Letter to Wes
More than two weeks after I received the news that you were gone, I still can’t believe it. I still expect to see your crooked grin waltz through the door, a springy, bouncy step carrying your lanky frame. Wes, I can’t believe you’re gone. We miss you. I miss you.
The news was delivered to me in a rather unceremonious way. My phone vibrated and without looking, I ignored it for the moment. I was engaged with a conversation with my family, after being away at graduate school for a semester and I was enjoying the raucous debate. I finally glanced down and read, “Wes Ochs died last night.”
And that was it. That was all the information provided. Not because the messenger was being callous, but simply because there was no additional information available. By and by, reports came out indicating possible causes of death. An enlarged heart was suggested as a factor, a tragically poetic explanation that makes me want to cry and smile at the same time. Indeed Wes, you had an enormous heart.
I want to remember the great things about you. I don’t ever want to forget the way you could make us all laugh and smile. You gave without asking for anything in return. You were a true friend.
On December 22nd, Denver Broncos Quarterback Peyton Manning threw four touchdown passes against opponents the Houston Texans, setting a new NFL touchdown passing record and clinching a playoff spot for the Broncos. Wes, you were the biggest Broncos fan I knew and Mannings record seemed particularly symbolic the day following your death. I remember going to your house in junior high and thinking how strange it was that you had bottles of mustard lining your shelves. Even after you explained to me that this particular brand of mustard was endorsed by Ed McCaffery, wide receiver for the Bronco’s from ’95 to ’03 (and your favorite player) I still thought condiments were better suited for the refrigerator. The excitement and zeal you lived with overflowed into all aspects of your life.
Speaking of middle school, remember all those toilet paper raids we went on during those days? Apologies to the homeowners of Lower Castle Mountain, because we colored that place white with 2-ply several nights a month each summer. Sorry to point this all out while you’re not here to defend yourself, Wes, but this is a definite highlight of my childhood.
You kept me in basketball through high school. Sports were an extra challenge for me during this time, as I was going through chemotherapy. In an act of solidarity and unity, the entire freshman team shaved their heads to match my drug induced baldness. Wes, you were a big part of that experience and a great leader for our team. I was never especially skilled at the sport and looked to athletes like you with admiration. I wanted to be like you and always looked up to your ability to play with such talent. You encouraged me, picked me up when I was down and helped me improve my game outside of practice. Wes, you were an incredible teammate. And you looked terrible bald.
Wes, I can’t end this letter to you without mentioning one of our biggest, running jokes. Dude, I love you, but you had the most hilarious habit of making accidental same-sex innuendos. (Reader, if you don’t know exactly what I mean, please familiarize yourself with Tobias Funke, a character from the TV show Arrested Development and great example of what I mean.) I’m not going to post any here, but I’ve got an endless supply that will always make me chuckle. You always made people smile.
With improving consistency, a handful of 2005 GHS graduates have been getting together in Denver for a yearly (and trust me on this part, extremely informal) reunion. You were a pivotal part of that process and would often host all of us. I’m looking forward to this for 2014. We’ll need to find a new host for it, but we’ll toast to you, tell stories of your memory and celebrate like you were with us. Because, in us gathering together, you will be.