them, and he would always "accidentally" bump his music stand into me. i was 15 years old and at the peak of awkward and insecure. i would alway blush and quickly turn my head to give him a sharp look. but that was the point, because when you're an obnoxious 13 year old boy you can't actually talk to your crush but you can definitely bug them into making eye contact with you for 10 seconds once a week.
later that summer we spent 2 weeks in germany and austria as a group. i spent my time hanging around with a group of 4 guys the entire trip. although at the time i was all googly eyed over the boys in the group that were older than me and so charming and outgoing but i was so shy i found myself always sitting with the little brother who had formerly been known in my life as "the annoying trumpet player." My greatest memories from that trip were the many hours i spent sitting next to roman on the buses just talking about all the things i had a hard time talking to everyone else about. i remember after a few days he let me know his left arm was crippled in a very "matter of fact" manner. i learned from minute one that roman loved nothing more than to tease everyone, especially girls, and especially me, and i had never noticed anything different about his left arm before so it had to be another one of his jokes. i immediately said "that's not funny roman! i know you are just tucking your elbow in your sleeve....get it out right now!" and i proceeded to yank on his left arm. to my horror, not only was his arm disabled, but i had just grabbed it and started yanking on it. my jaw dropped and i was speechless. here my newfound friend was confiding in me and i had totally embarrassed us both. but he just burst out laughing in that laugh that anyone who knows him could never forget. after he laughed himself sick he told me that was the best joke he'd ever played on anyone and he proceeded to ask me to measure my tiny hand to his to see if it was the same size. the thing about roman is that i never saw him view his left arm as a disability. it was just part of who he was and he never let it stop him in anything he wanted to do. i never had a moment in our 8 years of friendship where i noticed it either, other than the moment i yanked on it of course. that is truly how our friendship was though. we both knew we weren't perfect. we were young and awkward and trying to figure out who we were but i i could just be me, with braces and freckles and flaws and he never saw any of that.
roman was that friend who would drive a good 45 minutes just to go to a movie or spend an hour eating some food and talking in my kitchen. as many of his dear friends shared memories of being in his family's home, i realized though his family is very dear to my heart and i did spend time in their home, roman was always such a gentleman and always came to me. i remember sometimes he would just show up and we would paint or draw together. i was so terrible at painting and he was so good. one time we just painted on some scraps of wood that i had in my garage. his painting was so beautiful i saved it and when i moved out of my parents house i hung it up in my kitchen. one day he came over and he was so embarrassed that not only did i still have it, but it was on display in my house because it was just "some of his doodling." he is very much the reason i love art the way i do and continue to paint despite how terrible i am at it.
i remember sometimes we would go to barnes & noble for hours. i'd always end up leaving with some 1000+ page classic that i would probably never read because roman talked me into it. in fact they are all sitting on my bookshelf still unread. we would wander the isles and he would tell me all about all of his favorite books. they were always gigantic and very deep with all kinds of great morals. one time in particular we collected a stack of books as big as me all about various breeds of dogs and we just sat and read and laughed about them together for hours. i didn't notice as we were sitting there that roman had been sitting in the same position with his legs directly in front of him without moving the entire time and when we got up to leave his legs were completely numb and he fell flat on his face. he just laid there, face down and laughed with me crouched down next to him trying to help him up but laughing so hard i ended up just laying there laughing uncontrollably with him. pretty soon several employees were swarming trying to see what the problem was and roman just kept yelling "my legs are totally numb!" and i just kept giggling. he had a way of making me laugh in a way that no one else could no matter what the situation was.
almost every year as long as i can remember we would go to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's Christmas concert together. he'd always get bashful and make some excuse about not being able to find a date and i'd awkwardly respond with not minding to be the substitute but i looked forward to it every year. i remember the year david archuleta performed with them it was extra popular and we were extra late getting there. we found ourselves stuck outside in a large group of mostly women/girls who were stressed beyond all reason. within a couple of minutes of waiting, roman's jokes came out. first he started just saying ridiculous things to me. then he proceeded to say it to the people close to us. before we got into the building he was yelling things to the group such as "oh don't worry guys. Thomas Monson just called me...they're letting us in!" or "guys...if the church is true...they're going to let us in!" although we got nothing but extremely bewildered looks from this group of distressed women, we laughing so hard tears were streaming down our faces and we proceeded to giggle through the entire performance.
roman had a love of music that inspired everyone he met. i've always had what i like to call a "wide variety of musical interest" but others lovingly refer to it as "weird music taste." nothing was too weird for roman though. he was always showing me all sorts of bands. it didn't matter how obscure something was or how embarrassing it might be that i loved a particular artist or band, he didn't care. i remember the first time he played the guitar for me. despite the limited use of his left arm he was phenomenal. after our mini concert we sat there on the couch and just talked and a little while later his family's cat, reese's joined us. when i noticed her and asked him about her he said to me "that's reese's. sometimes i let her eat my earwax." my initial reaction was to laugh hysterically at him and obviously be grossed out, but he wasn't kidding. he proceeded to poke his finger into his ear, wiggle it around, and then hold it out to reese's. and she licked it. then he invited me to try, so i poked my finger in my ear, wiggled it around and held it out to her and she licked my finger too. i know most of you are probably thinking this is weird and disgusting. and honestly, you're right, it really is. but i hope all of you can think of a friend you have who you were so close to that it didn't matter how weird you or your interests were, they just loved and accepted you for everything you were. i also hope you can all think of a friend who's company you enjoyed so much that you could sit on the couch together and feed a cat earwax and have a good time, and if you can't i hope you one day find someone like that. also for any animal rights activists who just read that, as far as i know reese's is just fine and living a normal and healthy life.
