November Angst

Today is hard.

Five years ago today I lost one of my best friends who just so happened to have four legs and an excitable little tail.

And just last year, almost to the day, I lost a friend who I’d never even met in person, and yet profoundly impacted — indeed, continually impacts — how I interact with others on a daily basis.

I wrote the following post on Facebook a year ago; thought it’d be fitting to edit and re-post here, now.

Annie and Morgan. How I miss you both.

***

November Angst — 11/17/10

I’ve always hated November.

By always, I mean since 2006. And by hate, I mean — well, this month just hasn’t treated me too kindly in recent years.

On November 17th, 2006, my best friend left this earth forever. And no, Annie Girl wasn’t “just a dog.” For an insecure, introverted teenager with few friends, Annie Girl was a constant source of loyalty and love. I’ll never forget her spastic excitement whenever I’d come home from school, sleeping next to me under the covers, our walks through the neighborhood, and a zillion other memories: chasing frogs and lizards, resting on couch arms, and running laps around the pool and house.

Annie was just always there, making me smile through every valley. When people failed me, Annie didn’t. Ever. She provided me just a glimpse of what the love of God is like: strong and unfailing, ever and always.

Annie 1

When she died like she did after her accident, I was devastated beyond any devastation I’d ever experienced. I cried and wailed, longer and louder than ever before. It took weeks, maybe months to get “over” her death, if such a phrase even makes sense. It was painful to come home to a suddenly quiet house, to watch her shed hairs gradually disappear from our living room carpet.

I go for runs and see happy people walking their happy dogs and I still miss Annie all these years later. Miss her terribly.

I’ve been pretty fortunate, truthfully. Annie Girl was my only significant loss up to that point. After 23 years I’d lost a maternal grandfather, paternal great-grandmother, and paternal great-aunt. Not to diminish these three precious lives, but their passings didn’t greatly affect me because I hardly knew them. God’s been so good to me and my family, and I know I don’t praise and thank Him enough.

Right on track with wretched November, I received some news yesterday that shook my world. I feared the worst when I first read the text, and to my speechless dismay the worst was realized minutes later.

Morgan was gone.

Morgan 1

I don’t really broadcast my involvement with online Survivor games. Not out of shame because I’m such a Survivor nerd, but simply because I don’t think most would understand. It’s more than forums and e-challenges and tribal councils. Believe it or not, in the midst of such Survivor-nerdery, you actually get to know people. Real-life people around the world with hopes and dreams and fears and lives just like you and me. Over the past four years, the people in this online community have become so much more than text on a screen. They’ve become…well, a family.

I never met Morgan in person. And that saddens me greatly, because Morgan was easily one of the nicest, most genuine sweethearts I’d ever “met.”

After “the tribe has spoken,” communication can often wane amid this internet community. We all get caught up in our busy lives beyond the internet, but Morgan was one of those people who couldn’t go more than a couple weeks without some kind of Facebook checkup to see how anyone — see how I — was doing. And our many conversations went far beyond the game of Survivor.

Like my writings, for one. This random “internet person” in Mexico had such an enthusiasm for my novel and constantly wanted a sneak preview — couldn’t wait for it to be published.

I tear up thinking about it, thinking about her. Thinking how she’ll never ask me for a sneak preview again.

Ever since I started planning my first novel, I knew I’d be dedicating it to my Annie Girl. So much of the story is built upon the love I had for her and the love she reciprocated a hundredfold. But now, suddenly, I feel I should make another dedication whenever I see the light of publication.

I was thinking my first page would look something like this:

For Annie, who inspired this story,

and for Morgan, who longed to read it.

I hope they’d both like that.

There’s so much heartbreak in this world; it makes me want to retreat to some faraway cave and live out the rest of my life as a hermit unaware.

And yet with life’s inevitable heartbreak comes life’s invaluable love — something I struggle to remind myself daily.

And true love is not easily lost.

Morgan 2

As much as it stings for Annie Girl and now Morgan to be gone, I wouldn’t trade away knowing them — of sharing in their love — for anything. Both were there for me whenever I needed someone to be there. Both taught me unyielding love, no matter the circumstance.

How I yearn to exhibit that same loyal love for others.

All last night during my dazed drive to/from tutoring, I couldn’t help wondering: this could be my last night on earth. Some drunken idiot could slam into me like he did Morgan and I could be in an ambulance and on a hospital bed and gone. Just like that.

I’m slowly learning that every day truly is a precious gift. So why not really use each one? Use it to build up, not break down; use it to impact others like Annie and Morgan did. What an awesome legacy they both leave; what a way they invested their short time on this earth.

For those of you reading that never got to know Morgan, I’d humbly ask for your prayers over her friends and family. She has a twin sister and mother who must be devastated beyond all comprehension, not to mention a fiance who now mourns the loss of his wife-to-be and unborn child. So much prayer, so much Morgan-love is needed.

November, November — maybe one of these years something amazing will happen within the confines of your first and thirtieth days. But until that day and beyond, I’m not neglecting the good behind the gut-wrenching. Not forgetting the amazing Annie Girl and Morgan.

Not for as long as I live.

Annie 2

  • Thanks for sharing this post again, Tom. So beautifully written and from the heart. I am reminded of a quote from one of my favorite, if not favorite, movies, Shadowlands, the life story of C.S. Lewis. In it he says: “Why love if losing hurts so much? I have no answers any more. Only the life I have lived. Twice in that life I’ve been given the choice: as a boy and as a man. The boy chose safety, the man chooses suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal.”

    • tmz

      Definitely need to see that movie someday. I actually think you mentioned it on last year’s posting too. As much as it hurts, will gladly take the suffering with the love.

  • MLYaksh

    C. S. Lewis has another quote which I will paraphrase:

    If you choose to keep your heart unbroken, you must lock it away from everyone and everything. And doing so will keep it intact- however it will turn to stone, unable to feel anything. (I apologize I don’t know the source of this quote.)

    To love is to be vulnerable, willing to be hurt. When Jesus died for the world, He knew people would still reject Him- yet He STILLL died for them.

    That Love is worth the hurt. I’m sorry you’re hurting. I’ve lost close ones as well and I don’t regret the hurt.

    • tmz

      Loving the Lewis quotes. Thanks so much for those truthful reminders. I don’t regret the hurt either.

  • Pingback: Rediscovering Purpose: Field Trip! | Thomas Mark Zuniga()

  • Pingback: The Weekend WOW – 1/20/12 | Thomas Mark Zuniga()

  • Everett Wickham

    Tom, you are an excellent writer. So sorry for your losses… keep clinging to Christ!

    • TMZ

      Much appreciated, Everett. Quite enjoying your blog as well. Looking forward to how Christ uses all our struggles and strife for HIS glory.

  • Rebecka

    Powerful words, Tom. Now I understand why you dislike November so much. Loss is never easy and I’m sorry for yours. Yes, lets use our time on earth well and live loving lives!

    • TMZ

      Yeah, November just always leaves me with a sour taste. I love Thanksgiving and I love fall weather, but it always reminds me of pain from years past. Striving not to let the struggles of yesterday hinder my progress and growth today.

  • Pingback: Tipping Point | Thomas Mark Zuniga()