Happy Birthday, Zafer.


Four months have gone by since I have talked to Zafer. I was fortunate enough to have a phone call with him on the 13th of April and also known as the day “he made a huge error.” We talked about Tucker and his antics, but above all, we talked about how happy he was and how the only problem in his life was finding a new house to lease for the coming school year. As soon as we got off the phone, I got a text and it read: “A flight from Charlotte to Denver April 22 returning April 24 is $280.” It’s a little eerie to me now that that was the weekend we laid our sweet, handsome Z to rest in the ground. I would do so many things differently.

About seven and a half months have gone by since I was held by Zafer. My last memory with him was snuggled up in his TV room at eleven-thirty in his house. Lyle and Tami both had no idea I was there, and Zafer didn’t want me to wake them, so I snuck in quietly, got Z some water from the kitchen sink, and crawled into bed while we watched New Girl. He wanted to watch American Horror Story, but I refused because I knew I would be driving down the long, tree-filled driveway alone at two o’clock in the morning. A scary show wouldn’t be the best choice. We hardly spoke. Looking back now it was the silent company, occasional snickers, and the scent I can still smell at this very moment that I appreciated more than anything else.


Zafer meant familiarity. He meant that no matter how busy life got, he could always take me back to a time of a carefree sensibility. Imagine that you’re driving down the highway and it’s pouring down rain. All of a sudden, you go under a bridge, and for half of a second the rain stops, the noise from the downpour ceases, and everything becomes clear again. Being with Zafer was completely relatable to that split second of clarity.

I was going to stay in my college town, Boone, for the summer, but after my dad’s diagnosis, I decided it would be best to stay home and be with him. Zafer was helping me with this newfound grief in my life. The Estill family has known the touch of cancer and the choking feeling it leaves you once it takes someone you love away. Z experienced this pain and he was one of the first people I told about my dad. His words to me were: “There is no way cancer is the way Eric DeJong goes.” Then he proceeded to tell me he loved me and will always be here for me. And yes, those ways of being “here” have changed but is not any less significant.


There are so many things I could tell the world about Zafer and our world together. There are many moments we shared which I will write about for the rest of my life in celebration and even more that will never surface to paper, a word document, or others’ ears. There are so many cherished memories that Zafer and I once reminisced only to have one mind to live within now. I have suppressed a lot of my feelings until now, trying to get by and onto the next thing, hoping nothing else goes wrong.

I lay with my computer screen in my face. I’m torturing myself by re-reading our archived conversations that my computer has hoarded over the past couple of years. And here I lay dreading August 24th because 20 years ago, it marked the birth of our beloved Z. Our conversations are funny, they make me laugh, but soon thereafter, the automatic smile folds down into a deep frown that is accompanied by tear filled eyes and mascara stained cheeks. Time is weird and messes with my mind on a daily basis.

What a complex topic. Time. The word, so small, but filled with so much. “What’s the time?” “What is it this time?” “All I need is a little bit of time.” An indefinite, definite concept. An infinate but finite representation of the next thing or the structure we mold ourselves into. Something I struggle with every morning when I wake up to a new day. Something I fight when the 14th day of each month rolls around. “Another month without Zafer,” I think. “Another month closer to my dad’s ultimatum,” I cry. See, time helps us forget, or at least ease the pain, of what we’re coping with.

13076629_10209455950622434_2315041383258142916_n.jpgWhen my dad received his diagnosis, I thought every day that if I could just get home for the summer, then I’ll be able to be at peace. When Zafer died, I thought if I could just somehow make it to 2017 without any more heartbreak. I see now that all I’m doing is wasting time. Getting away is not something I obsess over anymore and neither should anyone else. I want to feel this deep level of pain for as long as possible. I want the words “heroin” and “cancer” to shake me to my core for the rest of my life. Right now, I am 19 years old, and in this moment I am filled up with intense grief that is pushing me to do more than I ever thought was capable for myself. “One more mile,” I think to myself. “Because Zafer can’t.” And someday, I will be 39 and I will have lived an equal amount of time without Zafer than I had with him. And when that happens it will only be a matter of time until I have lived more of my life without him. Where this thought gives me a huge rush of situational anxiety, or as I like to call, “shitty life circumstances,” I have nothing else that is motivating me more in this moment to push harder, love deeper, and think greater. As I reach his 20th birthday this is where my mind takes me. I am grateful. I don’t have any answers except to just live passionately and breathe. That was my advice four months ago to the crowd at Zafer’s funeral when I spoke, and my answer remains the same. The same words but with a more passionate individual behind them. The same damn cliché words but now a warmer human being wrapped in a flannel straight from Zafer’s closet.

A message for you: I hope you’re right, Z. About my dad, I mean. I hope that if you have any pull with the miracles of the world you bless my family with one. I truly believe that your energy and consciousness is living on past your beautiful human body. I am in love with the fact that there is an elegant resting place for you where people can go, cry, and cherish the memories with you there. However, I know you are not there. You are not trapped by time and space anymore. You are off continuing your grand adventure, and I cannot wait to see you again. We will dance… one of our favorite things to do together. We will dance so much. My heart breaks every single second without you. None of us wanted to know a life like this. I love you with my whole heart and soul. I know you hear us.

Some love was made for the lights and some kiss your cheek goodnight…Happy Birthday.



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