There are lots of dates I wish my mind would erase. And by dates, I mean months paired with numbered days of the week.
Next week, one of those days is on my calendar.
When I was a sophomore in college, I was living in my sorority house, and it was the morning of our formal. I was planning to wear my prom dress from my senior year of high school.
It was coral, with layers (dozens of layers) of pink and purple tule as the poofy, floor-length skirt, and the strapless bodice was completely beaded. It was gorgeous, even if my description makes it sound otherwise.
I had planned to get my hair and makeup done at the mall, so there I was. My hair was up and curled, my makeup probably overdone, and I stopped by one of the stores to talk to a friend.
I left the mall, and headed to the sorority house. My friend, the same one from the mall, called me.
“I guessed by your happy face that you didn’t hear the news,” she said. She told me she didn’t want to ruin my makeup, but she had to tell me something.
Dustin Clemons, known to all as DC, was the first person I met at LSU. We met at orientation, and kept in touch the summer before our freshman year. When we both moved onto campus, I was relieved to see a familiar face.
And his face was a cute one.
He was heavily involved in…everything. And although he was probably so busy he never slept, he always made time for me, and for his other friends.
I invited him to join me at sorority functions, and we always had a blast. I felt so lucky to be in his presence, any day.
But on that day, hearing that news, I pulled my car into the nearest parking lot and cried. I had suffered loss before, loss even younger, but I just couldn’t believe it.
When I composed myself, I drove back to the house, poured myself a stiff drink, and sat on the floor of the foyer while other’s dates arrived for the dance.
I had a date—a guy I asked from an English class. He didn’t show up.
So, I got in the car with a friend, and sat alone, dateless, at dinner.
I couldn’t stop thinking about DC. I wished he would have been there. I wished everything could rewind. I wished he never would have crossed the street. I stared at our most recent text conversation, wishing something would come through, proving this all a giant mistake.
But it didn’t.
Instead, I went to his funeral. I didn’t wear black, because I didn’t think he’d want me to be sad. But there, in the pew, I sat and cried into the arms of my sorority sister and friend.
It took me months before I could think of him the way I always had—with a smile. I made a CD of his favorite songs, and played them in my car during cool night drives to clear my head.
Since the day DC died, the month of April has had a haze over it—more than just the rain. And while I knew the numbers associated with such loss, I didn’t realize that it’s been nine years.
Tuesday night, I used a ladder and a flashlight to pull down the boxes from my closet, boxes that held our photos (aside from one I keep framed), and binders that smooth newspaper articles written about him. As I held back tears, I was wearing a custom trucker hat, “I ❤ DC.”
He loved trucker hats. And popped collars. And the Tar Heels.
And I miss all of those things.
The thing about losing someone, especially someone young, is that it’s difficult not to think about how much of their life they didn’t get to live.
The only thing that helps me cope with that idea is that they still lived the life they were meant to. In just a short time, DC connected so many people, more than I have, and probably more than I will.
For me, I know because of him I met dozens of people. I had nights I will never forget. And while, I still get sad sometimes wishing he were here, I know he is around in his own way—like when I hear “Mr. Jones” on the radio or in the grocery; I know he’s there with me.
I know I’m not the only one feeling this way lately, as he had a thousand friends (literally), and if it’s just a bit of comfort, know that we are in the presence of great company.
Believe in me, help me believe in anything, I want to be someone who believes.
—Mr. Jones, Counting Crows