I’m at home today.
Today marks three years since one of the hardest days of my life thus far. It’s been three years since I was at home with McKinlee while J was up at the gym working the boy’s basketball free throw-a-thon and I received a more than out of the ordinary morning phone call from Scotti Beth. “Blake passed away Nikka.” Three years ago today I encountered complete and utter shock. Everything seemed to freeze for a minute and when I got off the phone, my body began to react. I laid there on the couch with my baby girl and everything within me began to pour out. I curled up, sobbed uncontrollably and felt McKinlee’s sweet hand quietly rest on my back as I emptied myself of all I had to give.
Weren’t we just sitting with him at Tropical Smoothie watching Mac run around like a little nugget a couple weeks before?
Wasn’t I just watching him make her laugh and listen to her try to talk to him?
Blake was our friend and just like that he was gone.
It’s not often that we prepare for loss and at age 24 I had not expected to lose a best friend. A best friend that J and I both shared so many memories with at Harding and a best friend who was in our wedding. A best friend who had impacted countless people who were also completely shaken by this day. A best friend who we knew would be in our lives forever.
Forever looks a lot different than we thought, because Blake is in still in our lives everyday. My heart has a hard time trying to explain how even though he is not here with us, Blake still continues to make an impact on our little family. Before Blake, I had never even heard of Bentonville, Arkansas (I’m not business minded so I had no clue it was the home of Wal-Mart) and I definitely had never visited Northwest Arkansas before. I briefly knew his sister who had been at Harding and had met his parents and brother on a few different occasions and when Blake was spring sing host the year after we graduated, we began the tradition of sitting with the Hunter family. We had always heard wonderful things about his family and knew they were amazing people, but it was then that God planted the seed, because He knew we would need each other soon. Three years ago, what intensely felt like the most devastating thing on this earth bound us together by a person we loved deeply. Later that Spring we visited Bentonville for the first time and sat in Blake’s hometown with his family without knowing this was another stepping stone in our lives.
A year later, we left our home in Texas and accepted teaching jobs in NWA. We bought a house less than 2 miles from Dedra and Steve, and a few doors down from Kalyn and AJ. They have become our family.
Another year later and J now works at the high school Blake went to, I’m on the ministry staff with Dedra at the church Blake grew up in, and every single day McKinlee carries around the same pink bunny lovey that Blake gave her before she was born.
This week, the same person who called me three years ago and another dear friend of Blake’s will be here this weekend alongside Blake’s mom, where we will be serving girl’s together at the You Say Conference. How timely. God is always good.
Every January 23rd will be a hard day for all who continue to mourn the loss of Blake, but through the loss of our dear loved one we have learned how to choose joy in every circumstance. Scotti Beth has tenderly shared her own story and heart with the loss of Blake and perfectly describes what is truly means to choose joy on her blog. I highly encourage you to read it, because my heart resonates with her words today.
Grief is a process and loss is a hole that cannot be filled, but Blake is with us every single day. Today we remember one of the brightest lights and biggest joys we’ve even known. Today I’m remembering the hope we have in heaven and today I want to say thank you, Blake. For everything. We love and miss you.