When I was a freshman in high school, I remember being asked to sit at a lunch table with my new friend and his friends. I remember sitting down and seeing the others just kind of look at me. One of them looked and said "what's your name?" I replied " Blake" He then said "hey, my name's Blake , how old are you?" "14?" I said to which he replied "well, I'm 15 so it's my name" with a smile I will never forget. He then asked my last name and told me that was my new name. It is crazy to me how some things you just cant forget. No matter how many other things you may see or do, some things are just there with you forever.
A few years later, after becoming close with him and his twin brother Bart, I had realized that this group of friends was so much more than just that. The amount of love shared and expressed between all of us and the amount of sheer gratitude for one another is so strong it can make you smile just to even hear one of their names. I remember hanging out with them and it was the first time one of my friends told me they loved me. It wasn't weird, it just felt right to say it back. something else I cant forget. Bart and Blake were two people that no matter how hard you look, you could never find two people like them. It is so hard to explain why, but if you know them, you know why you cant.
One night when i was approaching senior year, Blake was involved in a terrible accident and lost his leg. I remember spending a ton of time with him and his family during it all and becoming even closer to them. It was a tough time and one thing that I noticed is that his spirit, it was never broken. He still had that same smile and laugh that could light up the darkest rooms. We all worried that he wouldn't truly be happy again, losing his leg held him back from doing all of the things he loved the most. Then around 2005 something amazing happened when he met Amanda.
Blake and Amanda were head over heels for each other. Right off the bat they hit it off and were most often only seen together. She became a regular in our circle of friends and there was something so beautiful about seeing them together. It was the kind of love you would see in a movie and hope and dream to one day smile at someone they way they did, just once.
They married in 2013 and found out they were pregnant in October 2014. They announced their beautiful surprise around Christmas and we all knew this baby was going to be so loved and so spoiled. I remember seeing their announcement photo and instantly tearing up just thinking about that beautiful baby and how much love it would be surrounded by. Its something that I hope for.. we all hope for.
On January 24 2015, sadly the world lost one of its best. Blake was in a tragic accident and did not survive. When the news arrived to me, I was at a loss for words. A thousand thoughts ran through my head but my mind kept coming back to one thing, Amanda and the baby. This was one of the hardest days in my entire life... in our lives.
I rushed back to Pensacola for the memorial service and was surrounded by those same friends. The ones that accepted me in their group, the ones that did the same with her. That's when i realized that.. Blake was such a great person, so strong and full of love. He would do anything in the world for his friends and would never ask for anything in return. We all would do the same for him or anyone and I realized that while Amanda i'm sure felt lonely, she was nowhere near being alone. She never will be. Those same friends will be here for not only her, but for their beautiful daughter. To see all of the memories and share in the laughter and tears forever. I was honored when I was asked to photograph these photos for her. It meant the world to me to be considered and I had the best day with her.
The crazy thing is when we showed up it was cloudy and there was not much sunlight. As soon as we started the clouds parted and let the sun come out for a bit. When we finished, they came right back and it started to rain shortly after. We both felt Blake was there with us, watching and smiling. I speak for so many people when I say , I cant wait to meet this beautiful baby. She will have the strongest, tight knit family one could ever hope for. We all love you Blake, we will make sure your little girl and beautiful wife are taken care of.
One thing he and his brother taught me was to never leave without saying i love you, no matter what..
I love you.
"Happiness is to love as God is to life. I said that" -Blake