There are moments you remember all your life…This is one of those moments. –Yentle
I can remember so distinctly that, all of us in blue velvet dresses with the rhinestones. Our feet crammed into character shoes and hair freshly curled. And as we wait (at LC I think) Wiehe came to tell us: there’s been an accident. A plane crash. Zach didn’t make it. I remember the shock, the confusion, and the silence that poured over us. But there was music to be sung, and what better way to honor him and begin to grieve then to make music and do our best at competition.
It was chance that we sang “Weep No More” that year. Maybe not, maybe it was fate. But emotion didn’t hit me until we got to that song. Looking straight ahead, not making eye contact with my peers, we all sang from the heart. And the tears rolled down my face. It’s hard to imagine your former student teacher and friend passing away unexpectedly. But there it was–he was gone.
I don’t remember what my drive home was like. I do remember bursting in the door, and crashing into my mom’s arms as I sobbed through explaining to her what I knew about what had happened. He was too young, there had to be a mistake, planes don’t crash anymore, do they? And there we sat together for a long while as she soothed my heart and dried my tears.
In class the day of our end of the year show Wiehe asked for a volunteer to give words about Zach. No one moved for a moment, and then a hand shot up milliseconds before mine. And even though I tried to show I really wanted to speak, the other girl was chosen. That sat heavy.
So, being me, I wrote out what I would have said. I took it home, let my mom read it, and she said, “you have to send this to Wiehe. This is beautiful and a wonderful tribute.” I knew the other girl didn’t know him very well and it didn’t seem right for her to give the honorarium–I was jealous, and pissed, and felt like she was being an opportunist . And so that night, Wiehe told me that we’d both be saying words. My words. We divvied up the sentences and read from the printout I had brought with me. My voice caught in my throat more than once that night. It seemed unreal that music he had arranged for us, that he had rehearsed with us, should be sung. But the music lives on.
I remember the visitation–traveling with one of my choir friends, driving the 45 minutes, staying just long enough to sign the book and take it in but not see the family. There were gobs of people. Even our choreographer was there. Leaving felt strange but I sent a card and explained a little about who I was.
I wrote several letters to his parents over the years–expressing what an effect Zach had on my life and my music education–what a pillar he was for my peers and me. They sent me his CD, I still have it. But time moves on and not all connections remain. After a couple years the letters ceased as other priorities took hold. But I think of them occasionally, especially as this date rolls around, and as it sometimes falls near Holy Week. I am thankful for what he taught me, for the joy and happiness he always exuded, for the Zach-isms that remain. For reminding me to live life to its fullest.
Will there really be a “Morning”?
Is there such a thing as “Day”?
Could I see it from the mountains
If I were as tall as they?
Has it feet like Water lilies?
Has it feathers like a Bird?
Is it brought from famous countries
Of which I have never heard?
Oh some Scholar! Oh some Sailor!
Oh some Wise Men from the skies!
Please to tell a little Pilgrim
Where the place called “Morning” lies!