It’s with a heavy heart that I am writing this. September 3rd, 2015. We lost a friend. We lost a friend that had the heart of a lion. We lost a friend that had the heart of a lion and the kind of happiness that I hope my kids will have. If I ever have kids. We lost Jeremy Hays today.
Tonight I realized that my last post was wrong. I’ll get to that later on.
I was 7 or 8 years old when I picked up a hockey stick. I got a stick for Christmas. Some kids who lived down the street from me played every day. Two brothers would skate by my house, with hockey sticks and pucks in hand, on their way to a friends house to play hockey. They were older than I was. Much older. I wanted to join them, but I didn’t have the courage to ask if I could play with them. One day that changed.
I was playing street hockey with my friend Harry. We both had very little skill when it came to playing hockey. We were messing around one day when the two brothers and friends skated by our little game. They stopped. They asked us to join their game. We skated on down to their part of the street. As I recall, Harry and I just watched as the two brothers played hockey with their friends. They skated much faster than we did. They could stop on a dime. They were impressive to say the least.
I played hockey, almost every day, with the two brothers. I built my skills up and before I knew it, I could keep up with them. Kind of. One day my parents decided that we were going to move. I could no longer see my friends. I could still play hockey, just not with them. Of course, I made new friends. They played hockey of course.
I was walking through a grocery store. I was with my parents. My mom turns around to Jeremy and asks “Hey, It’s Matt & Robert”. That’s the name of the two brothers I played hockey with almost every day. They both had jobs at the grocery store. We said hello and Matt asked me if I was still playing hockey. I said yes. He mentioned that the high school roller hockey team that he played for, needed more players. He invited me to come down and meet the team. That’s where I first met Jeremy Hays.
Anyone who knows all about me knows that I am very competitive. I didn’t care who was on the rink with me. I was going to do everything in my power to show them that I belonged on the rink with them. We broke up into teams. Light colored jerseys vs. dark colored jerseys. Matt picked me for his team. I was so happy. We played and I think we won that game. Little did I know that it was more of an audition for the team. Turns out that the team needed players and I was picked by default. We went into the locker room and I started talking with the other kids on the team. Jeremy was the first to say hi to me. He asked me what my name was. He also asked me why I haven’t seen him around school before. That’s because I was still in middle school. The other kids were in high school.
Matt would always pick me up for practice when my parents couldn’t take me. Jeremy Hays would be in the car as well. That’s when I would really get to know more about Jeremy Hays. We traded stories and became friends.
High School Hockey
I played for the Hug Hawks. I was zoned to attend the school, so the league said it was ok for me to play a year early. I’m sure someone lied to the league along the way. Who cares. I played and it was awesome. At the start of the hockey season, I got really excited to see my friends again. Matt and Robert were there with Jeremy Hays. We practiced and prepared for our first game. Some other kids were on the team with us. I played junior hockey with them a few years before we played high school hockey. My circle of friends was growing.
During one game, I made a mistake and allowed the other team to take control of the puck and score a goal. I skated to the bench for a line change. I sat down and some of the other kids gave me shit. Jeremy Hays spoke up and told them to leave me alone. It was just bad luck and it’s only a game. Before that moment, I had no clue that Jeremy Hays was one of the best friends you could ever ask for. When you stick up for your friends, you give them a sense of security. That’s the most important thing to remember. I wished that bullying commercials would mention that more.
My sophomore year of high school roller hockey took place at a new place called Total Sports. Matt and Robert graduated. Little to say, that’s code for I didn’t have a ride to practice anymore. Jeremy Hays to the rescue. Jeremy Hays just got his drivers license. He showed up to my house one day and said he was going to give me a ride. My parents were unsure if he was fit to drive me. I mean, the guy just got his license. It made sense. My mom asked him how long he has had his drivers license for.
He lied to them. I remember that much. He said a month or something. Jeremy Hays was no liar. I’ll tell you that every time. He also knew how much I loved to play hockey and that I wanted to play for the team. My parents let me ride with him and never questioned Jeremy Hays again. That’s how much faith people had in him. If you didn’t know that already.
The same day that Jeremy Hays lied to my parents, my mother asked him something that I have never forgotten about. He was standing in our kitchen, leaning on a chair. My mother asked him why he was wearing a red shirt and yellow shorts. “I always mismatch my clothes. My friends call me skittles”. Jeremy Hays replied.
My first job with Jeremy Hays
After practice one day, Jeremy asked if anyone knew of a place hiring. He wanted to get a job. I mentioned that the place I worked at was hiring. I worked for a company that offered go-kart rides, mini golf and a truly one of a kind thrill ride. He laughed at me. He said that he was not going to work there. After I mentioned that two of his friends worked there with me, he got an interview. He got the job. I had nothing to do with it. Other than mentioning that the company was hiring.
