Before September 9th of last year, I honestly had a feeling that nothing bad could happen to us. Even on September 8th as my Mom and I hiked a trail in the dark calling Jared’s name searching for him. Even as we looked at each other and said we didn’t have a good feeling about this. I still thought that the worst-case scenario would be taking Jared to a hospital to be treated for dehydration or a rattlesnake bite. I thought there would be a time when we would look back and laugh at the time all of us were out on the trails in the middle of the night looking for Jared.
But the next morning changed everything. I was back out on the trails with many others looking for him. Omar and I had ended up in Chatsworth and were waiting to be picked up. My Mom called to tell me that the search team had found Jared, but he was gone. The sound of my sister Tamra screaming in the background still haunts me.
I met with the detective. I went to Tamra’s house. As she lay on the floor with a dear friend holding her, she asked me what had happened. I told her Jared had taken his own life. The rest of the day is a blur. I remember being mad. And terrified. Terrified of a future without Jared.
I don’t remember crying until that night. I sobbed instead of sleeping. Tears and snot fell from my face as I picked up a small notebook and started writing.
I panicked in the morning. Why was I at my house? I should be with my sister, holding her. I checked in with Jared’s best friend Chris who was staying with her. He said he was holding her. I felt relief.
I checked in with my Mom. She said she felt mad now. Several friends were asking how they could help so I sent a few of them on a mission to buy dishes at a thrift store and deliver them so she could break them. Those dishes really came in handy over the next week.
I felt really disconnected. Time felt different. I was standing in my Mom’s backyard that first morning after. Suddenly out of nowhere the sky roared with thunder, rain started pouring and then hail fell violently to the ground all around me. It echoed my emotions. It comforted me that the sky was angry too. For a moment, I felt reconnected to the Earth.
On Sunday, my Mom and I met with the detective. We knew Tamra would eventually want to visit the site where Jared was found. The detective hiked us up to the spot. It was right near the first bench along the trail. A bench Jared had taken a picture of before. Now it made sense why that picture had kept popping up in my head as we were looking for him.
After about a week, I started to venture out into the real world. Going back to school, going to the grocery store. It was really difficult to be around people that weren’t mourning too. Hearing people complain about things that didn’t matter. It made me want to scream at them. I remember feeling such a sense of clarity that I promised myself I would hold on to. To remember what was important, and let go of the rest. And be kind to each other, because we don’t know what the person next to us is going through.
Only two weeks after Jared’s death, the trail run for 805 Boot Camp was at Rocky Peak, the trail Jared was found. It would be Tamra’s first time back there, and she decided she wanted to go. We started running up the trail planning to play it by ear how Tamra felt, whether she wanted to visit the site or not. As we reached the top of the peak, another runner caught up with us. We reached the top together and as we started to make our way back down, he got ahead of us. We didn’t know him well, and that’s why it surprised me when Tamra called out to him. She asked him to stay with us. She told him her husband had taken his own life on this trail just two weeks prior, and she wanted him to go with us as she visited the site for the first time. My body tightened awaiting his response. And then this sweet man that we didn’t know told us that his mother had taken her own life when he was younger, and of course he would go with us. My body relaxed and I will never forget that moment. The three of us running down that trail together in a pack, with a mission, and a bond.
This past year has been the most difficult of my life. The impact Jared had when he left us is still so immeasurable and indescribable. His life intertwined with so many of my family and friends it was next to impossible to turn to anyone close to me that wasn’t grieving too. I know we all wanted to help each other but at times it felt like all of us were just so sad we could barely keep ourselves together, let alone help someone else.
I honestly feel that with experiencing the lows, my eyes have been opened to more beauty than I knew before. I have a stronger love for my family and friends. I have a greater appreciation for simple things that make life good. I notice how pretty the sky is more often. I realize even more that anything is possible, good or bad, and life is amazing in more ways than we can know.
Much love to everyone who has helped my family and me over this past year. I hope we continue to grow stronger and more excellent each day. <3