** Disclosure: This is going to be a rather long, heartfelt post. So get the tissues ready.**
When I was younger, religion and faith were a huge part of who I was. And in the past couple years, I have strayed from my beliefs and turned my back on faith.
Sometimes in life something happens and it makes you question everything you ever believed in. It causes you to ask yourself how something like this could happen to someone like you. How something so tragic could happen to such a great family. Not only does it rip you away from your faith, but it can cause you turn away from family and friends. It causes you to go searching for something to fill the void. Sometimes it causes you to make rash decisions and do things you never thought you would.
I know all too well how it all feels. I know what it's like to feel like you are being ripped apart from the inside out. I know what it's like to turn your back on everyone. But mostly, I know what loss feels like.
My story starts somewhere around the 7th grade. Around the time when I was learning what it was like to feel God's presence. To know that even in times of worry and doubt, He was always there. I was going through Confirmation at the time. We were studying bible verses and stories. I was in church and Sunday school every week. I was figuring out the person I was, and the person that I wanted to be. I was never the type of person who shared my beliefs with others. I wasn't one who would go around spreading the story, asking you to believe in the same things I did. I knew in my heart that there was a God and that that God would protect me.
Fast forward about two years. It's my freshman year. My church had recently started it's own Youth Group. I went to "meetings" without even thinking twice. I had been going to Youth Group outings for years with my friend Katie and the Youth Group at her church. I loved the sense of camaraderie I always felt after being around people that believed in the same things I did, often felt the same way I did, and knew what it was like to struggle with your faith. I never expected Youth Group to be such a huge part of my life. But it did. After a few short months, I was one of the most active youth in our congregation. I was the Youth Representative to our Church Council Board. I was planning outings and participating in mission trips. And it felt great to know that I was doing something positive all while strengthening my faith.
And then I met him.
He wasn't the bad boy who was going to corrupt me. He wasn't the boy who was going to make me lose sight of my faith. He was the boy that I would show my world to. The boy who I would share my faith with. And the boy who I would help believe.
Not many people believe in love at first sight. Or that earth shattering moment when you feel something inside you change. Call me crazy, but I did. From the moment I saw him walk into that room, I knew that this boy was going to have a major impact on my life. And boy did he ever.
We spent a lot of time together between Youth Group and Church. I was slowly starting to get to know the boy who had captured my heart without even saying one word to me. We argued like crazy, constantly egging the other on. Taunting and joking. Laughing and heckling. It was who we were. He was the first person to ever tell me "nothing runs like a Deere." The person who, when I told him not to throw me off our float in the parade simply responded, "well then I guess you better hang on tight." The first person who told me I could seriously rock a pair of cowboy boots. He was the first person I ever watched the movie Elf with. The person who stayed up with me all night at the Youth Group lock-in just talking. The first boy to meet my parents.
His name was Drew.
Drew wasn't always a believer. He once told me the only reason he was in Youth Group was because his mom had made him. But I watched him change. I was there when he started believing.
It was at the Dare 2 Share conference. It was a 2 day conference for church youth groups in the Saint Louis area. It was one of the first major outings we did as a Youth Group. A lot of the weekend is foggy to me now. But I remember the way being there and hearing the gospel strengthened my beliefs. And I remember the look in Drew's eyes when he started to believe. As was normal with anything Drew and I did, we spent most of the weekend annoying each other. He did everything in his power to make sure he was right next to me the whole weekend. I remember stealing his hat when we were walking around Downtown just to aggravate him. But when I tried to give it back to him, he told me to keep it because it looked better on me than it probably did on him. I remember arguing with him on Sunday morning during church when we were supposed to be telling the congregation about things we had learned, felt and experienced over the weekend about who was going to go first. I remember the look in his eye when he told me that he would go first because he would do anything for me.
I remember perfectly the night of our first date. He'd spent the whole week before meeting me outside my algebra classroom and walking me to my locker at the end of class, talking to me about everything and anything. On Friday during our walk, he'd asked me if I would want to go to a party at his friend's house with him. I told him that I didn't think my mom would let me go to a party, after all I was only a sophomore. He told me to tell her we were going to a movie instead. I told him that I would talk to her after school and would let him know. After school, I convinced my mom to let me go out with Drew. Her only condition was that he had to come in the house and meet them first. I could hardly contain my excitement when I called him. It was at that party where he asked me to be his girlfriend. And it was after he had dropped me off at my house, that I lost my way.
I've heard it said before that a person can feel the loss of someone important to them even before they know it. I'm proof of that. Right after Drew had asked me to be his girlfriend, he handed me the keys to his truck. You see, he'd been drinking and he knew he couldn't drive home. But he wanted me to be safe. He told me to drive myself home and by the time we got there he would be sober enough to drive himself. The whole way to my house I tried convincing him to let me take him home or to let me ask my mom if he could stay the night at our house. He just kept assuring me that he would be okay by the time we made it to my house. When we made it to my house, I tried once again to convince him. Thats when he said to me: "Baby, I'm fine. If I didn't think I could make it home, I wouldn't even try it because you mean the world to me and I would never do anything to hurt you." I can still remember the look in his eyes when he said those words to me. In that moment, I knew. I knew he'd meant it. I hopped out of the truck and told him to call me the minute he pulled into his driveway. I walked into my room, turned on Finding Nemo and tried my hardest to stay away for the 20 minutes I knew it would take him to get home. I ended up falling asleep anyway. I woke up sometime around 1:30 a.m. with the worst feeling in the world. I checked my phone to see if he had called, when I saw that he hadn't I let myself believe he'd just forgotten. About 5 hours later our house phone rang, startling me awake. I knew something was wrong, no one ever called our house this early. In the time span of about three minutes, I thought up every situation I could. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would lose the love of my life at 16. But from the second my mom walked into my room, sat on my bed and told me that we needed to talk, I knew my life was going to change.
You see Drew never made it home that night.
For years, I've blamed myself. I spent months playing the "what if" game. I lost track of my faith and stopped believing in God altogether.
So last night while soaking in the bubble bath and watching One Tree Hill, I thought to myself that I needed to stop chasing after the things I think I need to feel like void and start appreciating all the great things I already have in my life. You see during this difficult time in my life, I've turned to many things but friends, family and faith were none of them. I spent a long time searching for answers in the bottom of a bottle, when I should have been searching else where. So today I decided to share my story with you. I'm not sure why but I sat down to write an entirely different post and this is what started flowing. I know that this post probably doesn't make a lot of sense and that there are most likely things missing, but tonight I went with the flow. I trusted my head, heart and hands to tell the story.
So this post is dedicated to the boy I never got to spend enough time with, the boy who made me a believer in love at first sight, and the boy who stole my heart by just being himself. I will forever love you Andrew Diemert and thank you for walking into my life and changing it forever. RIP babe.