The friends that Jordan grew up with continue to be his friends today. Jordan’s core group remained fairly constant from first grade throughout his life. There have been other special friendships that have developed. There are of course, young men and women that he met in summer programs and at college who were dear to him and are now dear to my family and me. That first group of friends however was the touchstone. They are the children, now men who learned from each other about fun, loyalty, adventure, and at Jordan’s death sorrow of losing one’s own.
One of the first things I knew I had to do after we found out that Jordan had been killed in a car accident was to notify the parents of one of his best friends and have them notify the other parents. In this age of instant information, I couldn’t have Jordan’s dearest friends finding out he was gone because someone had posted it on Facebook or MySpace. I knew how much these guys loved Jordan and they needed to be comforted as they were told. Around 5:30 am I made the call to the parents of Jordan’s friend who had become our friends because of our children. I knew the news for them would be so devastating. Matt’s house was Jordan’s second home. They loved my son and would struggle to tell Matt because of their own grief. The shock, screams of “No” and tears that met me on the other end of the phone line let me know that telling Jordan’s friends would put them in a place of grief and lost innocence. It was clear that for our community of parents something we never wanted to imagine had happened. One of our worst fears had been realized. Death had come suddenly and intruded in such an ugly way. Any vestiges of innocence that still clung to our children and to us were stripped away. One of their best friends, one of our children was gone.
All of these boys were away at school and had to be called so their families could notify them about Jordan. I made it clear that the core group of friends, the boys who had played together since first grade, – who went to each others birthday and block parties playing “cops and robbers” and “ghosts in the graveyard”, who went to their 8th grade dance getting dressed up in suits and nudging each other to ask girls to dance, and who went to senior prom with the infamous camping trip afterwards-these kids grew up together in front of my eyes and had to be told gently. That morning our house was filled with the parents of these buddies. They all assured me that their sons knew and then they told me-“I’ve never heard him cry like that.”
Such a departure from the scene when I had last gathered with the parents of Jordan’s friends at Jordan’s graduation party. Mark and I had a joint party for our sons, our youngest son about to enter high school, and Jordan off to college. The party was held in our backyard, although Jordan and his friends took over and hung out in the basement. I only had one planned activity for that day and it was to briefly have our family say a few words to our sons and for my sister to present Jordan with a scrapbook she had made for him entitled “Blink”-as in “the blink of an eye.” Jordan and his friends begrudgingly made their way from the basement looking uncomfortable amongst all the fawning adults as if at any moment someone was going to pinch their cheeks and call them “precious”. Jordan most of all looked annoyed. He hated public displays, especially those given by his parents. That day however I was not going to let his scowl deter me from the gift I wanted to give him. Jordan was blessed to have both sets of grandparents alive and well and able to see him graduate from high school. I wanted them to be able to say a few words to Jordan and his friends. Jordan quickly straightened out his attitude when I gave him my “mama look” and said for everyone to hear -“I see your face buddy. You’re just going to have to deal with it. We love you and we’re going to show it.”
Each of his grandparents said how proud they were of him and knew great things were in store for him. When it was my father’s turn to talk he changed the tone a bit. He spoke to Jordan and his friends in a way that I’ve decided is distinctly his own. He told them, “Look around. These guys you’ve been hanging out with since you were little boys are your friends for life. Don’t ever forget that. Don’t let distance, or interests, or anything make it so you don’t stay in touch with each other.” Daddy then told them about one of his best friends that he claimed to have known “since the womb” because their mothers were friends when they were pregnant with each of them. Daddy told them, “to this day Fred and I call each other once a month to give each other hell. Our families get together and we make sure we stay in touch. So, look around and remember, this is where your first friendships started, don’t forget them.”
I thought about that day as Jordan’s friends came home to say goodbye to their friend. Here were the guys who’d envisioned their friendships lasting the way my father’s had, well into old age. But a member of the core group was gone and most of them were feeling the pain of a significant loss for the first time. When they came home they gathered at each other’s homes to mourn Jordan together. One mom told me, to see this group of “cool dudes” sitting together openly weeping over the loss of their friend humbled her so.
All of them came to our home before the service to pay their respects. They also did so much more. Billy asked if it would be okay for him to wear a polo shirt to the service. Jordan always wore polo shirts and he wanted to honor him in this way. Quinn and Pat usually so reserved, hugged me with such openness that spoke volumes about their love for Jordan and their need to feel connected to him through us. Matt made a special video of Jordan with family and friends to show at the service. Lucas took a deep breath and through tears played “When the Saints Go Marching In” on his saxophone to end the service. And, as we received guests after the service, the mother of Jordan’s friend Sam told me what her son had done to honor Jordan. Sam attends a military college on the east coast and after hearing the news about Jordan asked that the school play taps to honor his friend. Sam’s mom then presented us with the flag that had flown the morning taps was played, folded military style to honor a fallen comrade. Sam was at the service but too distraught to give it to us himself.
These are the boys my son has a friends. They visit us whenever they are home. They come by to say hello, check on us, give us updates on their lives and talk about their friend. They also connect with Jordan’s younger brother whom they’ve all adopted as their own little brother. They come to our house because they know it’s a safe place to remember and miss Jordan. These boys, these young men who loved my son are now friends to my family. It is bittersweet every time we see them. I love these boys. I honor and respect their grace and maturity. They visit, and then they are back out into the world, something I’ll never get to see Jordan do. Every time they leave I weep as I watch their backs heading down the walk. Having them in our lives has given us so much. We treasure every visit.