Throughout life we have people that come in and out of our lives that change us either for the good or sometimes for the worst. There are moments that make us better or make us bitter. I've had all of the above throughout my life as I'm sure most of you have. Sometimes there are moments that encompass all of those at the same time. Tomorrow is the anniversary of one of those moments for me.
It's crazy how it can be 17 years ago and there are days where it feels like it was just yesterday and then there are days where it seems like it's been 17 years. It's crazy how some days just the mention of a memory can bring me to tears and then days I can go about talking about my memories and they not phase me. It's crazy how a person can have the kind of impact on your life and 17 years after they are gone they are still impacting your life.
That person for me was a guy named Tony Brown. I met Tony when I was in 4th or 5th grade at a church camp where he worked as one of the "slop line" guys. They were the guys that sat outside the cafeteria with trash cans and you had to strategically put your trash into the various trash cans. I will never forget the one time I did it wrong and he yelled at me. I being the sensitive person I am busted out in tears and he felt horrible. This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. :) A few years later our church hired him as the youth minister/music minister at our church.
Tony became the big brother I had always wanted. We were really inseparable. He became the best friend I ever had. When I got into the youth group that didn't change. We were still best friends. We spent our summers going to camps, conferences, tubing down the river, concerts, etc. He loved everyone in our youth group, even the ones that were "unlovable." He knew how to make people feel special and his goal was always to get a laugh especially when you didn't want to laugh that day.
Tony had one of those personalities that just made people want to be around him. He was crazy, always had crazy ideas.....like the time he decided to put on an afro wig and walk around the mall and then while in the bathroom a very large black man walks up next to him and asks if he had a problem. Tony said "nope." Or maybe the time he and his younger but taller brother went and bought matching horribly ugly outfits and walked around the mall all day with them on. Or maybe the time we had a contest to see who could fit the most cheese balls in their mouth. Or maybe the time me & another girl saran wrapped his toilet seat after our devotional at a conference and the next morning he snuck into our room with the help of our room sponsor and put a baby ruth candy bar on our pillow to look like someone had pooped on our pillow and then proceeded to jump on our bed screaming to wake us up. Or maybe it was the time he let me set my tent up next to the water when we were camping because he knew I was going to wake up soaking wet. Or maybe it was the time he was taking my to my grandparents house after a youth event before I was old enough to drive and when the police officer pulled him over for speeding he started questioning why he had a young girl in the car with him.....that one was a classic. Or maybe it was his crazy wild pants that he loved to wear that were blinding with color. Oh there are so many stories that I could go on an on writing about.
There are so many memories I have and so many times I wish that I could call him when I'm having a bad day, or when I'm questioning anything about myself, I wish he could know my daughters, I wish he could know my husband if only for the very reason that sometimes he needs a good slapping around and I know that Tony would be more than happy to do that for me. :) Really though, he would love Jim and I wish that Jim would've been able to know him.
I will never forget that last day I spent with Tony. We had auditions for our Christmas musical that the church choir was going to be doing and I also had auditions the next day for a musical I was trying to be a part of. We were in his office talking after the auditions and he pulled me down to talk to me and it was one of those conversations that looking back, it was almost like he knew it was going to be our last conversation. He told me he knew I was going to do well in the audition the next day and to not be me and get nervous, he told me he loved me and that he would always love me, he told me that he was proud of me. I will never forget that conversation.
I had really had a rough few years that resulted in my parents pulling me out of school and homeschooling me so I spent every day with Tony at the church when my mom was at work, because I had to go with her up there to do my school work (yes I was that bad LOL!) I'm so glad I did though because I got lots of extra time with my best friend.
I went for several years letting his death make me bitter. I was so mad, mad at God that my best friend was gone. He was one of the only people I ever had in my life that I could confide in and know that it would be kept confidential and that regardless of how dumb I was acting, he would still love me. Letting go of that anger was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do but it was the right thing to do.
I still miss that guy like crazy. Some days I could just really use a Tony Brown smile or hug or joke or gentle okay not so gentle reminder to not act like an idiot. Oh to be the kind of person that still makes an impact on a life 17 years after I'm gone. I want to be that kind of person.