This week Mike, Shelby and I are in Texas. It’s the first trip we are taking down to my home state together since I moved. We have spent the weekend with all of my oldest and best friends, having our annual camping trip. It’s a trip we’ve done ever since Drew died… and this is the first year that everyone has been able to make it.
These past few days have been so bittersweet… not only for me, but for my friends too. We all cannot help but feel Drew’s absence. One of my friends seemed very quiet the other night, and then pulled me aside after a while and explained that he was just really missing him here, and having a tough time with it. I told him, of course, me too… as there’s been a few times I’ve shed tears since we got here.
There’s also a newfound sweetness to things this year too. We have Mike and Shelby now as part of our little group, and my friend’s step-daughter and boyfriend, too. Here we are, making new memories, having kids in and families in the group for the first time… as our little group grows, it’s becoming a different kind of bittersweet. As new life and laughter arrives for us, it seems all of us are still feeling that empty space that he filled in our world.
Yet, still he is very much here. If it weren’t for his death, we never would have begun this annual trip, which we call Drewfest in his honor. It’s become an event that each of us looks forward to all year long, and one that has helped to keep our friendships going strong.
I suppose we will always feel an absence here, there will always be one person missing from our group, no matter how many new people come into it. But it does help that he is the reason we all come together like this. And he is the reason we have created such a strong family of friends these past few years. It’s one small gift he continues to give us, even in death.