It’s an innocuous statement, a brief detail in an otherwise normal day. Rather than reaching for the blue belt I usually wear with this dress, I consciously chose to wear the red one. I always wear red on April Fool’s Day. It’s a small gesture to an important life cut short, but it provides me some small comfort.
Five years is a long time. As graduation looms closer, the fear of “what comes next” is hovering over my head like a dark cloud. Career talks often lead to a dreaded question: where do I see myself in five years? As I agonize over the possibilities, April 1 is the day I remember that I’m lucky to have these opportunities available to me, that I have a future waiting for me. Five years ago, it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t have a future. Then, Devin’s future was ripped from him in a tragic car accident, all because he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.
We were juniors in high school, enjoying all the perks of being an upperclassmen without the pressure of being a senior. We were comfortable in our safety bubble that was WHS. I played varsity soccer, but we weren’t very good. It was okay, though, because our team went to play one of the worst teams on our schedule, and we were ready for a win. By the time the game was over, it was dark and little chilly, but I was happy that we finally played a winning game. As I ran to the sideline, I was surprised to see my mom standing next to our coach with a sad look on her face. Coach pulled us into a huddle and gave us the devastating news: our friend and peer had died. It felt like a punch to the gut, and I just cried.
That entire week was filled with tears. Devin was the happy guy that could always bring a smile to my face, mostly because he was as silly as they come. His death was my first big experience with loss, and it still hurts. What hurts the most is that I’m more likely to remember the pain of his passing than the joy of his life. Because of Devin, I wear red on April 1. Because of Devin, I am adamant on seatbelt usage.
In my program here at Mizzou, an ACT score is part of your identity. For me, that number isn’t about the test I took. To me, I will always remember my last ACT test as the day they laid my friend in the ground. I wore my black and white dress that morning, went to the visitation, and ended up at the most heart-wrenching band competition afterward. We played, with Devin’s chair empty and everyone in tears. That day still hurts and haunts my memories of Devin.
And though April 1 brings a lot of tears and sadness for my friend, I can’t help but remember the little things about him that still make me smile. I leaf through the old playlist we used to listen to outside of the gym, waiting for our respective sports practice to start. I smirk at any male flute player I happen upon. I chat with a friend about Devin’s goofy laugh and how his smile could brighten any day. I wore a red belt today because I want to remember Devin. Five years is a long time, but he’s still in my thoughts, and I’m grateful for every day I have left to live my life. I miss you, Dev. Be good.