When I first read the article about Zach's car wreck and that he'd died in the collision, I was shocked. Numb even. I stared at my computer for several minutes, read the short blurb over and over, and then went on with my day. I spent the next few days reading and re-reading the articles and still, just shocked.
The accident was the Monday before last, and his memorial service was this past Friday. Up until the night before his service, I had yet to show any real emotion or feel anything other than complete surprise. I had a couple short conversations with Stacey, Juliana and Nick, and I had to email the story to a handful of our old coworkers, but nothing was really getting through. The night before the service, though, I laid in bed for hours crying, remembering awesome moments we'd shared, thinking of his family, just sobbing.
Raphael, one of my coworkers from BWW, picked me up for the service (I didn't want to go alone), and we met Christine and Eric there (also from BWW). Zach and Eric had been pretty close, as had Christine and I, so it was great to see them all, despite the sad occasion. We sat together, cried together, and it was comforting to have the arms of old friends on my shoulders as we listened to eulogies, memories, stories, and watched several slide shows. It was very, very hard, and I left the service feeling like reality was sinking in.
The 4 of us headed to McMenamins from the service to have a drink and some lunch before we all had to go to work. Before any of us knew the extent of Zach's problems with alcohol, we all had great times at Rialto, a dive downtown where Zach would always drink Rumplemintz (YUCK). Eric, in an attempt to pay tribute to his friend in a more "manly" way, ordered a round of Rumplemintz, and toasted Zach with that, several kind words, and more tears. We were then able to share lots of great moments of working with Zach at BWW - I loved hearing my friends tell me all the ways they knew Zach and I were sneaking around together at the beginning, and I was so happy that they all had so many fun stories to share with me. Zach had such a bad experience at BWW, and I felt really comforted that during that shitty time, he'd made a few real friends who are truly suffering his loss right along with me.
I went to work for an hour or so and was just unable to get myself together, so I left and went up to Kelso to visit LaDonna and see the baby, knowing that baby snuggles are healing. I cried the entire way there...and by cried, I mean, I could barely see the road I was bawling so hard. It was the entire 10 days worth of emotion and feeling coming out, and I just cried. I visited my family for a long time, and I really did feel so much better holding Landon, eating waffles with my family, and just feeling loved.
I took off around 9:00pm for home, and when I got to the freeway, traffic stopped completely. They were paving the highway, so it was narrowing to one lane. There I was, after an exhausting day of saying goodbye, sitting on I-5 in one lane construction...I looked up, and right in front of me was a semi truck. I completely lost it. I cried and cried and cried, the whole 30 minutes I sat parked behind this semi, until I was physically so tired I could not wait to get into bed. I was sitting in Zach's scenario, sitting there thinking, all he'd had to do was brake harder. How many times in a week am I behind a semi truck on the freeway? About a hundred.
My final conversations with Zach were not as pleasant as I would have liked to remembered our relationship by, and I am so thankful that I can look back on a million other, more positive, truly happy moments instead of having to focus on those last couple of jealous, insecure, sad ones. I sat on Saturday night and wrote his mom a Facebook message that was probably 3 pages of text, telling her stories, asking about him, just wanting her to know how incredibly touched my life was by her son. I then sat for hours typing a message into his Facebook page...something I hope no one has the password to and will never be seen, but it was so cathartic to say the things I should have said when I had the chance.
On my own Facebook, the night before the memorial service, I posted my favorite photo of Zach and me, along with exactly what I was thinking: "For encouraging & supporting me. For always making me laugh my hardest & for never making me cry. For escorting me to weddings, entertaining my friends & meeting my grandparents. For taking me hiking & camping, and for lazy nights at home. For being my friend first, my boyfriend next, and never for a moment being my enemy. For your generous heart, your strong will, your carefree spirit and your kind soul. For these reasons and a hundred more, I will miss you, think of you, and appreciate the man you were. Thank you for touching my life, my heart, and my entire world..."
Zach was not a perfect man. He was not a perfect boyfriend. But he was amazing. He was fun and full of life and always laughing. He was comforting and happy and he was doting. What I wanted to do, so did he. When he took me somewhere, he acted proud to have me at his side. He bragged about me, he told his friends about me, he took me places and told me I was beautiful. He never hurt me, called me names or picked fights with me. He was a friend - a wonderful friend. He held me close, he was kind, and he had the best smile. He truly did touch my life. He taught me to have fun and take life less seriously. He calmed me down when I was mad...except when it was him I was mad at. He was the first man I ever loved, and I am so thankful to have told him so when I had the chance.
I am sad. My heart hurts and my soul is broken. I miss him, and I want to tell him a million things. If that means I continue to write about him or to his Facebook page, maybe that's what it takes. I hope with all I have that he knew what he meant to so many people, and that he knew how immensely proud we all were of what he was doing with his life. I am grateful for the months he was mine, and I will always remember only the good things he did for my life.