I met Justin when we were in high school. I was invited to join PALs. P.A.L. stood for Peer assistance leadership. I have no idea why I was single-handedly picked among my classmates, along with other great people that I was fortunate to get to know and meet. PALs was one of the most rewarding experiences in high school. As well as the sports I was involved in. I remember these days like it was yesterday.
Every memory I’ve ever had with Justin were always happy. He always greeted me with a warm hug. One of those real hugs too. Tight, where he wouldn’t let you leave his embrace to the point where you couldn’t breathe. He always had a huge smile on his face. Even days, where you wouldn’t be in the greatest mood, his smile would light up your day, along with his warm hug. We didn’t talk too much after high school, kinda like how you lose touch with some or a lot of people.
The very last time I hung out with him, I didn’t know it was going to be the last time. He was down for a little bit and got a hold of me somehow. I just checked and I wasn’t even friends on Facebook with him then. He wanted to hang out with me and we went to the movies, which I can’t even remember what movie it was, but we were barely paying attention because he kept talking through it. I do remember it was at Buena Park Krikorian. We met up there, and it was such a warm feeling seeing an old friend that I haven’t seen in such a long time (years after high school). Justin never changed. He was still that warm, goofy, flirty, fun-loving Justin that he was in high school. After the movie he wanted to go surprise our good friend, Lauro. I remember walking on the sidewalk on the way to Lauro’s house and he rushed over to walk on the side where the street is, he told me it’s a gentlemen’s job to do so. No one’s ever done that for me before and I remember because it was unexpected. It was a really cute gesture. The weird thing is, the only other man that I know that does this too, is my current boyfriend. He also caught me off guard and just does it to be gentlemen-like. But odd because I’ve never heard of it before Justin. They’re the only two men that I know that did that. Anyways, so we visit Lauro and his mom at their house. I’ve never met Lauro’s mom, but by her reaction to Justin’s visit, she loved him just as he were his own son. Lauro was always really close to Justin and it was nice seeing how happy they were seeing him. The night ended shortly after that visit. The rest of it is kind of a blur. Justin dropped me off at home and that as the last time I ever saw him.
My friend from high school who was also in PALs, Jasmin, texted me, “Have you heard about Justin?” And right away, I had the most sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach. She called me, and I burst into tears when she told me. Mostly shock, then sadness.
Every memory I’ve had with Justin were always happy. I was lucky enough to be touched by an angel on Earth.
Today, I want to remember and thank all of the men and women who served and continue to serve our country. Today, I don’t want to forget tomorrow, but remember that in my heart, you’ll always be appreciated.
I love you Justin Swanson. May we see each other again one day in heaven. We miss you and we’ll never forget you. Thank you for lighting our world with such joy and happiness. I miss your warm hugs and big smiles.
Love always your PAL,