March 14, 2006

A story for the ages (Part III)

The morning of February 3, the phone rang in the living room as we were eating breakfast. Elsa, the young girl in the house answered and yelled for me. I was surprised to hear that it was Kyle. He usually called me on the weekends when he was at his parents and could put it on their phone bill. Right off the bat I knew something was horribly, horribly wrong.

"Jack's dead."

I just about dropped the phone. I felt my knees start to go weak and I grabbed for the arm of the couch to steady myself.


"Amanda, Darron found Jack dead in his bed this morning. Jack's gone."

Right here is where I opened my mouth and what came out totally changed the outcome of the rest of my life.

"Oh my god. How's Darron?"

Not, "Oh my god honey, how are you?" But instead, "How's Darron?" Probably not the best thing to do. Don't ask about a friend's well-being when your boyfriend just called to tell you one of his good friends passed away.

Let me explain this so it makes a little more sense. Darron was one of my best friends. The type of male friend that Kyle had continuously been jealous of, since the very first time we went out. D and I had been great friends for a couple of years. We had actually started out as friends, I then broke up with a boyfriend of 18 months for him, we dated for a while and then decided (I decided) we were better off as friends. Surprisingly enough, we stayed extremely close. D and Jack lived together and I had spent a ton of time over with the two of them before Kyle and I started dating. Kyle and Jack had been really good friends for a couple of years as well. Jack had been born with heart problems and the doctors told him parents that he'd never live to see his first day of school. Jack had proven them all wrong. He had beat the odds and lived every day to the fullest. He truly was one of those people who you were inspired by, who you were thankful to have in your life. Simply put, he was amazing. I knew that he was as close to D as D's own family was.

Seems as though Jack's heart just decided to give out in his sleep the night before. Darren went in to wake him up before he left for work and Jack wouldn't wake up. The news quickly spread within the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Kyle called me to break the news.

My first thoughts were of Darron and how he was handling the situation. I wanted to hop on a plane and be there to help him get through it. Kyle explained to me when the funeral would be and that Jack's parents had asked him and Darron to both speak at the service. I thought of what Darron would say and knew that he'd had everyone in the room in tears. I wondered who would sit with him during the rest of the service and be his strength. No thoughts of being home to be with Kyle, no thoughts of helping him get through this difficult time. I knew that his parents would be there for him. His mom would be all that he really needed.

The next couple of days for me were incredibly difficult. I'd sit on the roof, looking at the mountains and cry. I cried because I couldn't be there for Darron; I cried because Jack was gone; I cried because I had wonderful memories of time spent with Darron and Jack together. And I cried because I knew that being so far away (a two day trip by air) would be horrible if something happened to someone else that I needed to be home for.

The other students on the trip were fantastic. At least some of them were. I doubt that some of them even thought twice or showed an ounce of sympathy over the situation. Some brought cards and others just gave hugs. But everyone was forced to contemplate the same things I had been. They all knew that it would be a difficult choice if they were to receive a similar phone call. We all began to think about who mattered enough in our lives that we would cancel the rest of the trip and fly home for. And pray that you actually made it home in time.

The week after Jack passed we went on our first, week-long field trip that ended in Royal Chitwan National Park. A couple of days before we left, C had approached me and asked how I was doing (remember, he was part of the group I hung out with). He told me the story of losing a good friend in High School and I knew in his expression and tone of voice that he really cared about how I was handling things. He said if I ever needed to talk to let him know. I took his offer to heart. We spent a great deal of time on the field trip together, talking about Jack and his passing and anything and everything else. I found myself losing hours at a time to our conversations, never realizing how much time had lapsed.

The second turning point came on one of the last nights of our field trip. Ever since Jack's death I had spent a lot of time wondering about my future with Kyle. I knew that it signified something that I was more concerned about Darron when Jack died than I was about him. C and I were up on the roof of his cabin one night after the group activities had finished. We started into one of our lengthy conversations, meandering from one topic to the next. It had dawned on me earlier that day that I was starting to have feelings for him. I didn't know however if they were true or if they were "convenient". Here I was spending time with this guy, but had a boyfriend back home waiting for me. Was it just because C was there when I was at such a weak spot in my life?

C had a girlfriend back home and I had Kyle waiting for me. That night, up on the roof, our conversation drifted towards talk of our relationships back home. I voiced my concerns about Kyle. I knew that it wasn't right to spend so much time with other people (especially those of the opposite sex) and think so little of my boyfriend. We danced around the topic of him and I, hinting that there was something brewing. But neither one of us was bold enough to voice it outright. Deep down I hoped he would say he had similar feelings. That he would say something revolutionary. Much to my dismay and relief it didn't happen.

As the night drew darker and darker I found myself back in my own cabin, my thoughts racing. I questioned my feelings about Kyle, my feelings about C and I questioned myself. I felt so comfortable with C and loved how we could talk about so many things. He made me laugh and made me feel good about myself. And more than anything I think he was the first guy who truly saw me for who I am.

Had I gone halfway around the world to stumble into the most profound relationship or my life? Or was I about to destroy everything good that I had waiting at home for me...

And for tonight's photos...the field trip brought us face to face with some of the most magnificent animals of Nepal and the conservation programs established to preserve these wonderful creatures...Kris, this is for you my friend, I apologize there's only one picture with the baby elephant.


Sami said...

I honestly don't think you've ever told me the full story - I think I remember bits and pieces, sadly my and D's story is pretty bland no foreign country and no beautiful baby elephants! So now I'm waiting patiently for part IV...

Kristen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kristen said...

Mandy, what a beautiful story. I am sitting here in tears, both happy and sad. This is truly a story for the ages. If it was in the movies, I would go see it. I can see you sitting in a rocking chair telling this story to your grandchildren.

KrisAndRod said...

I know I saw you and C not long after your return, when you stopped by my parents' house. You may very well have told me some of this then, but it's great to hear step by step from the beginning. You had my eyes welling up, too. One baby elephant pic is okay :) I've got the ones you brought back to me in an album here :D