Our childhood (including high school) memories are the foundation for our lives. The good, the bad and the in between are sprinkled with a variety of people who have contributed to our textured history. Chance brought us together and experiences bonded us. There’s something extraordinary between us and our earliest tribes, they influence, enhance and leave undeniable marks on our hearts. Early days of playful innocence often lead to later years of changes, challenges, lessons and years filled with memories. These first friends know where we came from and love us more based on this. In looking back, we see the unfolding, understand the lessons and recognized the gifts that came from a simpler time. These are years full of friendship, experimentation, fumbling and growing into ourselves.
An old and dear friend passed away this week. During times like this, memories flood our minds, doubling the sadness that we’re feeling for their families.
My friendship with Eric Sumner spanned junior high and high school; regular school stuff, hanging out and going to parties. Eric was our paper boy and my mother always questioned his influence, putting him into the ‘bad boy’ category. Eric confirmed this (in her mind) the night that my parents came home early when I was ‘having a few people over’ – a party (details not necessary). “I told you so,” she said. What she didn’t see, in those early years, was the gentle and loving heart inside his wild child exterior. He was a spirited person and a talented musician, finding his way. We were all finding our way, some of us better at hiding the different roads we took.
It was my first New Year’s Eve party, I had too much fun. Eric was by my side, holding my hair back and comforting me. This is how I remember him; kind, compassionate, caring and there.
My last memory of Eric was from a couple of months ago. I’m happy that our paths crossed on that day. We caught up on each other’s lives in the isle of the Family Dollar. He had been recovering from many health-related issues but that wasn’t keeping him down, still moving and pursuing what made him the happiest – music. He was proud of some latest accomplishments and shared them with me through his phone. His struggle was apparent, but his spirit was soaring and the same. We hugged and said the usual stuff; it’s nice to see you and so on. When I went out to my car, he had left a thoughtful note under my windshield wiper. So special, so Eric.
Rest in peace, Eric Sumner. You were many things in this life; eccentric, outrageous, fun, funny, sentimental, one-of-a-kind, a musician and meaningful. What I’ll remember the most is that you were my friend.