At Insticator, we love to make jokes about our favorite TV shows and celebrities as much as the next person. However, we're big believers on touching upon issues that really matter to us, and maybe you as well. That's why we're starting a series called "Stuff That Matters," where we'll discuss, well...you get it from the title.
We hope you gain a little something from these stories and share with us some of your own.
Growing up, I was lucky in the sense that I never had to experience a close personal loss. My grandfather passed away a few months after I was born, and my other grandparents had passed on before I made my entrance into the world. I felt sad for my friends who lost their grandparents, because I could see the bond they had developed over the years, but had never made that attachment myself.
Because of this, I don't take bad news well. To this day, someone starts to tell me bad news and I immediately clamp up. Heart rate goes through the roof, I get extremely anxious, the works. That's not to say anyone is really good at hearing bad news, but I treat every case like the worst possible scenario.
Which brings me to the heart of my story, about learning to let go.
That's Arti and Vicki (Real names Arthur and Veronique), two people who did a lot more than they'll ever know. I met Arti years ago back at my dance studio when he became my Jazz teacher. I'll never forget when Arti came up to me and asked me to be his Hip Hop student teacher. I sat there, jaw dropped, all "Do I look like I have a Hip Hop bone in my body?"
Apparently, I did. Because of that moment, I got to meet his girlfriend, Vicki. During my first few days of student teaching, I was a nervous wreck. I constantly feared the younger students and my peers wouldn't respect me if I couldn't do the moves right or even run a class when Arti stepped out for a few minutes. But Vicki was always there, cheering me on, helping me, more or less, to chill the hell out.
The thing is, Arti and Vicki weren't just dancers to us. Whether they liked it or not, they became the older brother and sister some of us needed. I saw lots of kids walk into that studio who were headed down a dangerous path, but talking to Arti and Vicki helped them to correct their paths before it was too late. We were a family.
In June of 2005, I performed my last show with the studio, as I was headed off to college later that year. Never one to stick around for long goodbyes, I passed Arti and Vicki and gave them a wave, saying "Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'll see you Monday!"
Monday came and I was asked to sub Arti's class. Tuesday came, and after teaching my class (I forgot to mention, I got my own Jazz class to teach, off the recommendation of, you guessed it, Arti) and as I breezed out the door, I jokingly told the front desk "If Arti is going to be out tomorrow, tell him I'm not covering for his butt!" The receptionist asked "Why, what have you heard?" and I just made a joke about how I had to cover for him that Monday. I took maybe five steps out of the studio door before my mother pulled me aside and said "I'm so sorry I have to tell you this."
My world still stops every time I think of that moment.
Arti and Vicki had been bike riding that Monday afternoon, when Edwin Jones, on a suspended license and asleep at the wheel, crashed into them. Arti died instantly, while Vicki died several hours later at the hospital.
I beat myself up for a long time after that, remembering my last words to them. You hear a lot of people regret their last words to loved ones, because you don't think it's the last time you're going to see them.
Then there is Edwin Jones.
I passionately hated this man. How dare he take away two people, so beautiful inside and out, from this world. I wanted him dead. I didn't care how, I wanted him dead and most of my dance-mates agreed. He didn't have to sit on phone call after phone call like I did, having to confirm the news to other students and listen to their cries of anguish. I wanted him to suffer and jail wasn't good enough for him.
This first article in Stuff That Matters isn't about the hazards of driving under the influence. It's about being able to let go, a process that took a while for me to really understand.
It started several weeks later, when Vicki's brother, Jean-Marc, said he forgave Edwin in a newspaper article. While we loved Vicki like a sister, here was her actual brother openly showing forgiveness. After Vicki's wake, our crew went to a nearby McDonald's and we ran into Jean-Marc who cracked a few jokes with us. I thought "Here is a person I hope to be as strong as one day."
The rest, albeit slowly, started to fall into place. I had to accept I couldn't turn back time and give Arti and Vicki a huge hug and tell them how much they meant to me. I learned that it didn't matter, because our everyday actions did this.
I finally, finally, stopped wishing death upon Edwin. Not only wouldn't it not bring my friends back, but I knew deep in my heart that it was something they wouldn't have wished for.
I learned to let go of the hate and the anger, but that doesn't mean I let go of Arti and Vicki. I smile when I eat Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Orange Gatorade (Arti's pre-class favorite) or when I wear a daring shade of lipstick (a Vicki must!) All things that I swore I would never want to look at again, I embrace and remember the good connected with them.
Ending on a good note, here's the music video for Michael Jacksons "Bad." Arti is the one in the orange pants, yellow tank and grey hat.