Whenever someone passes away it seems like our hearts and minds are flooded with memories of them. We grasp at whatever we can to remind ourselves what they were like, because now they’re gone. We feel such a strong need to tell these stories because, quite honestly, it’s all we have left.
I have been experiencing this exact feeling this past week as a close family friend passed away. I want to share a few of my sweet memories.
At the end of 5th grade I became best friends with a girl named Abby. We would spend pretty much every day after school at Abby’s house rollerblading around the neighborhood, making up dances, and bugging her mom, Jill. I loved being at their house because they treated me like a part of the family. I fought with Abby’s little sister like sisters do and Abby’s brothers would play all the usual brother pranks on me just like brothers do. Almost every night, Jill cooked an amazing meal, usually rice pilaf, asparagus, bread, and Brian, Abby’s dad, would barbeque. We all think our dads know how to barbeque, but no one knew how to do it quite like Brian. I vividly remember looking out the window, hearing Jack Johnson playing in the background, seeing Brian smoking a cigar, and loving being a part of this family. I had no idea that 10 years later this would happen:
A few months ago Jacob and I took a long weekend trip to see Jill and Brian at their vacation home in Cayucos. I was excited to see them since it was hard to connect with their family since I had gotten married and had to split time at holidays between my family and Jacob’s. I was also excited for them to get to know Jacob more. Brian was suffering from ALS, making it impossible for him to do what I remembered him doing best, barbequing. He sat nearby and instructed Jacob how to barbeque. He taught him how to season, how to know when it’s time to flip, and that patience was his secret to the perfect barbeque. When I found out about his little lesson with Jacob, my eyes welled up. I knew that Jacob would never forget the things Brian told him and that I would get to enjoy Brian’s barbequing even when he was gone.
From 5th grade until I graduated high school I basically lived at the Laird house. And, as we got older, Brian began to set rules for us. One of them was that if we ever got a tattoo, we would be disowned. I remember coming home for summer break after my freshman year of college. I had gotten a tattoo and I was more nervous for Brian to find out than I was when I told my parents. Once Abby’s brothers found out, I knew I was toast. They forced me to tell Brian and he proved what I always thought was true… His bark was bigger than his bite. He put his arm around me and gave me one of his big bear hugs and said, “Just don’t show it to me.” It may seem weird but, at that moment, I knew he loved me because he forgave me so easily.
I have a million memories I could share, but my most favorite memory is one I think of often. I remember the day my dad baptized Brian, Jill, and their four kids. I had never seen a family be baptized together and it was a beautiful picture of how God changes one man, and it can change a whole family. There’s nothing more beautiful than that.
(Jill, Abby, Me, Ellie, and Brian at Jacob’s and my wedding.)
You were my second dad. I will never forget the ways you loved me over the last decade. You brought so much fun, joy, and laughter to everyone you encountered. I love what your kids have been saying about you… “A man of God, a man of his word and a man of love.” We miss you so much already.
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