I wanted to take some time to thank a good friend of mine. You see, life has a funny way of making things happen. I was never really a part of the “cool” group at any point of my life. But when I met my friend Declan, he always made me feel like I was cool, because he was one of the coolest guys I ever met. It started at a young age since Declan and I grew up in the same neighborhood and attended the same elementary school, middle school, and high school.
In elementary school, I was invited to one of Declan’s birthday parties. But it wasn’t your average birthday party: he wanted to have an ultimate hide-and-seek game—radio equipped and all—in the woods near our neighborhood. It was epic, and he made sure everyone was having fun and feeling like a part of the group (even though it was his party after all). In middle school, Declan’s energy and positivity and willingness to embrace himself and others became contagious. Whether it was through a school play, or just passing him in the hall, everyone had growing respect for this young man.
In high school, Declan became an icon for South Burlington. I don’t think there was anyone who made people feel as accepted or worthy as Declan did. You could find him front row at almost every school event cheering, DJ’ing a school dance, kicking for the football team, or playing a goofy role in a skit. He would be the first to congratulate you of something, and the first to listen if you had a problem. He was a true leader, and I know I don’t only speak for myself when I say I looked up to that man like an older brother—even if I was older. But we were peers, right? How could I view him as an older brother?
Declan understood life better than anyone I have ever met. He understood that life is short and to live it to the fullest. He wasn’t afraid to be goofy, be silly around total strangers, or let his opinion be known. He wasn’t afraid to step up in times of need, or push people to be the best version of themselves. He was the epitome of “you only live once.” In short, he had so much wisdom and such a unique way living and loving life that you could only stand back sometimes and admire him for being who he was. I aspired to have the same level of comfortability with myself, and have the same constant tenacity for helping others while being true to myself that Declan had. The closest description to that admiration I can find is like looking up to an older brother.
I will always question why life works the way it does. I hate change. I absolutely hate it. I am a creature of habit and consistency. Death has a terrible effect on me for that exact same reason. When I heard that Declan passed away after fighting valiantly for his life, I just cried. It’s all I could do. I cried because the world would no longer gets to be touched by Declan’s goofy antics. I cried because his friends no longer get to witness him impact the world for the better. I cried because I hate the fact that the good and the young are stolen from us too soon. I cried tears of sadness. But, I also cried tears of joy.
How lucky am I to have witnessed Declan grow up? How lucky am I that I could be considered his friend? I am an extremely nostalgic person, which is a part of the reason change is always hard for me. As Andy Barnard once said, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days, before you’ve actually left them.” This is why I love running my own photography business. My work can help make my clients know they’re in the good old days, or help them look back on them more vividly. So Declan, until we can meet again to keep living out those good old days, here are some of my favorite shots of you that I have taken throughout the years. Thank you so much for reminding me that being with my friends and living life to the fullest every day is a pretty damn good way of knowing that the good old days can be whenever you want them to be.
And for Declan’s family. You guys each played such a huge part in Declan’s life by being his role models, teaching him how to live life through your own unique experiences and personalities, and showing him how important family is.
Declan was so lucky to have you as his father. Your sharp wit and outgoing nature showed Declan to find the value in any moment, no matter who it may be with.
Your impact on our community, and dedication to your family (including your four-legged friends that I always loved bumping into in the neighborhood), and lust for life are tools that helped Declan be the amazing young man he was.
Thank you for showing Declan what it means to be a brother. Your caring, family-first nature definitely had an impact on Declan, because he treated everyone like a brother and sister.
Your go-getter attitude and compassion (and passion) for others have always been admired by Declan. Your creativity and willingness to try things a new way also showed through Declan in all the cool things he tried—and did pretty damn well at, too!
You all have had a great impact on this world, and I speak for everyone when I say THANK YOU for helping make Declan into the man he was. You all have each other, as you always have, and you also have this South Burlington community and beyond should you need anything.