John Clayton Taylor.
If I had to choose anyone to be more like, I would choose Clay. 100%, I would choose Clay. Clay was the type of person who everyone loved. And what made Clay so great is that he is the type of person who loved everyone. I’m not exaggerating, either.
I have so many (thousands) of memories of Clay, so many good memories. I remember in 8th grade when he picked a flower from his yard and carried it to school for me. I remember Halloween birthday parties. I remember sitting on his couch watching The Simpsons and eating chips and dip. I remember his laugh. I remember how he would hug. I’m definitely NOT a hugger, but I remember hugging him very tightly every time I saw him. He was genuine, and I knew it. I remember him sitting in class with a hoodie on, listening to music and drawing while the teacher was lecturing. I remember spending the night at his house after graduation. I remember gilly suits and airsoft guns and sparkler bombs and taquitos being microwaved at his house. I remember ridiculous laughs and voices and inappropriate jokes and drawings.
I remember the night I heard he died.
We lived on 3rd street and it was Memorial Day…a Monday night. The NAIA baseball series was going on, but Danny and Maria and Jamie and I were home watching tv. I got a text from someone that said, “I heard from xxxx that Clay died. I thought I’d text you because I knew you would know.”
I could feel my heart leap into my throat and I frantically tried to call Tyler. He hadn’t heard anything, and that made me feel a little bit better. But when I tried calling Clay over and over, I just got his voicemail. Then Tyler called me back and said that yeah, it was true. He had died the day before, the 25th.
I lost it. I remember being outside on my front lawn…just crying and crying and crying. I remember saying over and over, “He was so close….SO close.”
Because he was SO close to overcoming his addiction. He had plans for the future and knew what he wanted. He went to meetings and had gone to rehab and he didn’t want to be struggling. It was a horrible, horrible accident, and I’m not sure I have ever been so sad in my entire life.
At his funeral, the song, “Beautiful Boy,” played. That’s exactly what he was. Clay was beautiful. He was kind and funny and generous. He was patient and hilarious and talented. He was intelligent and thoughtful and curious. He was adventurous and loving and one of the best friends I have ever have.
I think of Clay when I hear Phish songs. I think of him when we go to Dave over Labor Day. I think of him every single time I see or hear a guitar playing. I think of him when South Park, Simpsons, Family Guy or Seinfeld is on. I think of him when I drive by the highschool. I think of him on Halloween. I think of him every year on Memorial Day. I think of him when I see rabbits and pink roses. I think of him when Cenone and I hang out. I think of him when my kids blow bubbles or read an Eric Carle book. I think of Clay every single day. Dan and I are always saying, “Clay would have LOVED that!”
I know he’d be proud of Dan and me. I know he’d think our kids were hilarious. I know he’d be proud of his mom and his dad and his brother and Fran. He’d be proud of all of his friends and everything they were doing. I think he’d invite himself to dinner at Cenone’s house as often as he could and play video games with Danny until 3:00am. I’m certain he’d go visit Josh in Amsterdam and spend weekends in Seattle with Tom and Doug and Joey.
Sometimes I still dream of him, and I wake up feeling very sad and very happy. It’s nice seeing him everyone once in a while, but it makes me miss him just that much more afterwards.
But he’s okay now. And that’s the only way, I think, people left here are able to think about it when people they love die. He’s okay. He’s not struggling and he’s not hurting. He’s keeping a perfect watch over all of us.
“Going to aim for the sky,
Keep my feet on the ground,
Raise my voice to the heavens,
Make a joyful sound.”