His death has always felt so incredibly unfair. He was taken at the peak of the ‘glory days’, where the naivety of youth still clouded our judgment, and where our only priorities were fun and freedom.
He was my first friend, though in reality he was always more like a brother. All of my childhood memories include him– from birthday parties to holidays, from sleepovers to daycare, he was there, always.
My mother kept a photo of him and I in the living room of my childhood home. It sat next to pictures of my grandparents and my cousins. That picture of us was always one of my favorites. He wore his favorite Honda shirt and I donned a red Kool-aid grin while my arm was draped around him. You can tell how from our smiles we were two peas in a pod. You can see carefree joy and youthful bliss.
He was probably the first boy I ever loved. Never in a romantic way, but in the way that you love your sister or your best friend.
In the same way that we loved each other like family, we argued with each other like family too. I still tell the story of the time my parents took a rap CD of mine and gave it to him. Somehow being two years older got you added privileges. Either way, I still managed to memorize the lyrics to Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg– CD or not. And even now I think of that memory with a chuckle and a roll of my eyes.
He had two distinct smiles, the one that told you he cared for you and the one that told you he was scheming trouble. Both were contagious.
We grew up together, though we grew differently. Different circles, different crowds, but that never changed the way he showed up for me or the way I looked up to him. He was family. He would make me laugh when I needed it or stand tall as my protector when high-school boys didn’t meet his standards. He had a heart that was one-of-a-kind with a tough red-headed exterior.
He had a trifecta of loves in his life– cars, music and his daughter. The last being his greatest joy and his greatest asset. She shaped his heart and smile in ways that no one could have predicted. He loved a couple of girls in his life, but his daughter held his love in a way that would remain unmatched.
He was so special and so young and nearly twenty years later, it still doesn’t seem conceivable or fair. The harsh sting of his death still replays in my heart– usually to the tune of an old The Fray song, a song that has always reminded me of him, a song that always makes me cry.
I miss him. So many people do. He was that kind of guy, the kind worthy of being missed. The kind that leaves an absence that will always be noticeable. The kind that comes with a grief that time cannot heal or dissipate.
So, today on his birthday I can’t help but think of him. I can’t help but think of all of the people who miss him, wishing they could celebrate with him face-to-face.
And I wish things were different, especially for his beautiful mother, and especially for his precious daughter. Truthfully, for all of us. I’d love to have seen who he would have become and who he would have helped everyone else become too.
Happy Birthday, Travis.
You are loved. You are missed. You will never be forgotten.
A wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.