Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Letter to Justin's Family

September 4, 2010

Dear Tania, Wally, & Chelsea-

I have thought of you every day since Justin’s passing. I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how quiet your house must seem, and yet I hope you feel how tangible his presence still is in everyone who knew him.

I met Justin on the first day of his junior year. I was his last class of the day. I had no desks courtesy of an office glitch, so my 35 juniors were scrunched together on folding chairs (not an ideal classroom management setting to say the least). Justin was in the second row next to Marten Dijkstra. Spencer Clancy, Sam Witters, Michael Jacob, and Greg Holmes were not too far away. Needless to say, chaos seemed to unfold at any given second. Justin was the catalyst nine times out of ten for the class getting amped up, and I fought him for control all during the first quarter. It took me longer than it should have to realize that Justin just wanted to be heard and wanted to honestly discuss the issues I was bringing up without dealing with the minutiae (e.g., the trivial interests of his classmates, class work he deemed unnecessary to learning) he had no patience for. Realizing that simple fact and coming to see Justin as one of the most interesting people I have ever met, changed that class and changed my life.

Justin impacted everyone he encountered and left them better than they were before. As my TA, during the second half of Justin’s junior year and first half of his senior year, he also left an indelible mark. He contributed to class discussions that he wasn’t even required to be paying attention to. He caught my sophomores off-guard every chance he got (Justin’s shock factor was also one of a kind). He got me into trouble over and over again with the librarian because he couldn’t let her seemingly arbitrary rules stand. Even up to the my last day at SRV, I couldn’t go in there without her eyeballing me like I too was going to threaten her silent order. It was worth it though. I wouldn’t trade one frustrating experience with Justin for anything because with every frustrating moment came a dozen a-ha moments.

Just a few days before Justin’s accident, I was talking with a good friend of his about how many possibilities lay before Justin; that in his own time, Justin would surprise all of us and change the world in a bigger way than any of us dream about. We couldn’t have foreseen any of the tragic events that followed, but in some way Justin has, in fact, changed the world because he changed us. Losing him forced me to evaluate why I do what I do and make sure that I am doing things for the right reasons.

I want you to know how much I appreciate your family. I know Justin wouldn’t have been who he was without you. He will be missed forever.

{This is one of those posts that is here for me - for that future blog book that will capture the big events of the past couple years. I still think about Justin every day. I can't fathom that a kid who was such a life force isn't living anymore. As the bracelets made to remember Justin say, "Janky D - Always With Us". Justin will truly always be a part of those who knew him.}


forget laundry said...

beautifully written.

C.J. said...

I've lost people who mattered to me, including my dad. People say "you get over it", and that's not true. You just grow into it. That person never goes away, and you never stop missing them...but, over time, missing them becomes, in its own way, a positive experience. You remember them with happiness, not sadness. It was hard for me, getting married without my dad there to walk me down the aisle, but at the same time, we were all filled with happy memories. He was there--the people you love are always with you--in a positive way.