Looking back, I remember the cool summer nights we stayed up until one in the morning playing basketball for hours under the dim orange street lights. Even as first graders, these so-called friendly games to ten became relentlessly brutal, noone wanting to give in and lose to the other. He beat me almost everytime, but the one game I beat him drove him crazy, and we always played one more to satisfy him.
“Come on lets play again, you got lucky.”
Monday, November 29, 2004. I still feel the cold rain drenching my clothes and the freezing wind cutting through me like a knife on the day that changed not only my life but the lives of many of my classmates. Soccer practice lasted late that day and as we scrimmaged I saw three of my closest friends walking through the rain up towards the field. I thought nothing of it and continued to play, assuming they came to watch the end of practice. I soon realized noone came to watch an unimportant soccer practice on such a cold and wet day as this. I saw some of the other senior soccer players walking off as coach called them over to my friends, and I instinctively followed. As I walked nearer, I realized the gravity of the situation. My friends eyes streamed wet, and not from the rain. The tears contagiously passed from one person to the next until they finally reached me and I heard the news. One of my best friends Chance broke the news to me.
“Scott just died in a car crash.”
I grew up with Scott Everett Baker. Since first grade we played basketball and baseball together, shared classes, and spent the night at each other’s houses. Even though in high school we hung out a lot less, we still remained friends. Scott epitomized the class clown, always making jokes no matter what the situation. If someone walked into the school not knowing him, they instantly stereotyped him as the popular one just by looking at him. The guys all wanted his friendship, and the girls all wanted to date him.
Speechless, I fell to my knees. “How could this happen?” I thought. As we walked down to the parking lot, we saw dozens of students standing in the rain, even though school let out almost two hours before, embracing each other as they cried. Eventually the principal allowed us to sit in the cafeteria before finally everyone began to go home. The state of shock seen in everyone’s eyes told the story. Scott, always the daredevil, trying to pass a friend on a narrow slick road, turned his truck over and crashed it into a tree. He died instantly, and life for many changed permanently.
Sadly, growing up in that town, tragedy became common. In four years of high school, five people close to me died. But none effected me like Scott’s death. Of all the people, noone imagined this happening to him. The way he made people laugh, the smile he always wore, things that people never realized they took for granted before instantly became missed. It rained the entire week, and postponed classes became common, as counselors came and talked to us repeatedly. Everyone took the loss very hard, even teachers and administrators who knew Scott showed signs of deep sadness. As much as a trouble maker he sometimes seemed, he became loved by just about everyone who knew him.
The day of the funeral, the first sunny day in weeks, held mixed emotions for many people. As much as it hurt that Scott died, the day felt more like a day of celebration. At the funeral everyone shared stories about how Scott made them laugh, made them smile on a bad day, and everyone agreed his soul now resided in a much better place. I never cried and laughed so closely together as much as at Scott’s funeral. Noone felt guilty for smiling and laughing at his funeral, everyone knew Scott wanted it that way. Someone talked about how Scott use to run up to people in the hallway and make them believe they dropped their pocket. Everyone laughed and remembered the funny times about Scott. The most memorable moment of the funeral, however, came when his uncle stood up to speak. He told Scott’s two brothers to stand up, and said words that ring in my ears to this day.
“I don’t know if I ever told Scott I loved him and its going to haunt me for the rest of my life, but I want you boys to know that I love you. I love you Scott.”
Scott achieved something for our senior class unlike anyone else, unity. He brought the seniors of 2005 together. Everyone told stories about Scott because he touched everyone’s lives in someway. Less than a week after Scott’s death, our school held its annual winter formal. All the seniors wore sweat bands, bracelets, and pink in memory of Scott. Scott always wore a sweat band, and planned on wearing a pink tuxedo to formal that year. Although the dance missed one important thing, him, we still felt him there with us. We danced all night long, and dedicated songs to him.
The loss of Scott showed a lot of things to a lot of people. The words his uncle spoke at the funeral are what will remain with me for the rest of my life. I no longer take life for granted, and realize just how precious it is. If I love someone, I tell them. Scott’s life ending so suddenly taught me not to hold back. Scott lived like that, and his death helped many to live like that as well. I miss Scott and always will, but I will never forget him and the lessons I learned from him.