Death is an interesting thing. Every other year since 7th grade, I’ve had someone I know die (around my birthday). First, it was a classmate’s mom from cancer, then my uncle, then a good friend. I have known death and will know it again I’m sure. And it sucks. Never seeing that person again, never hugging them, laughing with them, or just experiencing life with them will ever happen again, and that’s really sad. But, it’s also part of life. Without death, life would not be as meaningful or beautiful.
Recently, throughout this quarter, I have been thinking more and more of my good friend, Zoë, and more so than I did last spring or in the summer. I don’t exactly know why I have been thinking of her more lately, perhaps it started with the dream I had of her the night before the retreat, and maybe it has continued with me analyzing my friendships both here at DU and from high school. Either way, she has been on my mind almost every day and it’s interesting to think of how incredibly happy I am here with everything I am involved in and with all of my friendships, but then how bittersweet it is to think of her. To think of the memories I have with her, of laughing with her, of rowing and working hard side by side with her, and to think of the memories I could have had with her, and where she would be now in life, probably would be rowing D1 somewhere and doing well in school. More importantly, she would be changing people’s lives in amazing ways, like she had when she was alive. To possibly describe Zoë would be impossible. She was the most amazing and pure girl I’ve ever met, down to earth, incredibly kind, always smiling and cheerful, and made anybody who she talked to feel special, important, and feel as though he or she was her best friend in that moment. She was a leader and a listener, amazing kind and compassionate, but also tough and ferocious, especially mentally: she put 100% effort in everything that she did, from school to rowing to friendships, she never slacked, but never seemed stressed. The only time I ever really saw her upset or stressed was after a certain erg piece where she was unable to keep a certain pace because she had pushed herself so hard in the beginning of the piece. And I was the one who came over to her and talked to her after the piece before she had to do another one saying that I understood her frustration, but that part of rowing was understand how to pace yourself so that you could truly push yourself the whole way and that she was working so hard and pushed herself so much that she reached her physical capacity that she had at that time, which was great that she was working that hard, but it was also a lesson to work hard in the right ways and to know when to pace. It is the only memory I have of truly helping her and giving her advice which makes me feel good about myself, but it also grew our friendship, and memories like that make me wonder where our friendship would have gone in the last year and a half of high school that I had without her. She was somebody I was always happy around, somebody I felt that I could always talk to, and somebody who I could look up to, to push myself harder than ever on the erg and the work hard in every aspect of my life. I miss her so much and I could write about her forever.
Yet those “what ifs” are rather pointless, because she is gone and those “what ifs” are never a possibility, and it can be hard to think of that and it was hard to accept that when she first died. What is also interesting to think about, and can be difficult as well, is when I think of my spiritual beliefs. I grew up religious, but I am atheist now, and I don’t believe there to be an afterlife. I believe that when that when a person dies, their atoms and molecules become part of the air and earth around us, that the person goes back to their beginnings like stardust and energy. And that energy surrounds us and becomes part of us, and therefore, those people are always with us in some way, but they are also gone forever and I will never see them again.
It’s sad, but I stick to my beliefs and instead of thinking of when I will see Zoë again, because I won’t, I try to live my life on a daily basis off of her. Thinking of her hard work, dedication, compassion, and kindness. I am myself, and I am different than Zoë, but I try to sustain happiness in my life and continue living up to her name.
“We need to be reminded sometimes that a sunrise lasts but a few minutes. But it’s beauty can burn in out hearts eternally”-R.A. Salvatore
Below is the poem I wrote for a small memorial service with the rowing team when we spread some of Zoë’s ashes at the lake.
Streams of Silver
A single thought for every day
Of a star that shines so far away,
Dropping streams of silver to the earth,
A reminder to continue the mirth
That was created years ago
At the beginning of her birth.
From a smile with every sunrise,
To her Laughter as the wind flies.
A look of hope in the clear night sky
To prevent the tears from asking why
“Just give me one Promise”
The star will say
“A promise you won’t cry.
For there will never be a day
Where I fade away”
Written by Athena Wilkinson, WLLC 2015-2016