I’m not sharing this for anyone to feel bad for me. Because today will never ever be about me. I’m sharing this because if you know someone who’s passed away, you know that the anniversary of their passing will forever be a hard day. A day where emotions are high and feelings are difficult to understand. So I’m sharing this because this is how we, my friends and I, have navigated our pain. Maybe this will help you process your own pain. Or maybe this is just a way for me to process my own pain.
Every August 1st hurts. It’ll always hurt. It’s a physical pain in my stomach that lasts all day. It feels like my heart weighs about ten pounds. My hands are constantly shaking. This day, three years ago replays in my head constantly as if it’s a CNN breaking news rerun. I replay answering the phone that night to my best friend struggling to say the words, “he drowned”. I replay the phone calls I had to make, repeating the same words that were told to me minutes prior. I replay the two weeks that followed. Sitting by the river in a 100-degree heat just waiting for answers. I replay the image of lost, confused and broken 18-year olds holding on to each other trying to navigate a heartbreak that was difficult to comprehend and all too sudden.
But I guess that’s the part of grief no one really talks about, it’s that grief never ends. Maybe it gets easier, maybe you learn to live with it but it’ll never end. The memories stay, the pain stays, it all stays. Except for every year it just gets a bit more buried under reality.
For me, the only way I navigated that time, three years ago, is through writing. Through expressing heartbreak through words that attempted to make sense of anything or of something that was going on.
And every year after, I’ve posted on some form of social media, turning to words yet again to help myself navigate this day, the pain and the awkwardness that comes with it.
So, today I’m during to words yet again. This time I’m going to tell you a story. A story about who Mario was.
Mario Martinez was one of my good friends. He was an athlete and humble. He was determined and hilarious. He was shy and predictable. He was kind and compassionate. He loved CrossFit almost as much as he loved riding his bicycle. He loved peanut butter sandwiches but only made the right way. He loved his friends like they were family because to him they were. His laugh was contagious. And his style was always put together.
Mario, essentially, was a portrait of an ideal person. You never met a person who didn’t appreciate who he was. He was admirable.
We’ll never finish loving the person that he was and we’ll never stop appreciating what he taught us. Over ten of us now have his signature permanently on our body. It was a signature of his we found in one of his old notebooks. He had underlined this exact signature probably five times. It’s perfect.
His signature lets us remember him but also teaches us every day to take care of our bodies, to love and appreciate our friends, to prioritize positivity, to live life as authentically as possible and to take chances because life is too short to be boring. Because that’s what he would’ve wanted. And of course, his signature reminds us to, “never let a hangover get the best of our workout.”
He was going to go to school at Portland State University. He wanted to make a career out of his love for fitness and health. Something he took extremely seriously and took great pride in. The majority of the time I ever saw Mario was actually at the gym at 8 pm, every night. It was consistently predictable.
He was almost 18-years old when he left this world too soon. It was the summer after we all graduated high school. It was August 1st, a hot summer day, just like today, where the universe decided that this was his time. I’ll never know how to justify his death. I think that would be impossible to do.
His funeral was two days before I left for my freshman year of college. We spent the night after all together. Crying, laughing, talking in our friends basement. We didn’t know how to handle this kind of pain. We were too young. Too young to navigate that kind of heartbreak. Too young to understand why our good friend left this world at just 18-years old.
But we handled it the only way we knew how. We held on to each other. We held on to the people that knew him.
And today, three years later, we’ll do the same thing. We’ll hold on to each other. We’ll go to his favorite places and just remember how beautiful of a human he was.
And we’ll miss him. Like crazy.
Hope you’re resting easy Mario.