It has been a year since we lost DJ. People say that when you lose someone you love it gets easier as time goes by, but I’m not so sure I agree.
It isn’t any easier seeing the pain and sadness in Jake’s eyes when we talk about DJ. He still misses his best friend deeply. At times, his silence and the drop of his head is enough to let me know it hasn’t gotten easier for him. Watching as his chin drops to his chest is like his own moment of silence to honor DJ, his missing soul mate of a friend. I can see the pain in his heart is deep and his emotions are raw, still tender to the touch.
When special days and outings have emerged throughout the year, times which had always been spent with DJ, it is no easier. To choose someone else to go with Jake, to fill that space of taking another buddy along, feels like we are cheating on DJ. It still feels like DJ should be there. To celebrate special days still feels somewhat inauthentic because the celebration doesn’t seem complete without Jake’s best friend there.
But still, it’s not all tears and pain. At times I find myself smiling because something triggers my memory of DJ’s infectious smile or the games he and Jake would play. I can still picture the boys asleep, their tiny bodies in Jake’s big bed, quietly dreaming of Pokemon, Legos and Nemo. And it makes me happy to know and remember his idiosyncrasies that simply made DJ…DJ.
Not knowing what feelings will emerge, we still tell stories about times with DJ, remembering movies they loved to watch together, trivial things they argued over, DJ’s small list of foods he would eat or his token sweatpants that he always wore. We can laugh, smile and rejoice in those special memories, knowing how lucky we were to be a part of them. We all feel so blessed to have known DJ, to have spent time with a kid who was charismatic, intelligent, head strong, respectful, polite and fun to be with. Memories of DJ’s quick wit and timely and well-deserved come backs to Jason’s constant (harmless) teasing always make me laugh out loud.
One of the many wonderful things about DJ and Jake’s relationship was how DJ allowed Jake to be himself and vice versa. There wasn’t pressure to grow up and act older than they were. No judgment, just being you was enough. Those two loved playing Legos, even after other kids had given them up. Talk was about Nerf guns, sword fights, video game characters and whatever else they happened to be into at the time. They didn’t care what others thought because together Jake and DJ could just be. There was never a show with DJ. He was always authentically himself, which is so very refreshing, no matter what the age.
Just as he did in life, DJ still makes his presence known to us. DJ comes to us in dreams, brings us praying mantis (sometimes in the strangest places), spectacular orange sunsets and shifts the wind and the path of balloons. He has even been known to give signal after signal, practically screaming the signs at us until we finally listened in order to keep a little boy safe.
So, my point is, I don’t think things get easier when dealing with the loss of DJ- easier isn’t the right word. Things are just different. Life is different. We are simply learning how to deal with DJ not being here anymore, day by day, moment by moment. And however we handle a situation at the moment is how we handle it and that’s ok. Through this tragedy, we have learned there is no right way to grieve and time limits don’t apply here. There is no certain time limit to stop feeling a certain way, to stop crying at the mention of his name, to be able to talk about him without that lump in your throat. There is a special place in our hearts for DJ, which will never be filled, can’t be filled. That spot in our hearts is his and always will be.
I still have a hard time believing I won’t ever see DJ at my door again. There is no other way to describe it other than it simply doesn’t seem right. My heart hurts knowing the pain we all feel because he is gone. DJ is gone, but there is no way that kid will ever be forgotten. DJ touched our lives in so many ways. Whether he made you laugh, helped you in school, built Legos with you, played video games with you, hung out with you at R.O.C.K. or Boy Scouts, walked past you in the hall, let you give him a piggy back ride or he was your best friend, brother or son, you’ll remember him. From his dogs, Ross and Rachel, who would snuggle with him, to the families who didn’t know him in life, but were touched by his story, we all are better because of knowing DJ.
The story of DJ’s death hits home with us as parents and caretakers because we know it could have just as easily been us in that situation. It scares us, brings us to our knees and reminds us how fleeting life can be. But the story of DJ’s life is also a strong reminder of the importance of authenticity, patience, friendship, acceptance, joy and love.
In his twelve years with us, DJ taught us some important lessons worth mentioning. Do not waste time on things that don’t matter to you- like tying your shoes. Wear what you want to and what makes you feel comfortable. Sometimes there is nothing quite like watching your favorite movie over and over or staying up as late as it takes to beat a video game with your dad. It’s ok to disagree about something or get mad at someone, but get over it, that’s life. Move on and have fun. Animals rock- never hurt them, always love them. Be curious- read, ask questions, try new things. Have fun- be loud, laugh, act silly, tell jokes, but not at the expense of someone else. Hug your mom or your best friend even when others around you might not think it’s cool because loving others is always cool.
In Memory of David James "DJ"Preece- April 11, 2003- September 12, 2015