kindness is the essence of greatness
The summer of 2012 was my very first semester (actually term) here at the beautiful Brigham Young University. I was so very excited to be here and all my expectations were exceeded. Living on my own? Sometimes a little homesick, but great. Having roommates? Sometimes a little crazy, but great. Cooking for myself? Sometimes really really rough, but still great. The boys? Great, great, great. It was such a wonderful first experience at BYU and I will always love that first summer. My ward was incredible! The bishopric was stellar and you could feel their love for you as an individual. The members of this ward were all just incredible. One of those members was Madeline. We first met at a movie party thing that my soon-to-be FHE brothers put on. Two of the guys putting it on wanted to run to the creamery to grab some snacks and asked Madie and I if we wanted to go so we did! I didn't get to know her too well on that little walk but I did get to hear her melodious, contagious laugh and, let me tell you, we laughed the whole time. After this little gathering the weekend before school started, I didn't see or talk to Madie much throughout the semester.
Now, summer term was spent in the beautiful and luxurious New Heritage buildings that are nicer than the apartment Zach and I currently live in. I envy those Freshman and their granite showers and spacious kitchens. I loved living there but would soon have to move out and into the Wyview student housing which is North West of campus and kind of far away. A little over a mile away actually. When I originally signed up for housing Fall Semester I was too late to find a New Heritage spot. Anyways, it was older and farther away from campus, plus it just wasn't the New Heritage I had come to know and love. So my awesome older cousin Emily, who not only took me under her wing as a senior when I was a freshman and was always there if and when I needed her but also just so happened to work in the BYU housing office, helped me find a way to barely snag a rare spot in N.H. Even better, it was in the same building I was currently living in and on the same floor.. Next door to my Summer apartment. It was truly a tender mercy of the Lord and definitely only possible because of Emily who was so patient and willing to help me out. I sure love that cousin of mine. Funny enough, Madie's story was very similar. She got into New Heritage after searching a bunch and found a spot! In the same building as me.. On the same floor as me.. And the same apartment.. And the same room. This girl that I had only briefly met, went through a similar experience that I did with finding a spot in N.H., and we would soon be immediate roommates. What a beautiful, tender and incredibly large blessing from The Lord. I will forever be grateful for this opportunity I was given.
So after summer, I went home for a few weeks to brace myself for a new semester and when I got back to school I moved all my stuff into my new apartment. Best. Roommates. Ever. I know everyone says that and thinks that, but like I'm sorry guys cuz I won dat. The first roommate moved in was Ali Woolstenhulme. She's from Salt Lake and currently on a mission. It was fun for it to be just her and I for a few days before the other two girls got there but I mostly watched Netflix in my room while she went to New Student Orientation. Then, Kapri Beus got there. She is from a little town in Northern Utah called Garland who just got back from her mission to Brazil. Finally, the next day Madie arrived and our little apartment of four was complete. The first weekend of school, both Ali and Kapri went home for the weekend because, well, they could. So Madie and I hung out together the whole weekend. We walked to the Creamery on Ninth and bought Limon Jarritos to go with our packaged Cookie Dough, walked to a bench and then sat and talked for a while. We got to know each other so well that weekend. Past boys, current boys, hobbies, families, the works. As I got to know Madie better, I knew I needed to learn a lot from her. I noticed that she never said a single negative thing about another person ever. She only saw the good... And that is something I will never forget because, sometimes, there is a lot of not-so-good to see in others (like her roommate and how messy she was..) She was the kindest person I have ever met and never failed to cheer you up when needed or go out of her way to be kind.
Us four as roommates became the best of friends. We laughed together, cried together, talked about boys together, had amazing spiritual experiences together but mostly.. We came to love each other as family and we came to learn from each other. Of course, we all have our differences and sometimes disagreed and got frustrated with eachother.. But never Madie.
November 19th, 2012 was the last day I ever saw my dear friend and roommate Madie. It was the day I flew home for Thanksgiving break. Madie was rushing out the door to take a test before leaving with her brother, Taylor, and his soon-to-be Fiance, Bailee. And I was rushing out the door to meet my ride to the airport, excited that Thanksgiving and a reunion with my family was getting closer every moment. We shared a quick hug and "See you in a week! Travel safe!". It's amazing how when you are suddenly stripped of the ability to say something meaningful like,"I love you. Thank you for the amazing woman and example you are to me and so many others.", you realize that every moment to express those feelings to your loved ones count.
