this isn't the kind of letter i ever would've imagined writing you. the first one too. i never wrote you the entire time you were on your mission, because you never told me when you were leaving or when you got your mission call. if anything that's what i regret most. not forgiving you while you were still here. it's been an entire week since i got the phone call from nicole. a phone call i never expected or even considered possible. still, no words seem to compare to what i'm feeling. i can't seem to find the words that could even begin to adequately express how i felt those first few days and even more the memories and the magnitude of how much you truly meant to me. i guess you never really comprehend the value of someone in your life until they're gone. it never even occurred to me before this last week.
did i ever tell you how much i love you? how much you meant to me, even in the short time we spent together? we lived in different states most of our lives, only seeing each other once or twice a year (if we were lucky). but, then you came to byu and even though we only saw each other occasionally that is when i started to really get to know you. the older we got the more obvious it was that we were more alike than you would think for people that hardly spent any time together growing up.
remember the time rachel and i came to visit you? we sat on your couch, the three of us, eating a huge bowl of popcorn all by ourselves. i swear we ate every single piece of popcorn - crumbs and all. sucking on the kernels, licking our fingers, and licking the bowl. everyone else thought we were weird. we thought, 'only a bentley!' and that christmas when all of us cousins went to temple square. you, shanae and rachel were taking goofy face pictures the whole way there. looking at your facebook, at least 50% of your pictures were silly face pictures. you had such an excitement for life.
we also went to mexico to see where grandpa grew up. i had never spent so much time with you before then or since then. we even got to be roommates for a week, learning about our family history, and getting to know each other better. and remember when we did baptisms at the temple? i think we each did at least fifty names. i cherish those little memories that seem so much more significant now.
you know all those times i bugged you and bugged you for weeks trying to find times that all of us cousins could get together. i'm sure it was super annoying to you, but i was so happy when we were finally able to find a day that would work for everyone. it wouldn't have been the same without you. that reality has become even more real to me the last week. there were so many times we tried to make it so you could come, but usually you had something else going on. but, the times you were there i was so happy. you always had a way of making everyone feel comfortable around you - and your oh so bubbly, infectious laugh. i can still hear it, barely. how i wish i had listened more closely.
you may not remember, but at the last family party i was having a hard time. i felt lonely and depressed, just sitting quietly by myself. you were there to invite me to sit by you. i didn't want to at first, but you happily insisted. the rest of the night wasn't perfect, but i sure felt a lot better. you were there to comfort me when no one else even noticed. that still means more to me than you probably ever knew. you were always doing that though-inviting people into your heart. everyone loved you and enjoyed being around you. us cousins even used to fight over who got to spend more time with you when you came to visit.
i've heard so many stories about what a great missionary you were. it doesn't surprise me one bit. you really cared about those you were serving. i know you struggled with making a decision whether you should stay home and keep dating a really great guy or serve a mission to share the truth you knew. but i do know that you needed to be serving a mission. that was your calling in life and you fulfilled it! not many people can say that a such a young age. you knew what you wanted, you knew what you believed and you never stopped going.
you have had such a great impact on so many people, during your short life and even more now that you have passed on. that is what is so incredible that even those who didn't know you in this life have been able to see your positive influence on this world. that is the mark of a truly great person. one who when they have left, other's can still see what goodness they shared. i have so much appreciated learning from other's about your life and how you impacted so many lives for good.
when i look back on the past i realize how little i really knew about you. there is so much i wish i had asked when i had the chance. that doesn't change that i considered you to be one of my best friends - all of the cousins. the ties that hold family together. maybe we didn't know everything about each other but our hearts were connected in a way that can't be replaced. i've known you my entire life, since the day i was born you have always been apart of my life. know i'm trying to figure out how to continue on knowing you won't be around anymore.
all of us cousins got together to look at photo's of you and to talk about our memories with you. of course we cried talking about the reality of you being gone. but we also laughed. a lot. remembering silly things we did together. being together talking brought so many experiences back into my mind. of sleepovers staying up way past our bed time, writing in each other's journals, and doing crazy hair do's. of family reunions dressing up as turtles and drunk people. playing orphanage and jumping on grandma's trampoline. it's funny how those seemingly small and insignificant moments in time mean so much more now, than they ever did before.
my heart aches for you. for the chance to see you just one more time. to hold you in my arms.
i wish there was a way i could find the words to truly convey how much i love you. how much i miss you. but these will have to do. i am so grateful for your positive example and role in my life. and the knowledge that we have that this is not the end. i will see you again. until then...know that i love you.