Reposting from last year. Can’t believe it’s been two years since we lost him.
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Today’s assignment is smile, and I couldn’t ask for a more perfect topic.
This is my cousin, Cory. One year ago today, we lost him in the cold water of Branched Oak Lake. Just look at him. Who in the world could be so happy to be out in the freezing cold and holding a huge, stinky fish? That look, my friends, is pure joy.
We haven’t seen that beautiful smile for a full year and although I know this sentence to be true, even as I type it, my heart doesn’t understand it.
Cory was one month older than me, so we did everything at the same time growing up–birthdays, confirmation, graduations. He wasn’t perfect–he had very human flaws and made his share of mistakes. But he was a good man. He had a good heart. And sparkly blue eyes. And a sense of humor. Mylanta. He could make me laugh until my sides ached and the tears were streaming down my cheeks.
There are a lot of tears now, but less laughing. The last year has been so difficult, as things have unfolded in ways that none of us could have predicted. Cory’s gone, and his three little girls are left with a daddy-shaped hole in their lives. He was devoted to his girls, and two of them were old enough to adore him. The baby, who was barely one year old when we lost him, never had a chance to know her daddy. They are resilient, strong, fighters like their dad.
He fought the night he died. He fought to get to his girls, to get help for his injured friend, to get out of a bad situation. He fought with all that he had. Cory wasn’t the kind of guy to wait for cavalry to ride in; he was a doer. A man of action.
He was also a man of God. Cory had his demons, and life was not always kind to him. But he was an optimist, a positive thinker. He saw the glass half full, and he saw the emptiness at the top as opportunity. He saw God working in his life and he was grateful.
Cory was the kind of guy you fall in love with right away–you can’t help but love his infectious smile and his can-do attitude. After one round, you feel like you’ve known him forever and like you could tell him anything. He was a genuinely kind soul.
Life is harder without him here. I feel guilty writing this, because we weren’t close. My brothers were tight with him, swapping stories and bullshitting each other and making plans. But it still hurts, in unexpected ways. The grief sneaks up on me, when I’m not looking.
They searched for him for three agonizing days, and we waited and we watched and we prayed desperate prayers. We cried and we screamed and our hearts broke over and over again.
He loved that lake. It was his favorite place in the world. He wanted his ashes scattered there, and a few weeks after we pulled him from the water, we returned him to his beloved lake. He was happiest there, fishing with his girls. Every time I drive by the lake, I blow him a kiss and tell him how much I miss his sparkly blue eyes and his big ol’ grin.
I know he’s at peace, and I’m thankful. But what I really want is peace for my aunt, who lives a life permanently stained with tears. Peace for my uncle. Peace for my cousin, who lost her big brother. Peace for his best friend, who lived to tell the tale of that awful night. Peace for his three sweet girls, who have to navigate the twists and turns of life without their loudest cheerleader and most trusted confidante. Peace for all of us who miss the big and small things that he brought to our lives.
Cory was a giver. He was generous with his time, with his money, and with his friendship. I aspire to be more like him.
Except for the smelly fish part.
We miss you, Adams.