Living and loving.

Saturday marked a milestone birthday for a dear friend of mine. Unfortunately, he wasn’t here to celebrate the big 3-0. 12 and a half years ago, his life was taken from him at the age of only 17.

Adam was an amazing soul. He was kind hearted and patient. We met as very young children and formed an instant and lasting friendship. One of those deep friendships that had an even deeper connection. We knew one needed the other before a word could be said.

Despite our young age, Adam taught me so many things I hold value to today.

Big and small, some of the most important were the true meaning of friendship, and just how great it can really be. He showed me that it was okay to trust someone. And I trusted him wholly. He carried my secrets with him, and I still carry his. It’s okay to need to lean on someone when times are hard. Boy, did I lean sometimes. Especially the last few years I had him with me.

The most important was love. While there are many a naysayer out there who claim that “young people cannot experience love”, we were proof that young people could. Then again, looking back, even at the age of 30, at the relationship Adam and I had, it was unlike the majority people of our age at the time experience.

But, I loved Adam. First as a friend, and then later as more. There were many nights that we would sit on the tailgate of his truck and plan out our future. What we wanted to be, where we wanted to be. We never worried about who we were with when we did this because we knew we would be together. Our dreams weren’t big, we wanted a simple, but happy life. Our way of thinking always blended together.

When Adam passed away, I can sit here and honestly say it was the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my entire life. It was not just heartbreak that I experienced, it was just breaking. Literally. My life was suddenly altered. I didn’t know what to do. On the outside, I looked to be handling it well. I was being the strong shoulder for all of my friends, making sure they were all alright. On the inside, I felt alone and lost. The person who had been holding my hand, guiding me through this crazy thing called life, was suddenly gone.

My life was forever changed that year. But something happened. Adam’s death pushed me to actually start living.

Armed with the things he taught me, I put a brave face on and set out. I no longer sat back and let things come to me, I went for them on my own. I worked ten times harder to reach my goals than I had before. No longer did I care what anyone thought of me, I wasn’t going to be stifled or held back. I held my head high and moved forward.

My dreams are still simple, I don’t want much. The most important thing to me was finding a connection, a love again. I knew it wasn’t going to be the same, but I wanted it to be true. I didn’t want it to be misguided, or only surface deep. It needed to be real, it needed to be deep and it needed to be the kind that would last through anything.

It took time, and the road wasn’t easy. There were times when I could feel Adam there, nudging me down a different path, sending me towards where I needed to be.

Inevitably (and maybe even a bit stubbornly), I made it there. Blessed is the only way to describe what I am to be able to experience love for a second time. Not everyone can be that fortunate or lucky.

Adam will always hold a very special place in my heart, but because of him, I was able to open the rest of it to someone else.

The final thing that I learned from Adam? Cherish every moment. Every. Single. Moment.

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Photographer. Writer. Fit mom. Athlete. Trainer/Coach. Nutritionist. Heavy lifter. Yogi. Pit bull mom. Outdoor enthusiast. Food lover. 1st Phorm Legionnaire.

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