as i'm growing up and starting to get little bits and pieces of what this life is all about i'm starting to realize a couple of things. 1-life is really hard. it just is. it hurts and it pushes us down a lot, but 2-if we take the time to be still and to listen we will be guided to the things that are best for us and we will be able to face anything that comes our way with our heads held high. this year has been a particularly trying one for me. i've had to learn many difficult things. i've been stretched in ways i didn't even know were possible. as this spring turned into summer i found myself seriously reevaluating my life and the people in it. i remember making many decisions and eliminations. i remember moments of loneliness greater than i had ever anticipated. i also remember having my eyes open to the things and people who mattered very most. i had been very preoccupied and busy with my own life all fall and winter of the previous year and i found myself stopping in my tracks and deciding it was time to make my priorities the right priorities. there were a lot of people very close to my heart who i was not spending enough time with. roman had been there for me 110% every year of my life since jr high and in the past months i had been busy and not taken the time to see him as i should have. so this summer i changed everything. the way i thought, the way i saw others, the way i spent my time and the people i chose to spend my time with. though i was working 3 jobs i made time to see roman regularly. having not seen him since his last haircut the previous winter i instantly noticed a difference when he came to get his haircut one day this summer. it had gotten long and he asked me to cut it all off. i feel like every haircut was a debate because i always loved his long, luscious locks and every so often he'd chop it. this time was different though. as we chatted through his haircut he invited me to go with him to lake powell later in the summer. i knew i wouldn't be able to get work off but i asked him if i could go the next year. he told me he wouldn't be here next summer and he got this mischievous little grin. confused i asked why, and he tried to play if off as not being a big deal but he was seriously beaming as he told me that he had just turned in his mission papers that week. i don't know if i've ever been so proud of or excited for anyone in my entire life as i was that moment covered in hair and products with my jaw dropped (he was really good at that.) and of all the things i am grateful for as i think about the last year of my life i am so very grateful that i took the time to be still and realize how important priorities are so i could have some of the greatest moments with my dear friend while he was still here.
as the summer continued we had all sorts of adventures. i will never forget all of the fun things we did. everything from movies to scrabble nights and for some reason we'd always get dinner at the olive garden. during some of my hardest days up to that point in my life roman was so happy and brought so much joy to me. shortly before the 4th of july, my favorite holiday, i got a text message asking me if i wanted to go see the beach boys with him. he made yet another bashful comment about not having a date, and feeling more single and lonely than i ever had i was happy to be his date again. i've had a lot of good 4ths of july in my life but nothing will ever match this years. the beach boys were so old i think most of them had walkers but they were so good. i will never forget singing every word of every song with roman (remember how we were both weird enough to feed a cat ear wax? we both have an insane love of the beach boys unlike most people of our generation) both of us with crazy grins on our face. i think we were the only ones in our section under the age of 70 to be honest with you. before the concert started roman started being silly like he did best and he started talking to all of the people around us about how excited he was to see the "beach boy." yes, singular. and as it got closer he kept chanting "beach BOY beach BOY" and all these cute couples who could be our grandparents kept trying to explain that it was a group, not an individual. pretty soon we were both chanting beach boy and they all just gave up. we proceeded to joke about the fireworks exploding on the grass which really isn't funny but we shared the same weird, twisted sense of humor. and then we picked ashes out of each others hair as we headed home.
as roman's mission got closer i remember having a conversation where i started to tear up and i explained to him that through all my life changes and everyone else coming and going and growing up and getting married he had always been there for me and i didn't know how i was going to do it without him around. he was so optimistic and promised he'd always be there to support me and be my friend. i remember planning our last hurrah before he left. naturally we went to the olive garden because that was our go to place and then he taught me to play chess. over dinner we just chatted like we always did, only this time he told me there was something he had never told me that he wanted to tell me before he left. i had always known how much he loved audrey hepburn. we had many a conversation about how i adored her and he was in love with her. as we ate dinner he told me that he had always thought i looked so much like her. he told me i was his audrey hepburn since the real things was, well, you know, dead and he told me i was classy and kind like her too. although i feel like that was a bit of a stretch, it meant so much to me. from minute one of friendship roman always let me know how beautiful he thought i was. it is something that i don't always feel on my own without help but he saw me through eyes that no one else ever has and engrained a confidence within myself that i will keep with me as long as i live.
the last time i saw roman was just a couple of weeks ago. we just attended a high school play and chatted for awhile. nothing out of the ordinary. but i remember as it was getting late and he seemed really tired, i asked him if he wanted to head out and get to bed and he told me "no, i just want to be with you." he was the greatest example of selflessness i have ever known. he always put the needs of others before his own. i will forever be grateful for his example in so very many aspects of life. he had the strongest testimony of Jesus Christ and exemplified him in his every day life. saying good bye is something i've always struggled with. it doesn't matter if someone is leaving for a day or a year it's hard for me. there are few people in my life who i've had to say goodbye to for an indefinite time. but as i've reflected on all of my great memories, and the many things this wonderful man has taught me i have gained one of the greatest gifts of my life; a deep and true understanding that Jesus Christ rose again and because of his life and atonement i will be reunited with the ones i love. nothing brings me more comfort as i say goodbye for now to my silly, handsome, courageous and loving friend who knew my heart so purely and loved me so genuinely. there are people we have the privilege of meeting who come into our lives and they change us. they heal us and uplift us and understand us. they are the kind of friends that are not truly separated from us, not even by death. i know my sweet friend and his love and example will live on through all of the people he touched who are still on earth, including myself. and in the meantime he's continuing to make people laugh and enjoying many a chess game with the real audrey hepburn.