Thursday, June 16, 2016

Wise Choices

I know that many people consider family to be something they treasure above all else. For most of our married life, Jason and I have lived more than just a few hours away from our extended family and so, while the four of us have carved out our own little gang, we know that we belong to a larger group of people. Our peeps. The Fam. But, in the days in between, we know too, that our friends have moved into the space a close by family would normally fill. Watching the boys when they were small. Vacationing with us in those early days when a camping trip meant waking up at 4 am with the birds and sleeping in the Jeep because the ground was just too chilly for a toddler in a pull-up. Figuring out the phases and stages of life and assuring us that they would pass...and then celebrating them with us when they did.  Watching our boys play sports. Buying the cookie dough, perogies and whatever else they were selling to fundraise for whatever they were up to and giving up their bottles and cans for whatever else they were up to. Our friends and neighbours watched as Aidan's height surpassed the fence line and he drove his first car home. Our friends pick up and drop off our boys on nights to babysit their own kids, as they begin the stages and phases that we assure them will pass. When we're young our parents try to impress on us how important it is to choose our friends wisely. Sometimes friends choose you against their better judgement and it all works out beautifully as well.

When you lose someone you love, whether they are related by blood or not, you begin to understand that "family" doesn't always mean related. As intensely as we have felt the loss of our nephew this week, we know that there are a group of friends and teammates that feel it equally. This weekend, I was so moved by the way that Mac's friends came together and really celebrated who he was. We sat in the service and I looked over to my left where the room was filled with teenagers and I noticed the front row filled with Toronto Maple Leaf jerseys, worn by his closest friends. When they got up and shared stories of Mac, I realized that they knew the Mac that we knew. Sometimes when you go to a memorial service or funeral, it seems as though those speaking are trying to gloss over the parts of life that are less appealing, sometimes it seems they don't know the person. These kids knew Mac. Isn't that what we all search for in life, whether knowingly or not? To be known so well and loved as much?

Listening to Mac's friends, I was surprised to actually feel happiness.  I heard them tell stories about Mac that made sense to me, knowing him. As they spoke, I could tell that they knew Mac and they loved him deeply. I heard them talk about his quirks and characteristics and they were the same ones we saw and admired and even wondered about. They spoke about Mac with that affection and admiration that only young men and women seem capable of...real love and rolled eyes at the thought of the oddities that friendship with Mac would often involve. They talked about life with Mac in the midst of it and I realized that the hole that Mac has left in our lives is amplified in theirs. Their day to day included Mac. Their driving to and from school. Playing sports. Defending against his goals despite being on the same team. Overcrowded bunk beds and underachieving French scholars.  They knew his laugh. His sly smile. His quiet humour. His uncommon knowledge of sports and statistics. They knew Mac. And they miss him. But, in each of them, I could see that something of Mac remained. Some small light that when they spoke of him, grew in their eyes and spread amongst them. I wish I could have sat with them for hours, and listened and compared notes...because while Mac is gone, his memory will stay with them. They are the ones who will go into the future with their friend internalized in their hearts.

Kelly, Carson, Connor, Mackenzie and Scott...

They say you can't choose your family, but you can choose your friends...and given this crew, I'd say Mac made some great choices. 

PS. Caught this tribute to Mac on the Jay and Dan podcast .... these guys were favourites of Mac's. 

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