17 years...A life time.

17.  It has been 17 years since I saw my cousin James.  Taken from this world just 10 days shy of his 14th birthday.  17 years is a life time.  Someone else's lifetime.  Unfortunately not his.

Today he would have been 31.  I still day dream about all of the things I wish he would have had.  A life lived to the fullest.  These days I wish he knew my girls and John.  Wish that he had his own family with little ones running and playing.    My heart is still broken, breaking at odd times.  Missing him more on the important days.  Like my college graduation.  My wedding day.  When my girls were born.  It's been 17 years, but it feels like yesterday.

Below is an essay I wrote in my first college class, English 1A - MWF- Fall 1996.  What you will find is a heartbroken 18 year old both naive and faithless.  Still searching for answers, still questioning "the plan".  I gather it was an essay about an influential person.  It begins with a poem James wrote himself.  I guess he had something to say too.  To me this essay is very green and rough, but also very raw and emotional.  And I was.  Still raw from a tragedy.  It's dated September 18th, 1996.  A life time ago.

Things He Left Behind
I am a nice tall tree on a hill
I am a fast and beautiful cheetah
I am a nice dark blue
I am Salinas a boring little town
I am sugar in everybody's coffee
I am sadness and loneliness
-James Eubanks

He was all this and more.  He was always more.  Never giving up, never content with second best.  So driven and full of life, he would have made it in the realities of life, but the Divine had other plans.  Placed here to show the riches of life, and taken home to teach the ability to heal.
He will never have a first day of high school, or college for that matter.  He will never play high school football like he had dreamed.  He will never go to his Senior Prom, Grad night at Disneyland, or Graduation.  I'll never get the chance to watch him grow into the handsome young man he was supposed to be.  All of these things are true because he was taken away.
His life was cut short, very short and while there are endless lists of what he will never do, there are more lists of what he did while he was alive.
August 1, 1994 will forever burn a hole in my mind.  This was the night he was suddenly jerked out of this world and gently placed into another.  This was the night that I would sit in a dark hospital waiting room and listen as family member after family member screamed in anguish and crumple like tissue paper onto the floor.  This was the late summer evening that I lost James, one of the most important and influential persons in my life.
Torn from my life like pages from a book.  So sudden and tragic, there was no explanation or justification.  When a car without headlights collides with a boy full of life, unknown in the new world he is about to endure.  The impact was enough to steal his last breath and breathe him into eternity.
Growing up there was never a time that he was absent.  We created a bond that bridged a gap between our two years.  He was my cousin, but the loneliness I felt being an only child, I turned him into a little brother.  I could always talk him into dropping football for tea parties, and he could always talk me into leaving Barbie dolls for G.I. Joe action figures.  From the beginning he was my cousin, my friend, my support.
He was my backbone no matter what mistakes I made, or what my faults happened to be.  He always helped me shape my decisions in important situations.  I always knew I had his support.  I always knew he would be there.
Having a huge part of my life and my being ripped out, at such an influential time, I changed in a number of ways.  I found that at sixteen there are some things that were not as important as I had previously thought.  In the months following his death I started to grow up and mature, but mostly  I felt myself growing away.   It was hard achieving goals and not being able to share them with the person who help my heart.  There were times when I felt like I wanted to join him in his afterlife to keep feeling his support.  On day though, I woke up and his presence was there.
I had a sense of being stronger and more alive.  I continued to think about him, but it no longer made me sad.  It made me believe and it gave me the courage I so desperately needed.  Like an extra dose of morale or a sudden push forward he was there.  Moving my feet, holding my hand, guiding me forward.  I didn't exactly know how many days had passed or if it had been months.  Suddenly my days got brighter and the sadness tapered.  I never forgot, I never stopped loving or thinking.  I just began to move.
I don't know how I got through the first year.  A lot of tears, of course, but there was something under the surface.  I began to realize just how precious and short life is.  I was forced to take into account my actions, actually my lack of actions.  I realized I had to grow up, and not away.  I had to get my life back on the right track.  I had to start to live again.
Lately it seems that I miss him more than usual.  I sometimes feel I need his support as I face new experiences and new emotions.  Moving to Clovis, last July, was one of the biggest changes I have ever met.  It was a new town, with a new school, and new strangers waiting to be met.  I wonder what he would have said when we finally moved.  Sometimes I wonder how many weekends he would have stayed baking in the valley heat.  He always loved warm weather.  He always loved life.
I remember him telling me that he couldn't wait for college life.  Most often it was my college life.  He frequently paired the words if and college together, but somehow he was sure I would go.  He dreamed about visiting me on the campus of my choice and attending football games and wild frat parties.  I assured him that he would always be welcomed, he would be there by my side.
Now when I'm at my worst, I feel his presence behind me pushing me.  When I'm stumped by the wonders of life, and I feel  like I want to quit and grovel, he is there.  I feel his love in my heart and his smile blazes in my mind.  Little memories play back to me like silent movie shorts to keep me focused.  Focused on my goals and on how important it is to maintain them.  This was a philosophy he practiced.  His main idea being: live life for you and to its fullest potential.  Maybe not in those words exactly, but this was his strong belief.  A philosophy carried by a fourteen year old, and yet a philosophy that most are beyond discovering within themselves.
He was put here by the Divine to teach me the richness of life.  He was taken by the Divine to teach me to heal.  To prove to me that healing is a long hard battle, but it is a survivable battle.  To show me that healing does not mean forgetting or hating, but that it means remembering, loving, and living.
He is still here in my heart, in my mind, and in my soul.  He is the heat of the sun and the cool morning breeze.  He is the storm and the rainbow after.  He comes out in my tears and in my laughter.  Mostly he is my love, shining through, just like he taught me. 
Happy Birthday James.  Today we celebrate your life.  We miss you and love you. 
Happy Blogging,

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