Last evening at 6:33pm, Zachary passed away.
My heart breaks for his family & his young wife, for Zachary. For the amazing life he has lead in 26 years and the one that could have been. He was an amazing human being (as if I have not said this enough and I mean it...) There are many reasons I think this of a young person I hardly know.
It starts with Ann, his step mother, and Michael, his father. They gave me chance four years ago to start in a job I never thought I would find. They weathered through my childishness and helped me to grow up, become a stronger person, a good business woman and truly allowed me to be financially independent in a way I never in my life could have hoped for or imagined.
In the midst of my 1st turbulent year on this job I remember Ann sitting me down and basically telling me to get over my bad self. That holy crap little girl do you know, do have any clue what real life is? do you know what it is to worry about your spouse's recurring and worsening cancer (Kathy, a co-worker - her husband has cancer as well) or your son being away in Iraq and how there is fear for his life every single moment of every day that goes by. It felt like someone shook me awake from a long sleep at that moment. I felt like someone slapped me (but in a good way.) I looked around with new eyes. At people. I started to loss that sense of 'I am SO wrapped up in myself' and started to feel again for others.
Zach's story unfolded for me. I finally met him when he was on a brief leave. I was pregnant. I was almost shy to meet Zach because he really was the reason I opened my eyes, stopped my whining, started working harder. He had no idea of that. He was on leave and had to return to Iraq to finish is tour. To see his parents and siblings beam over him was amazing but more then that the beaming they did was for good reason. He really was all of things that they said he was. That part was amazing. T his young 24 year man seemed so much more mature then I was at the time... I read the Zachary updates which Ann would faithfully send out everyone who knew and cared. I watched the news to make sure that anything happening in Iraq was far from Mosul where Zach was stationed.
Then he came home. He was in love. I remember Ann telling me about this tiny little girl who served beside him in Mosul. That they fell in love on the desert. We all went to lunch with Zach and he told us stories of his experiences in Iraq and meeting another person from Indiana, falling in love and making it work even in tight and dangerous quarters. He was deeply religious as was his soon to be wife. They bonded over that and their common background. He had this lovely Southern Indiana twang that none of his siblings have, just Zachary. He had a smile that was infectious and shy all at once. He liked country music (I have a soft spot for country music, shhh don't tell anyone...it has helped me through some rough times.)
Zachary got married. He started to look for a career. He worked at Harley Davidson for a while. He was good with cars and the mechanics of them but found that it was not the right place for him. He tried his hand as a truck driver which was tedious and kept him away from his new wife. If you met this guy he so would not fit the Harley/Truck driver type AT ALL! So he started looking for a new career. He came to help out at our office. He and I talked about how he was hoping to pass the state police tests. He already discovered that he had a painful tumor in his shoulder and been diagnosed with two kinds of Cancer. This boy was tough. He was always smiling every time you saw him. And it was not just Zachary but Ann, Michael, Samson, Mary-Ellen and Michael Jr. They all kept their heads up and a ready smile despite the unfolding of his story, his struggle with a cancer that as they were told from the start might be fatal. Dara, his wife of barely a year, stayed by his side, left her job, took care of his life all in three short years of meeting, falling in love, & marrying.
He was funny, silly and sweet. Ann & Michael have created for me, my husband, our son a family that we never thought we would find living here in B-town. They have provided us with a financial stability and an atmosphere that allows us to be with our son, close to our son when we need to be, no questions asked. Beyond that the entire May/St John family has become an integral part of my extended family.
Without having known Zachary even briefly I would not be grateful for every moment I have for myself, with my husband and most especially with my baby. I feel honored to know this family, who held up in such a way that it makes me question how I would be if I were put through the same situation for two years. I am honored to have known Zachary. I hope that like many I will take that little part of Zachary into the world and do good with it, in his honor. That I will teach my son to be as honorable, thankful and charming as Zachary was in life. That is the legacy I hope to share by knowing Zachary in life and in his death...