It was an emotional day today. I thought I'd be okay, I thought I was mentally prepared for all that was in store- but simply walking into the Northridge Middle School gym ensued a bout of tears. I saw the band sitting there and regretted never making it to any of JD's band concerts. I cried watching the 8th graders file in, knowing he should be there standing alongside his peers.
I was afraid I was going to have to exit the building, walk out in front of the whole school, while the slide show was playing. The pictures from JD's last few days at school broke my heart all over again. I couldn't help but to think that it just isn't supposed to be this way. The wound felt fresh all over again.
Thankfully, the reason I was there was for the very last award. I had plenty of time to regain composure. The principal stepped forward and held up a string of origami cranes. Fresh tears fell. She talked of the closeness of the class, the way they truly were there for one another, how they had never dreamed they'd face losing a classmate to cancer- but they stepped up to the plate and loved on him and loved on eachother.
She spoke momentarily of the award.
It used to be the Character Counts award.
It was decided, however, that the name would be changed. She spoke of the way my brother loved everyone, made everyone feel welcome and comfortable. How he was known for his friendliness, how he embodied the character qualities.
The highest award given at Northridge Middle School is now named the JD Taylor Character Counts award.
I spoke briefly, offering my thanks to his classmate, offering my thanks for the numerous things they'd done for us, but even moreso for the way they loved on JD. Even when he was miserably in pain, unable to walk- all he wanted to do was go to school. I told them that it was because of them. While JD loved with his whole heart, he was given the same right back. That at school, he was never made to feel as an outcast or different, but instead he was encouraged, supported, loved on. I told them that I didn't believe it would've been that way everywhere, and that that showed what this class was made of. I told them that I hoped that as they entered highschool, that they would continue on in these things- that they would always be known for being a class that loves.
There were a lot of tears shed throughout the gymnasium. It was so evident how much these kids, parents, teachers loved JD, so evident that we're not alone in our heartbreak. I was so grateful for the many hugs and stories from his peers. I loved hearing that he was truly the nicest person one had ever met, that he always could make everyone laugh, how they still talked about him almost every day.
How I hope and pray that they always remember... that they always love.
My little brother had a way about him. He was quick to help, and quick to love. He was so comfortable in his own skin and just so darn lovable. I don't think anyone could argue any of those things. Of course, as his family, I'm bound to think these things- but for this award to be given- the highest award offered at the school- given with his name attached to it, speaks loudly of who he was and how he lived.
I couldn't be more proud to be his sister.
Thanks again, NMS students and staff, for truly honoring the memory of JD.