At some point in our lives we will experience grief. It takes many forms, and we don’t always know how or when these feelings will pop up. It could be the first time losing someone we’re close to. It might be that we’re old enough to understand they’re no longer a phone call away. Sometimes, it may take months for our feelings to surface and years to understand them. Other times, our emotions come flooding in all at once and we process them easier than we expected.
Gone Too Soon
The first time I lost someone close to me, I was nine years old. My best friend Danielle was born with cerebral palsy and lived her life in a wheelchair. She passed away a few months before her 10th birthday. I had never experienced death before. I remember crying and writing in my journal how much I missed Danielle. Dreams of her running and playing in heaven, uninhibited by barriers, filled my head. As a nine-year-old, I didn’t know how to process and cope with the fact that I would never eat lunch next to my friend again.
Almost twenty-four years after losing Danielle, another friend was taken too soon. Wednesday, June 16th, the Unbridled community lost one of our family members. It shook us to the core and left many of us in disbelief. Less than six weeks after receiving a devastating cancer diagnosis, our friend and co-worker, Stewart Linthicum, passed away. He was the kind of person who became a lifelong friend after just one conversation. Stewart was the most thoughtful, kindhearted, fun, and down to earth person I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. There will always be a Stewart shaped hole in the lives of everyone who knew him.
It’s amazing to see our community support and care for one another. From sharing endless amounts of Stewart’s favorite foods to providing counselors from the Identity Program to moments of sitting and crying together, this group came together in a unique and special way. While we learn to process what we are feeling, I see the necessity of having both people and resources nearby. Grief comes and goes and is never the same for anyone. From my experience, I see the necessity of a support system.
The Next Step
Some days, I still expect to see Stewart’s car in the parking lot or his smiling face beaming back at me as I pass his desk. When I remember this is no longer a reality, heaviness fills my heart. A wave of emotion crashes over me when I see things he loved- a beautiful sunset, the mountains or happy hours with friends. Instead of sitting in sadness, I think about the immense joy Stewart must be feeling that very moment while in Heaven. I can’t help but feel delight as I see images of him engulfed in light, joy and peace.
Even though Danielle, Stewart and so many others, are no longer here with us physically, they are present in other ways. They live on through our memories and how we put into practice what they held important. The challenge Stewart’s sister gave during his memorial service was powerful. This is how he lived and is a small way we can honor his legacy.
“Live fiercely. Find your passion. Help others.”