I arrived in Oakland late in the evening on Monday night. My family picked me up from the airport, we went home and spent some time together and then everyone went to bed. I woke up early the next day to go with my mom to one of her fitness classes at the gym. When I got home, I hadn't even showered yet when I got on Facebook. Typical college kid, am I right? I was scrolling through my feed when I saw a weird post to Madie's wall. It said something along the lines of, "You were amazing. I will never forget you."As I read that, I thought, "Well that's weird. What a strange inside joke." So, I clicked on her name which would take me to her profile which had many posts similar to the first one I had read. My heart plummeted downward in my body. I felt absolutely sick to my stomach as I wondered what in the world had happened. I called Ali. No answer. I called Kapri. No answer. My mind went into this weird blank, numb comatose state as tears started to uncontrollably stream down my face. I called them both again with no answers. I then called my Bishop who holds such a dear place in my heart, he is a second Grandfather to me. He answered on the second ring. "Bishop, what happened?! I don't understand! What happened to Madie? Is she okay?" All he had to say was "I'm so sorry. There was an accident..."before I burst into tears and ran to my bedroom door where my mom was just outside. I am so grateful she was there because I couldn't talk to Bishop Steele. I couldn't see. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't even stand. I handed my phone to my mom so she could talk to him and started to sob. I don't recall another time in my life when I felt so suddenly and desperately grief stricken. I ran into my brother Matt's room and just sort of collapsed on the floor where he held me as I sobbed. Our sweet family dog, Bentley, came and laid by me and licked my hands because I'm sure he could tell I was beside myself as I sobbed audibly for I don't know how long.
Taylor, Bailee and Madie were in a car accident that took Madie's life instantly and nearly took Taylor's life as well. With life threatening injuries, such as severed vertebrae in his spine and a broken neck/back, Taylor's life was spared and had a long road to recovery. His recovery, against all odds, was only months and can walk and run and dance. Taylor and Bailee are now married and the most beautiful couple.
I decided to fly back to school a day earlier than I had originally planned. As my cousin Emily, I told you she was awesome, dropped me back off to my dorm from the airport I felt nervous and uncomfortable. The place was a ghost town and the doors were locked. The walk from the front doors of the building to my apartment door was the longest walk I have ever walked. Being the first one back from break, the apartment was left exactly how each roommate left it. Especially Madie's things. I sat on my bad for a long time just thinking and looking at her things and crying. Madie didn't really have "bedding" on her bed. She had her sheet, her pillow with an awesome Smurf pillow case and a fuzzy blanket. It's all she needed! On her bed were scraps of paper from an assignment she was working on about Elephants for her Writing class. Everything just as she had left it. The next day, Sunday, I went to the morning meeting I had with the Bishopric and other leaders in our ward every Sunday. Right away, we got into how we could reach out to her family and show them our love, how we would comfort the members of our ward, etc. We were focusing on others and how we could help them. I was a little hurt at first because I was one of those people that needed comfort. Me! Then Madie's influence of always good slapped me back into reality. Not me. Others. We needed to focus on others and how we could help them! And that is exactly what we did. In the true fashion of Madeline Rose. We loved, cared for and reached out to others.
Madie was from Texas so that is where her funeral would be. As roommates, Ali, Kapri and I were adamant about getting there. One way or another. We talked it out for what seemed like hours over the course of about a week. Trains? Flying? Driving? Then the most amazing thing happened. One of Rachelle's, Madie's incredible older sister, friends, who just so happened to be a flight attendant, told her she wanted to help. So she gave us three roommates her remaining buddy passes for the year to fly us to Texas. Again, in the true spirit of Madie, this pattern of helping others before yourself pops up in my life. The short three days we were in Texas were some of the most special days in my life. I had never before felt the spirit so constant and strong. Meeting Madie's family, who we had heard so many great things about, was like meeting up again old friends. We comforted them but mostly they comforted us. We laughed together over old memories of Madie and cried a little, too. We ate Los Cucos green salsa and queso. We sang together. I love the Morris family like my own. Friends of the Morris family let us stay in their home and fed us while we were in Texas. They were kind and loving and they put our needs above their own. Just like Madie would have.
The time following the funeral and Madie's passing were not easy. After family friends helped move Madie's things from her side of the room, I couldn't sleep in there alone. So I moved my mattress into Ali and Kapri's room for the rest of the semester and went into the other room just to change and get things I needed. But after Madie's passing I also learned a great deal about kindness and selflessness. This pattern I had seen of people helping others and forgetting themselves had become evident in my everyday life. From that first church meeting back from Thanksgiving to Rachelle's friend flying us to Texas to the Guerrero and Clay families driving us places and letting us stay in their home. Madie was always kind and never talked ill of anyone. She put others before herself and although she is not physically on this earth anymore, she is nearby watching over her family and those she loves. Because of her kindness and Christlike example, I strive to be a better person everyday. Lastly, I know that I will be able to see my dear friend Madeline Rose Morris again one day and that it will be a glorious reunion filled with Beyonce, dancing and a whole lot of laughter.