At Rob's Wedding 1-1-11

Remembering the Past While Moving Forward

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Super Bowl Sunday (February 1st) marks exactly one year since my friend Alex took his own life. Losing someone you care about always proves tough. In addition to Alex, last year I also lost a big supporter in my aunt. She passed away from graft-versus-host disease, essentially dying indirectly from leukemia.

Now I bring up my aunt to illustrate how the grieving process can differ case by case. I found moving forward after my aunt passed away easy, at least compared to losing Alex. With my aunt she fought an admirable battle for 10 months. Her death almost provided comfort via the knowledge she no longer needed to fight.

Woman Sitting on the BedAlex’s suicide on the other hand came to me as a total surprise. My first words once I received the news “That doesn’t sound like Alex.” Disbelief, sadness, doubt, amongst the many other feelings I experienced the following months once I heard the news made moving forward complicated.

Heck I remember coming home from Alex’s funeral. I planned to turn on my laptop and check emails. Yet I could not muster the will to do so. I didn’t want to move forward. Doing that jeopardized my memories with Alex. I feared losing them.

Instead I called a friend and ended up becoming a sobbing mess on the phone. By making that phone call I successfully delayed moving forward, well for 20 more minutes. Time holds no sympathy though. Either I learned to move forward or become stuck in the past.

Moving forward I discovered my fear unfounded. Rather than losing my memories with Alex they found a way to weave into my life. For instance, take my buddy James’ wedding last July. Weddings make some single people disgruntled, but not me.

You may recall from my memoir Off Balanced I reconnected with Alex at our friend Rob’s wedding January 1st, 2011. I remember Alex commenting about Rob’s wedding afterwards “I like hanging out with Zach because he always has a good time.”

At Rob's Wedding 1-1-11

I reconnected with Alex (far right) at Rob’s wedding in 2011.

Those words found their way into my head six months ago at James’ wedding. That evening I spent the night around a married couple and two engaged couples. Such a scenario could understandably trigger disgruntled behavior. Any temptation to assemble a woe me attitude disappeared however when Alex’s words came to me. “I like hanging out with Zach because he always has a good time.”

Even spotting a simple everyday item can trigger Alex memories. My grey sweatpants supply one example. I took those to wear in my sleep back when we visited Rob in Dayton. Alex saw them and said “Those look comfortable.” I know, not a great story. Meanwhile the story gets me thinking about that weekend, the alcohol consumed, Alex passing out only to pop up hours later to pray before bed, and him ordering and demolishing half the Sonic menu the next morning.

Surely I could continue writing and tell you how I can relate Alex to Applebees, black jack, my money clip, and more but I will digress. I hope by sharing today I can encourage you to move forward amidst even the toughest losses.

P.S. If you want one last Alex story, watch the video below.

*Image of sad woman on the bed courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at

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