Last night, Noah’s high school band held a memorial in his honor. We dreaded it. When I initially told the band director that we would be there to support Noah’s friends at the service, I didn’t realize it would fall on the two month “anniversary,” because as I’ve said, that hasn’t been the focus. But the morning of, I was taking Gav to school and he quietly said before I dropped him off, “It’s been two months today.” Throughout the day, other people reminded me too, like the outside world was more aware of “awful day” than I was when I woke up. It made me sad. Dread built. I thought of ways to get out of our committment to go to the service without offending anyone. But in the end, we went because Noah’s friends need support just as much as we do…and I am so glad we did.
I have spent a lot of time in the last two months questioning my parenting abilities. I have wondered how if I was such a great parent, Noah could have been taken from us anyway. I couldn’t keep him safe. I couldn’t protect him when he needed it most. That’s a horrible feeling that I will live with for the rest of my life. It’s a mother thing. Last night I saw that my failure wasn’t nearly as great as I thought. The focus was not at all what we expected. Instead of sharing stories about Noah, lementing all that they had lost, the band director did a great job of focusing on Noah’s impact on each of the kids, personally and musically. What transpired in that circle as each student (and some adults) shared stories of our son helped us see another side of Noah. Here’s what we took away.
Noah intimidated and then inspired. Before moving to California, Noah was mentored by some of the best in the band business. His percussion director at his previous school was a former member of the Boston Crusaders and a phenomenal mentor and teacher to Noah. Noah learned so much in the short time he was with him–and it showed. Last night, the kids talked a lot about the first time they heard Noah play and how their immediate reaction was “Uh oh. This guy is good. We need to step up our game.” But what’s more than that, we learned how Noah’s passion for drumming inspired them to practice more, to get better, and to work harder. What an amazing gift to give to a group of kids still trying to find their way. Also, to hear the band director and the percussion director talk about how the band is better this year because of Noah, even though he’s not here, brings tears to my eyes. I’m so, SO proud of my son for bringing that out in people–“showing and not telling” as his best friend and section leader from North Carolina told him before we left.
Noah was an amazing friend. Noah wasn’t at this high school long enough for me to really get to know Noah’s friends here, which has been incredibly hard. Noah was so happy here. He spoke so highly of the kids–yet we felt like we missed out on getting to know them. Last night, we connected names and faces and had a chance to hear how Noah treated people. We heard things like,
- he was so open-minded
- he was easy to talk to
- he lit up a room
- we instantly became friends because he was so kind
- he didn’t judge
- he didn’t sweat the small stuff
- he truly listened, which is rare
What a gift for us to hear that Noah grew up to share what we had tried to teach him–it’s most important to be a good person, to respect everyone, to judge no one. Of course as his parents we always saw glimpses of Noah’s kind and loving nature, but to hear it from people who he had really just met was probably one of the most comforting experiences since his passing. They talked a lot about how he was always smiling, always happy, and ALWAYS drumming. He made them feel welcome and cared for, even though *he* was the new guy. Thank you, Noah.
Noah’s impact goes far beyond our family. As we grieve, it’s easy to get wrapped up in how much WE miss Noah because we love him so much. Last night reminded us that losing Noah affects lives all over. I can’t put into words the odd comfort that comes from knowing that people outside of our family knew and loved Noah too. As a parent, I often think about what might have been or all that we’ve lost and sometimes forget that Noah was *already* amazing.
Hearing about Noah through his friends reminds me of what an important person he was to others. He changed lives. He made people better. He held people accountable. He pushed people beyond their comfort zone. He knew what he wanted to do. He inspired people through action. That is just…rare. The other day, I came across a note on Facebook from Noah’s former drum major. Like so many others, she shared Noah’s impact:
“There are not a lot of people that have supported me through thick and thin. Noah did. Whenever I was hard on myself whether it be as drum major, a percussionist, or a person in general, he would always try to brighten my mood. We used to joke around about who was the better snare player, and in all honesty, Noah could diddle circles around me. I’ll never forget what he told me the last day I saw him. And I’ll always hold the words, “Nikki, you were the best drum major I have ever had and probably will ever have. I will miss you a ton,” close and dear to my heart. I truly hope that I made him proud. In all honesty, he could be an annoying little pain sometimes, but he was a great friend. I will miss him deeply. But I’d rather spend my time being grateful for the little time I did have with him, than in sorrow and regret for the time I don’t. I will miss his playing and his hilarious snapchats throughout the day, but I pray he is in a better place. RIP Noah. I was lucky to be your drum major, but honored to be your friend.”
Thank you again to the Oakmont High School Band family, and our Croatan Band Family, for reminding me not to focus on what I have lost, but to focus on remembering everything that Noah was while he was here.