Yesterday I attended the funeral of a friend I have known since childhood.
Bryce is the clown.
Bryce Winterbottom died at 29 years old. I remember the Winterbottoms entering my life about the time I hit second grade. Their family had five kids and so did ours. Their second oldest, Brian was my age and Bryce, the middle child was two years younger than me. Every week at church they were there sitting on the front row with books, pencils and paper and all manner of interesting things to entertain them. Being a Winterbottom looked pretty fun from our view on the side of the chapel. The Winterbottoms and the Leavitts used to co-host Halloween costume parties. One was in our basement and another was held in the Winterbottom's barn. Those Halloween parties were a big highlight of my childhood. When my parents bought some land out of town and built a house on it, the Winterbottoms bought the lot across the street and moved into their new home a few months later. The move put us into a new ward and the first week we walked in to see the Winterbottoms sitting in the front row. I remember cool Sunday evenings when the Winterbottom kids would make their way over to our house to jump on the trampoline with us. Our mothers hired a friend to come give us kids drawing lessons and we switched weeks hosting in our dining rooms. One summer our brave mothers even took all ten of us kids, plus another friend and her son to the beach for a week. Two years after I left for college the Winterbottoms moved away and I didn't see them for years. Last year I signed the boys up for swimming lessons. A few days after they started I noticed that Bryce's wife Mandy was there with her four children. We sat together chatting and sweating every day for nearly a month while our children learned to swim. A lot of what Mandy would talk about was Bryce, and through her I started to get to know him again. She talked about how he would pan for gold with his uncle, go pick blackberries for his family in the summer and how he wanted to own his own plane. I was surprised when she told me she felt bad he didn't have as much time to do these things he loved now that he was working full time. It was about this time I passed Bryce's old Subaru one day while shuttling my kids around town. When I wave at people I haven't seen in a long time, I try to play it cool and just do a little wave because who knows if they are even going to recognize you. Bryce didn't do that at all. Instead, he started waving his hand furiously like he was a tween at a Justin Beiber concert. He had a huge smile on his face. Feeling a little silly, I raised my hand and gave him a huge wave too. Then I laughed pretty much the rest of the day. A few months later I got to introduce Zach to Bryce and Zach started to see him around work and visit. Zach would come home and tell me how smart Bryce was. Last Saturday, I heard from my sister that Bryce died in a plane crash. My whole body shook when I heard the news. During the past week, I have spent a lot of time grieving for his parents, brothers and sisters and his wife and children. Bryce's family held a beautiful memorial service for him and it made me feel inspired to reach out to friends and to seek out adventures that make life rich and meaningful. Bryce's friends started a memorial fund for Mandy online and it has been a huge comfort for me to see lots of people reaching out to help her. I wish she didn't have to face this difficult transition at all, but I know she doesn't have to face it alone and I know that Mandy is a smart, capable woman and a wonderful mother. I hope she knows that I will be cheering for her.