Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Danny, Keep Me Strong


One year ago today, we lost a great friend and human being.

Danny and I met through the Berry Scholars Program at the University of Dayton. The 30 of us all took at least a class together every semester for the first 2.5 years at UD so we all got to know each other pretty well. Almost all of us lived together in Founders as freshmen, so we supported each other through all of the projects and papers and shared our class jokes. Sophomore year, Danny and I lived just a couple doors down from one another in VWK and that's where I felt we really got to know each other better. We all just had a blast hanging out, staying in, going out, dressing up for Halloween and for the Berry Christmas party, listening to music, watching movies, going to Bob Evan's and studying in the lounge. We weren't best friends, but he is someone who made my sophomore year what it was; It just wouldn't have been as much fun without him and I can't remember that year without remembering Danny. We didn't see all that much of each other junior year because I moved to the Dark Side and he lived on the other side of campus, and regrettably, you just can't stay close to everyone you've ever been friends with. I do know that he remains in my mind, one of the most genuinely kind, loving, funny, and intelligent people I've ever met. 

I know the world can be a scary place, and bad things happen to good people, but I tend to forget about that fact of life until the scariest, worst, most unthinkable things happen. Losing Danny was one of those things. It just didn't seem right, it didn't make sense, and I was scared and sad. But I think one of the best lessons I've ever learned is that your life isn't made up of all the bad, scary things, it's shaped by the way you react and learn from those things. I could write a book about the things I've realized in the year that has passed that had to do with Danny's passing. I realize how lucky I was to be with best friends when I found out about the canoe accident, how lucky I was to have a community of faith at UD with whom I was able to pray for healing and strength while Danny was in the hospital, how lucky I was to have amazing co-workers who have seen a lot more of the world there for me on June 5th, and how lucky I am to have a family who also gave me endless love and support as I grieved. 

Fear is another result when someone you love suddenly passes away. Constant and acute awareness of the fact that any day could be the last day for any one of my friends or family members or acquaintances. But again, I had to learn how to transform the fear into bravery and love. If I lived every day consciously doing the best I could and loving everyone I came in contact with fully, I could live a more fullfilling life. The day of Danny's funeral, my family and I left for vacation in West Virginia. One of our family activities was going to be whitewater rafting and I didn't know if I could handle it. Danny was hurt on a simple canoe trip; wasn't this a thousand times more dangerous? On the bus-ride down to the river, one of my siblings made some kind of joke about the danger of it without thinking about what they were saying and I almost decided not to go. I didn't think I could make it down that river. But then I thought about what Danny would think of my fear. He would understand it, but he would have wanted me to pluck up some courage and live that day to the fullest -not thinking so much about the accidents that could happen, but just enjoying the time with my family and the accomplishments of navigating the rough rapids. My mom has told me how proud of me she was that day several times since then, and I think it was an important day for me to realize what I can achieve and overcome if I put all of my heart and soul in to it. I'm proud of me too.  

Worrying has always been a challenge for me, and Danny has given me the strength to live boldly and gracefully in his memory without being so afraid. He was, among other things, physically strong, and I pray that remembering him translates to strength for me in everything I do. He would want me to accomplish great and wild feats, like whitewater rafting and jumping off a cliff into 40 degree Lake Superior with some of my best friends. He would want me to become a more understanding, more forgiving person. He would remind me how much the little moments with people matter, and how little the misunderstandings and stupid fights matter. He has inspired so many people with his life and in his legacy and I am so proud to have known him for the little time that I did. I hope to make him proud and I pray that his friends and family continue to remember the blessing of his life and also the lessons learned and love that has been shown since his death. Much love and many prayers to his friends and family, today and everyday. We miss you, Danny. 

Love always, 
Emily 

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