1:57 AM. Sunday, June 19, 2011. Father's Day.
I heard my cell phone going off to my Bruno Mar's "Grenade" ringtone.
The person who was calling was a friend who used to work with me. Before I even answered the phone, I was still half alseep and trying to figure out why he was calling me at this hour.
What unfolded over the next two and a half hours was probably the worst nightmare I sometimes feel like I'm still trapped in.
He was calling to tell me that Lance, a friend of ours who worked as produce manager at Winn-Dixie, had been killed in a car accident.
And I thought he was joking. Leave it to Lance to pull a prank like that. I half expected to hear him dying of laughter in the background as my friend continued to repeat himself, over and over. And it still wasn't sinking in.
And then all the questions started pouring out of me, trying to make sense as my children slept safe and sound in their beds, of what had happened to my friend.
Just after 11pm on Saturday, June 18th, Lance was involved in a violent car accident not far from his home. He was actually on his way home when the accident happened. The details of the accident are still somewhat uncertain, and because there might be a criminal trial I don't want to speculate or post inaccurate information.
Lance and I had spent countless lunch hours together. Alot of times with another co-worker, and then often times just the two of us. Those were probably the times that Lance and I really got to know each other. His favorite place to go (when it was just the two of us) was Ding How in Prattville. We even had a conversation once that if heaven had a buffet line, Ding How's sesame chicken would be on it! If you've never tried it, you should!
That day was a complete blur for me, probably because not only was I dealing with all of these emotions at once but every single time I tried to lay down and sleep I just couldn't. Or my cell phone was going on.
Walking back into work Monday morning was more than excrutiating. Not just for me, but for the rest of my co-workers. These were people who saw Lance on a daily basis. Worked with him, talked with him, laughed with him. We all pulled together to put up a small memorial at work.
I have tried my hardest in the last several weeks to deal with this loss and my grief the best way that I know how. Out of this horrible loss, I have watched a brand new friendship blossom. If it even seems possible, some work relationships have become closer. I have had people that I look up to and respect encourage me to deal with my feelings the best that I can. To not force myself to do anything I'm not ready to. And to understand that while this pain will be with me the rest of my life, that time will make it easier to deal with.
It has been hard to hear people say that he's in a better place, that I will see him again one day, or that this was part of God's will. Not because I don't understand that, because I do. It has been in dealing with the human side of grieving for a friend and co-worker that I won't see again in this lifetime. With trying to make sense and understand what happened, even if it is never explained in a way that I can understand. To put my misplaced anger and frustration into something positive. And to really and truly, honestly understand that this kind of suffering only brings us closer to God. And closer to each other.
There is so much that I will take away from this loss, the majority of it being positive. I believe with all my heart that there was a reason why God put Lance Martin in my path. And I have shared that reason with several people. Lance and I never had a conversation about what kind of friends we were to each other, but hearing the words his mother whispered to me the night of his viewing, I am for certain that Lance and I we were friends. My biggest regret is never telling him how much his friendship meant to me.
There are still days that are terribly hard, and some that seem so easy. Sometimes I have a Lance moment where something or someone reminds me of him. Lance was always smiling, joking, and laughing. I don't think there was a time that I knew him where he was ever serious about anything. He enjoyed life. He cared about people. And his death has changed so many people for the better.
The video below was put together by Lance's family (his sister, Alyssa) and was played during the viewing and funeral services.