Lesson not learned

I met a senior during the last few weeks of my freshman year at SBU who really made me stop and think.

Music loud. Townhouse full. Everyone either drunk or on their way there. She acted like she was, too. But she wasn’t.

My two friends and me, before our softball game.

Drunk, to her, meant drinking enough energy drinks to act crazy with everyone else. She was the only one on our softball team sober enough to make a couple of good plays (it helped that she was a former softball player, too). I asked her why she uses energy drinks as a substitute. Her answer sobered me up in a jiffy.

Two friends from her hometown got drunk and ended up drowning themselves. Either they couldn’t swim, or they could but forgot at that moment… I can’t remember which. The point is, they got so drunk that they met their death in the water.

She had another friend, too, who had died while drinking. I forget now how that story goes.

So here’s this girl who is over 21 and chooses not to drink with her friends. She looks on, but joins in to dance or play softball. She doesn’t dislike her friends – or anyone else, for that matter – because they drink. She thinks of her deceased friends and opts out. Everyone has a choice, and she has made hers.

I’m very proud of my friend from Bona’s who sticks to her guns.

Dakota

That fall you took
can’t have been your last.
So many lie ahead for you…
right now is too soon; too fast.
Wake up, please please wake up.
 
You’re missed by all your friends.
We all know Dakota as “fun” –
you’re so passionate about acting –
you can’t possibly stay forever young.
Wake up, please please wake up.
 
Oh, the thinks you probably thought
as you fell, asking “Why?”
You missed a step and fell toward black
instead of taking a stair to the sky.
Wake up, please please wake up.
 
A week of your life has passed –
and you have been in the land of unknowing…
spring has arrived, wet and rainy…
but, for us and you, it’s still snowing.
Wake up, Dakota, wake up.

~E.M.S.

4/24/11

11:13 p.m.

I think it’s time I write about Dakota. I don’t think I ever have.

I got a text message a year ago tomorrow morning that said “Remember how you said you had a feeling something bad would happen to someone in our class?”

My heart stopped. I instantly thought someone had died. I had discussed this issue with my friend. A tragedy usually occurs in every class before graduation. It appears to be a right of passage at our school. I never dreamed it would actually happen.

Image courtesy of Lisa Reinard.

I grew up with Dakota. We were in the same Sunday school class all the way through. His elf ears used to make me giggle. When I dated his best friend (Christian, the guy from a couple posts ago), the three of us hung out a lot. We spent hours after school at Dakota’s house across the street from school. We were in countless theater productions together. Monkeys together in The Jungle Book Kids; he, Cat in the Hat, and me, Gertrude, in Seussical Jr.; kids together in Schoolhouse Rock Live! Jr... the list goes on from there. In the winter of 2011, I played his daughter, Anne, in Cheaper By The Dozen. There are so many memories from that play in particular. They are still fresh in my memory – some of the last memories I have of him.

Dakota had an accident; he fell and hit his head. The fall put him in a coma for months. When he finally got out of it, a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) took hold. He currently resides at ECMC, where he has been for a whole year now.

We had grown apart during the later years of high school (the break up with Christian seemed to do it), but still had a connection from the childhood we spent around each other. We loved Veggie Tales and used to acolyte together at church. I never thought of him as anything more than another brother.

The last time I saw him before the accident, he was walking down the hallway from the art rooms in the school. He wore a grey shirt, black pants and had his headphones on. We sort of nodded at each other, but I didn’t say anything. I figured his music was probably too loud (we always had similar taste in music). I’ve regretted that ever since.

I haven’t been able to make it to ECMC since August. Last time I saw him, he was starting to twitch his body parts. His feet moved. His chest moved up and down with each breath intake. Like any other person with brain damage, his arms were bent with his hands up near his face.

He’s still at ECMC and is making progress every day. It’s very sad to see his – and his family’s – life on hold.

Having a friend like Dakota can open your eyes. We take a lot of simple things for granted; simple things that are very hard for Dakota.

The bracelet on my wrist reminds me of you every single day, Dakota. I will not – and can’t ever – forget the day my bad feeling came true.

I was given this bracelet on June 24, 2011. I have not taken it off since.