For John: Thanks for the memories.

Last night, my Dad, Jason, and the 3 older kids went to the rodeo. They were lucky to receive box seats free and had a blast. My Mom, Erica, and I decided (along with my jolly baby) to hit the mall and a few other stores. On our way, we found plenty of things to laugh hysterically about, one thing that stands out is when my Mom stops mid-sentence to yell "FLY...your dudes open!" It took awhile for (me in particular) us to calm down.

Shortly after we headed out, my older sister, Misty, called with some really sad news. The little boy, John, we played and laughed with way back when, who along with his older brother were like the brothers we didn't have, had been found dead. She didn't have the how or whys of it all. It's really hard to imagine how his Mom and Dad, who at the time were probably the closest to an additional set of parents that we had, were handling it.

I cannot imagine outliving my kids, and the other things that makes it even more excruciatingly sad, is that he has 3 little kids of his own.

I'm always trying to push away thoughts of something happening to my children, but then I think, what if I die and they are left without their Mommy?

Every memory I have of our old house where we lived until I was in 6th grade, include Tanner and John, and now when I think of these memories, I'll always be thinking of how he missed out on so much, died when he was only 27.

I think the funeral will be maybe the hardest for me to date. It's not like we remained close after it became "uncool" for girls of our age to have boys as friends, what with the boy germs all over the place, but every memory of my childhood seems to include him.

What I remember is playing WWF wrestling. I always had to be Scary Sherri because I had dark hair, my sister always got to be gorgeous Beth, with her long blond hair. Sometimes they'd be the Bush Wackers, Tanner was usually Hulk, and my little sister, Nikki, did an amazing Rick Rude.

Then there was the time when we went up to the old high school and I discovered a gopher in a window well. At that age, I had absolutely no fear, so I hopped in and caught the little thing. It bit me (of course) and they came to my rescue and stoned it to death. I remember feeling really good that they came to my rescue, even though looking back it was a very crude thing to do. They walked me home, sobbing and holding by bleeding finger. My Mom had them run beck up and retrieve the animal in case I broke out in rabies. I never did, and I think we threw the thing out quite a few years later.

Another time we went up to the top of a big hill at the Catholic Church (the same one I assume where his funeral will be held) to go sledding. I think we had tried maybe a day earlier and the hill was really sticky, thus slowing our sleds down. They had decided if we rubbed candle wax on the bottoms of our sleds, we would go faster. We all agreed to meet up there, or maybe we all walked up together, I don't recall. They brought one of their Mom's candles and waxed up our sled for us. They told us to try it out and see if it worked before they did their sled. Misty and I hopped in, and proceeded down the hill very fast, and through the chain link fence at the bottom of the hill. Tanner and John came barrelling down the hill, laughing their heads off. We of course were crying because we scraped our heads on the fence and the fence was their because there was about a 3 foot drop off onto the sidewalk. We landed hard on our butts, which knocked the wind out of me for sure. We sat there not really knowing what to do, not like we could move anyway. They stood there trying to stifle their laughter, like anyone would probably do, because I am laughing now recalling it. Their Dad, Rudy, happened to be driving by at the perfect moment, pulled over to the curb and ran to us. I think (this was a very long time ago, so I'm relying all on memory here) he scooped up both up and was hugging us and asking if we were alright. He loaded us into his car and drove us home.

I remember a dance we put on once. I got to dance with Tanner, who was actually the one I fancied. Misty danced with their cousin, Isreal. That left John out, so he danced with my little sister, Nikki. I thought it was really sweet because he had to dance on his knees, in order to be short enough. It was candle lit, and the taught us the "magic trick" of running your finger through the flame of a candle really fast without burning yourself that day.

Oh, and they had the most enduring nickname for me: FatCat, which they stopped calling me when I lost my baby fat. (which I really didn't have, I actually had abs way back then from playing on the monkey bars) but I was bigger than Misty. It's all good though, we all teased each other. Incidentally, when we found out the news, my littlest sister, Erica, asked if I was "John Amber John John" and I am. My Grandpa teased me that I liked him, and always called me that when I'd see him.

One last thing that my Mom reminded me of last night was one time when John pretended he had been hit by a car. He had us all stand around him acting all scared and then one of us ran and told Tanner that John had been hit by a car. Tanner took of running as fast as he could with tears streaming down his cheeks and as soon as he got there, Jon did his usual, "HAHHHHH, gotcha." At that point, Tanner started beating the tar out of him and cussing. We were all afraid of being run over, because we had stood by watching some older kids in the neighborhood play chicken and one of them had not made it across. Incidentally, it ended up being her grandma that hit her. She wasn't hurt bad, as it was only a 25 mph speed limit, but definitely scary enough for us watching on.

There are many more things that I can recount. I am so struck by this. I don't know how it will feel to face his family in their grief, knowing that there will be an empty spot in their lives where he belongs. I am really going to have a hard time seeing his little children who I haven't ever met say goodbye to their Daddy. When I go up to hug his parents, I don't know if they will recognize me. His Mom used to wrap me up in my "blankie" and rock me. I just know that it's going to be a rough one, and I wouldn't doubt there would pictures of us all together on the picture boards they always have at funerals.

I know that saying goodbye, even to a long lost friend, is going to sting like crazy.
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