For most, Super Bowl Sunday is one of the best days of the year. Getting together with friends, eating food, watching awful commercials, and watching the biggest football game of the season.
For the better part of my life, this was true. As a huge football fan and a huge fan of being around friends, Super Bowl Sunday has always been great and it’s always something that I’ve looked forward to.
That was until 2018. On February 3rd, the Saturday before the Super Bowl, one of my best friends, Payton, took his own life at the age of 17.
This was one of the most surreal days of my entire life, and nearly two years later it still hasn’t fully sunk in. I found out about it at 10 pm; two of my friends and I were at McDonalds. We went out and met up with our other friends and sat in silence, cried, and shared our favorite memories of him.
As you can imagine, I didn’t sleep that night (or many nights for a lot of that year.) The next day, was full of more grief. A day full of crying, hurting, pain, and the Super Bowl. Yes the Super Bowl, the absolute last thing on my mind that entire day. We still had our youth group Super Bowl party, but only one thing was on the mind of all of us, Payton.
While my least favorite team in the NFL won their first Super Bowl, I didn’t care at all. If the Eagles had won the Super Bowl the year before that, I wouldn’t of talked to anyone for weeks. But with perspective, it’s just a game. That same week, I still went to the Iowa State vs Kansas game to get my mind off of the world. I was in Hilton Coliseum for the biggest game of the season and we lost, but I didn’t care.
Something has changed since then and my entire life has been put into perspective. Sports just aren’t as important to me. I still love sports and I still go to games and watch them, but I just can’t let a loss ruin my day anymore. Whenever Iowa State loses, I’ll get frustrated, a little mad, and a little upset, but I know that no loss can ever amount to the loss of a friend, a family member, or anyone close to you.
The same perspective has carried on to Twitter. For those of you who know me, I used to get pretty heated on Twitter. But since this event, I haven’t really seen the point in it.
However, this hasn’t taken away my love for sports. There is still not a lot better than an upset win or hearing the roar of Hitlon Coliseum. I still love that, and I can still pinpoint the best moments from my childhood. But for now, losses just don’t hold the same meaning as they used to.
We saw this just last week, with Kobe Bryant passing. It was sad that we lost one of the best basketball players to live, yes. But it was more depressing that we lost him, his daughter GiGi, and their family lost his. The world lost a great athlete, a wife lost her husband, and three girls lost their dad. That sucks.
Over time, I have healed. With the help of my friends and family, God, and time, eventually the pain went away. But that pain going away didn’t take the impact that Payton made on my life away from me.
Instead of focusing on me, I want to focus on Payton. He was one of the most caring people I knew, he moved from Arizona when he was middle school and had no friends for awhile. Eventually, he became friends of some of my friends and we just became friends like that.
Over the years, we build countless memories. Disc golfing, lighting off fireworks and getting the cops called on us, and Star Wars marathons. There’s so many more but those were just some of the best.
While I look back through these memories I realize, “wow we were morons.” But more importantly, I remember how he was never afraid to love others even when it was difficult. Payton had a tough upbringing, and for the privacy of his family I won’t get into it. But it’s a young life that a young kid doesn’t deserve. But even with that, he always made it a priority to make someone else’s day.
Payton was the kid that made everyone at school feel like they were his best friend, even if they’ve talked once. He was always so funny and made everyone laugh, but little did I know that was at the expense of himself.
I knew Payton struggled with depression, anxiety, and trauma from his past but I never knew it was that bad. All that pain he had, he covered it up with making people laugh.
As someone said about the late Robin Williams, “He Could Make Everyone Laugh, But Not Himself.”
With the two year anniversary of the death coming up, I want to use this platform to prevent this from ever happening again. It’s too awful, and I don’t want anyone to experience a loss to suicide.
The suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255 and my Twitter is @jakebrend32, my DMs are always open to anyone who struggles with this (yes, even Iowa fans.)
My challenge to anyone reading this is instead of arguing with someone on Twitter about a bad call tonight, tell a family member you love them. Tell a friend that that you haven’t seen in awhile how much they mean to you.
Do this because I wish I told Payton that one more time.
I love you, Payton.