Our fraternity was "dry", meaning we couldn't host parties or drink in the house, but that didn't stop people from heading out on the weekends. Joel enjoyed a beer or two and had nothing against drinking, but every weekend he stayed sober so he could play the designated driver. Why? Just because that's who he was. On Sunday morning while we slept off our hangovers, Joel would get up and walk himself to church all by himself.
One of the best memories I had with Joel was driving back to his hometown in NE Kansas for a weekend softball tournament. His dad's team needed a couple more players to enter the tournament, so we agreed to come up and fill in. When we got there we realized we were stuck with a bunch of drunks in their late 40's. My 6'6" overweight self ended up switching between SS and CF. That tells you all you need to know. We ended up in the loser's bracket, meaning we were stuck with a game at around 2 AM. It was hovering around 32 degrees and Joel and I were the only sober guys on the field. Somehow we won and were rewarded with a 6 AM game. The other team only had 6 or 7 players show up, so we run ruled them pretty quickly. We then got a game at noon where we were severely trounced by a team of bulky Indians from the nearby reservation. Through all of this ridiculousness, Joel and I had a blast. We were sicker than a pair of dogs on Monday, but I'd give anything to man the most-pathetic-middle-infield-ever-assembled one more time with him.
For the last few years Joel has been working for his local school district as a counselor for troubled youth. While driving home on a 2 laned highway Tuesday from one of the last days of school, a 77 year old man in a Ford Explorer veered across the highway and hit Joel's Nissan head on, rolling it several times. Joel had his seatbelt on, the driver who hit him did not. Joel and the other man were pronounced dead at the scene.
I've had plenty of physical ailments that I'd trade for in a heartbeat if I could drop the grief. Being a young single man, I don't have a lot of folks to talk to about my feelings, so spitting them out here helps a lot. His funeral is Saturday and I'm afraid I'm still stuck in the denial stage. Really it feels like every stage of grief keeps hitting me in a cycle. There's not much more I can say right now to feel better. If there's internet in heaven and Joel gets to read this, I hope he knows how much he meant to me and so many others.
I had hoped to talk about the new A&G Relic Exchange Program I set up, but I just don't have it in me right now. Thanks for sticking with me and reading this.