Tomorrow there will be a memorial service held for a dear friend of mine who passed away two weeks ago. I would give anything to be able to attend the service and be able to celebrate and remember the life of such an incredible person who made such an impact on myself, my friends, and many more. I am not able to travel home since I am so far away, but it doesn’t mean I won’t spend the day celebrating and remembering Nic Clare. I’ll be thinking of him, the times we shared together, the friends who are also mourning this great loss, as well as his many other friends and his family members tomorrow. Him, those times, and those people have been on my mind and in my heart constantly since the day I was first shocked by the news of this horrible tragedy. It hasn’t been easy being so far away during a time like this, but I have been very lucky during the last two weeks. I have received so much love and support from friends who did not know Nic, from my family who did not know him well, from my strong friends who are also grieving, as well as the best shoulder I could ask for, Tom. Also shocked and saddened, he has still been my rock. I want to thank all of you for your posts, pictures, videos, messages, phone calls, kind words, and hugs. The beginning of this healing process wouldn’t have been nearly as bearable without all of you!
I’m not sure what or how I’ll exactly write now, but what I would like to do is make this no longer about sadness or pain, but rather have it be a reflection of what Nic was best known for: his ability to fill a room with life, laughter and love. Nic brought people together, he made people smile, he made good times better. His presence made your average outing, the event of the month. As I begin to actually accept what has happened, I still just feel Nic’s aliveness. When I imagine him, I see him smiling and I hear him laughing. He’s telling a story or he’s singing a song (that he made up) and I feel so good that this is how he exists in my mind every time I think of him! I’m going to share a few stories about Nic and also write about how the last two weeks have affected me and changed my life forever.
Nic is one of the only people from college who I can tell you I remember the exact moment and situation I met them. It’s partly because the last time I saw him, he mentioned the same story to me. He said he remembered a small, dark-haired girl creeping her head around the corner of the door to his garage at his A-section house who didn’t say anything, but flashed a big smile. After hearing this lovely description, I instantly remembered too. I was with Holly. It was our first time at his house. A house where we would spend a significant amount of our sophomore year in college at. A house I celebrated my 20th birthday at. A house where I made and developed most of the beautiful friendships I have today and will have for the rest of my life. A house where all you could expect was a fun, ridiculous and crazy night with good friends. He introduced himself as ‘Nic with a C’. “There’s no k!”, he told us. I thought he was lying and was determined to beat him and his friend, ‘Nik with a K’ at beer pong. They probably won, but looking back on it now, I know that I won something even greater. That night symbolized so much for me. It was the first day of the rest of my college experience. We all fell in love with Nic and his roommates. Everybody was always down to go to Nic Clares.
I’ll never forget how I was able to first bond with Nic. At the time, I felt like an idiot. Nic probably felt the same way. At the beginning of sophomore year, we both made the mistake of (separately) getting into some trouble with the RPPD (Rohnert Park Police Department). As part of our punishment, we had to attend AA classes. I know. Pretty ridiculous, right? As the youngest people in the room, rocking our SSU hoodies, Nic and I tried hard not to crack up as we held hands with our fellow alcoholics and listened to the group leader say a prayer. How did we get ourselves into this?! After the class, we went for lunch and sat in his ancient car and talked about what going to AA actually was teaching us. We both agreed that it felt silly sitting in that room with people who actually were in need of help, but at the same time, we saw first-hand the kind of people we didn’t want to someday turn into. We talked about how alcoholism, though we weren’t the drinkers, had affected our lives. I opened up to him about my life and my family. Nic also shared with me stories about his life and his family. He told me, with such strength and honesty, what had happened to his brother, Kyle. I will never forget this day and will always treasure being able to become closer to a friend like Nic. Trusting a friend enough to talk about the deepest, most personal parts of you is invaluable.
Nic called me Baker’s dozen and usually included this nickname in our raps battles. Every body knows Nic as a musical man and most are especially familiar with his rap-duets with Jared. Some of you had the rare pleasure of seeing us as a triad. It took quite a few drinks for me to agree to join in with the infamous Nic and Jared, but these times will always be treasured memories. Wish I had some material from back in the day to share! I’m convinced there’s some out there somewhere.
The day before I made the big move to Germany, I wanted to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. I was born and raised in San Francisco and lived in the Bay my entire life, but I had never done this before, it was about freaking time! Nic said he had never done it before either and was excited to do it for the first time too. He came along with Molly, Nikki, Shannon and Nick George and I got to spend my last day in America with him and our friends. He was always eager to experience. It as if his motto was always, why not? He was always there when it counted most. I will always be grateful for that. When I left to study abroad before junior year, him, Dustin, Nathan and Daniel missed my Going Away Party, but they still showed up late that night to see me off. He came to say good-bye before I left California for a second time and he came to say hello, again when I visited home back in March. Like I said, always there when it counted most!
I’ll never forget visiting his hometown and getting to meet his mom at his memory-filled home in Colusa County. We had more fun watching home videos of Nic and his siblings than we did drinking beer while floating down the river that weekend. I can still hear Molly, Sara, and Nikki’s bursting laughter as we watched a five-year-old, curly-haired Nic shake his butt in his underwear with his brothers and baby sister. At one point that day, Nic totally freaked us all out when he went outside to his backyard and in a very confident, manly way took a shot with a pistol (at least I think it was a pistol). I can honestly say I still remember the very distinct smell of his backyard. We were definitely in the country!!! It was great. 🙂
A little over two months ago Nic moved to Taiwan and just a few days after, I got to skype with him. Nic said he was nervous about Taiwan because of the language barrier and not knowing that many people right way. He was also so excited for this new chapter in his life. He was so eager to start teaching and getting the chance to travel in the area he lived in and he talked about future trips he was planning. I was so impressed that he made this move. I told him that I know it’s not easy, but that he’ll never regret taking advantage of such an amazing experience. He told me that’s exactly why he decided to go in the end, but told me it was definitely a hard decision. He had his life in California and really, really liked one of his jobs (and a girl!). 😉 He told me all about how he was passionate about living a healthy life style. We talked about our mutual interest in a healthy diet and how important exercise is. It was so great hearing about how his degree and his work had inspired the way he lived his life and many of his life style choices. It was so exciting for me to see another friend take a great leap and follow their dreams no matter how scary it was. I was truly amazed. That was the last time I talked to Nic. And though I wish I had clicked on his name on my skype contacts list even just one more time, I feel so lucky that we talked that night.
The disbelief and shock has not fully sub-sided, but the heartache does lessen a little bit each day and I am able to reflect more on what losing Nic has meant to me. I went back and forth between having just tears and heartache for this loss, to extreme anger for this loss. I was so confused, so sad, and so angry! But as it slowly becomes more real to me, I see the trips down memory lane on Facebook and my own time spent looking back on my college experience as something so beautiful. I leave my house, feel a cool breeze on my face and I think about how I am grateful to be alive, grateful for my family, my friends, and to have known Nic. I look for signs of him in the sky and in the air. And I think about how he lived his life and I tell myself, that’s the way to live! I look back on my time in Sonoma so much more fondly now. I appreciate it so much more. I am so blessed to have had so many wonderful times with so many great people, Nic being such a big part of that. I’ve had time to think about where Nic is now. This has made me think a lot about where all people go after they leave us on earth. And I won’t go into detail about my beliefs, but what I can tell you is that I know he’s around! Life’s beautiful and every minute is so very precious. In memory of Nic, laugh hard, sing, rap or recite poetry- whatever!, be goofy, drink a shot while listening to Tom Petty, eat healthy, and be there when it counts!
RIP Nicholas James Clare ❤
Love you, always.