Before Jeremy worked at the go-karts, I was another kid to the rest of the employees. Jeremy Hays put in some good words for me and I was kind of accepted into their group. I had been working at the go-karts for a few years before Jeremy Hays. I was pretty high up on the employee list and I had very little pull with the owner. When I got promoted to work on the thrill ride portion of the company, I worked my ass off. I wanted to stay on that side of the company. I was the youngest member of the team that ran the thrill rides. I was 19, but that meant nothing to the company. You had to be 20 years old to work the rides. I basically helped the people, riding the thrill ride, put on their harness and gave them the rules. When one of the flight line crew members quit, Jeremy Hays was the first person I recommended. They moved him across the street and I got to show him the ropes. That’s twice now. For those of you playing the home game.
Another flight line member quit a year later and Jeremy Hays was the guy who recommended me for the replacement. I was super good friends with the manager of the company. So I was going to get the job anyways. Jeremy Hays showed me the ropes of the job on the flight line. The score is 2-1 now. Jeremy Hays and I worked the flight line for many
years. He quit one day and that was the last time that I remember seeing him in person.
The lake and wake boarding
Some of the fondest memories I have with Jeremy Hays involves the lakes around Reno Nevada. Jeremy and his dad would go up to the lake for the weekend. They would invite Jeremy Hay’s friends. I was a friend and one day I got the invite to go camping with them. My parents already trusted Jeremy Hays. Of course they would trust his dad. Matt was also there. My parents trusted him as well. After getting to know Brent and Darren, other friends of Jeremy Hays, I was allowed to go camping with the guys.
When we got to the lake, there was work to be done. The boat had to be prepped before we could put it into the lake, we needed to find a camping spot and we had to pay for that spot. Jeremy Hays and friends took care of the boat. His dad went and got the spot for us and paid. The boat was prepped and we hit the lake. We cruised out on the water for about 200 feet. Jeremy Hays had his life jacket on already. He dived in and yelled to his dad. “Toss my wakeboard in. I’m ready”. Jeremy quickly strapped into the board and before you could blink, he was up on both feet. Gliding behind the boat, the water was simply perfect. No waves, no wind and hardly any other boats on the water. It made for some great wakeboarding. Before that moment, the closest thing I saw to professional wakeboarding was the guys in the X-Games. Jeremy Hays swung way out side of the boat. He pauses for a minute. He looks around. He leans in towards the wake behind the boat with a full head of steam. He bends his knees and jumps the entire wake. He lands out in the flat bottom and falls. I thought for sure that it was his first time behind the boat. I was wrong.
Jeremy Hays had done this a million times. He got right back up and didn’t fall for the next 10 jumps. It was amazing. I thought that he would be a pro one day. I would brag to everyone that I knew him. For the record, I also thought that all of our hockey friends, myself included, would end up playing hockey in the NHL.
My point here is this
Jeremy Hays taught me that my previous blog post is complete bullshit. A couple days ago, Jeremy Hays posted this status update on his Facebook wall.
“OK, just trying to plan my funeral. Many of you heard the ” living funeral” idea, which I like but is just not practical given family and friends living everywhere. So regular funeral it will be. Hard for me to do this without breaking down. I intend to be cremated with the service here in Reno. At one point during the service, I would like for as many people who can, to say something about me. Anything (keep it clean). Describe me in your words your way, tell a story that involves both of us, tell everyone how my cancer has affected you, bring a picture and tell the story behind it. I would like a list of names and phone numbers of everyone so, that when I pass, everyone will be made aware of my final wishes and funeral fun facts. This is open to anyone, friend, family, coworker, anybody that would like to say something that was never said, here’s your chance. Please spread the word, as I don’t have all the phone numbers of everyone I’d like to be there. Please remember that I am still here and willing to talk if anyone has any inclination to do so. Please call. If you text please use regular text message. The Facebook message thing messes things up on my end but if you must, I’d rather deal with phone probs and keep everyone informed. Any questions or concerns please get in touch. Love you all!”
You see, Jeremy Hays had cancer. I say “had”, because he is no longer with us. This was the worse news that I had received since my Grandparents passed. I didn’t know that Jeremy Hays had cancer until I looked him up on Facebook one day.
July 22nd, at 7:47 am was the last time that I said anything to Jeremy Hays. I told him my story of how he told my mother that he was nicknamed skittles. The night before that, I wrote him on Facebook and asked him if he was still playing hockey and wakeboarding. To my surprise, he answered my questions and didn’t blow me off. You see, that’s what I mean by my previous blog post being bullshit.
My previous post is about this. It’s very hard to talk about the past with friends from your past. Most friends do not want to talk about the past. Jeremy Hays was not that guy. Jeremy Hays opened up to me and we talked for a few minutes. I realized that after writing my last post, that I’m surrounding myself with the wrong kind of friends. Real friends will talk about the past. Real friends will do the stupid stuff that you want to do. Because they are real friends. Jeremy Hays was, and is, a real friend. I’ll miss him very much. I will no longer talk trash about his favorite hockey team. Jeremy Hays, Rest in peace my brother. I’m picturing you wearing this skittles colored angel wardrobe. It’s the only thing that kind of makes me laugh instead of cry. I miss you my brother. Maybe you could put in a good word for me up there. You know, after all, it’s 2-1. My lead. You kind of owe me one. I love you. I never told you that because that’s not what guys do. I wished I had changed that.