A Magic Moment on a Mountain

My best friend passed away when I was 16. She wasn’t just my best friend; she was a best friend to many, a friend to everyone, a classmate, volleyball player, daughter and sister. Jade was one of those people you just wanted to know. She was kind, adventurous, inviting and had a laugh that I still dream about. She had a passion for life, was filled with joy and connected with people in the deepest of ways. What not everyone knew about Jade was she had diabetes. She had battled it her entire life but never let it show.  

I remember the day she left us so clearly. We were the only two girls from our friend group who had the first lunch period. This meant we shared a table with all boys and in high school this is a big deal. If one of us was going to miss school we always texted the other person to prepare them for lunch without the other. It seems silly now, but we were teenage girls. She never texted me that day. It was January 16, 2002.

I remember sending her a few texts and then joking my way through lunch with the guys. Normally after school I’d go to hockey practice but I was waiting to have ACL surgery so instead I went home. Minutes after walking into my house, the phone rang. A friend told me they heard Jade was brought to the hospital earlier that day and I should go. I called a few of our other friends and we rushed to the hospital. She was already gone. Diabetes had taken Jade’s life. She was 17 – gone way too soon.

The weeks and months after are a blur. I remember gathering at the church that night and lighting candles. We painted the locker Jade and I shared with three others the color purple. I spoke at her funeral holding a box of nutty bars, carried her casket out of the church and spent a lot of time crying. I remember the entire community mourning and stories from so many people about how Jade impacted their lives. It was obvious her spirit lived on in so many ways. It was the first funeral I ever attended and it was for my best friend.

It hurt, it still does. It brings up emotions of loss, confusion, heartache and fear of abandonment. It’s not easy to talk about. Sharing this story, these words, going through old pictures and notes – it overwhelms me, it’s painful, but it also can be beautiful. What I’ve learned is sharing your story can reveal healing. It keeps alive the happy memories, it inspires other, it makes us human.

Being vulnerable can lead to beauty from ashes.  

This past July I traveled to Wanderlust Fest in Squaw Valley. It was going to be a solo adventure filled with yoga, music and new connections. Forty-eight hours before the trip a friend called and told me about a series of serendipitous encounters that led her to book a last minute trip to Squaw Valley. She ended up staying with me and we met up on the mountain a few days later. She introduced me to the music of Magic Giant, a band that was playing at the festival, and the reason she was there. I immediately felt connected to their music. The vibe is so joyful, inviting and catchy – just like Jade.

The festival started and we had the opportunity to hear Magic Giant play in passing. Several days into the festival, we booked an experience with them to listen to their music while hiking up the mountain. I skipped another session I had been planning to attend because something pulled my heart to the foot of that mountain. Together we sang and danced our way through the hike. At one point we sat around a tree and Magic Giant sang an unnamed song they were working on. This is where the magic happened.

As they started to sing something inside me stirred. The wind on top of the mountain picked up and everything else around us silenced. Their words were beautiful and their lyrics spoke to my heart. They sang about sending messages up to heaven and the stars in the sky. The tears started flowing. All I could think about was Jade. Fourteen years later and I felt like Jade was right there with me. I heard her laugh, remembered her dreams and felt so connected to her spirit.

As we sang our way back down the hill, I shared my experience with Austin – the lead vocalist of Magic Giant. He stopped playing, looked me directly in the eye and gave me the most genuine hug. He told me they would like to dedicate that song to Jade the rest of the festival and share my story. They did exactly that. Every time they played Jade over the next few days, they brought her spirit alive. Through their words, kindness and empathy, they provided peace to a place deep within my heart.

This week Austin sent me a message that Jade was live on Spotify. What I didn’t know is they had actually named the song Jade. Since I heard it last they’d finished the lyrics and even included her name in the song. The song is beautiful – just like these guys – just like Jade. There aren’t words that can bring to life the experience Magic Giant creates. The band is three guys who clearly have a love for music, each other and their community. They sing with so much heart, joy and love. When they play, the crowd comes together as one unified movement. Magic Giant is truly magical.

I’ve listened to Jade on repeat for the past 24-hours. Each time a new thought or memory is revealed to me. It’s been a healing process, an inspiration and a reminder of all the good in this world. This magical moment on a mountain is a testament to the connection we all have to each other. The way our thoughts, words and actions can impact so many. It’s a tribute to the importance of sharing our stories, opening our hearts, listening and letting music move us. It’s allowing ourselves to be broken, beautiful humans.

I encourage you to listen to Jade (and all of Magic Giant’s music) and let it speak to you. Be vulnerable, listen with your heart and let the music reveal your deepest truths. Let the joy, compassion and love in their voices remind you that you are important. Share your stories with others, let connections heal you, be vulnerable, express yourself, listen, lean on others when you need to, and know you are loved.  

I’m so thankful for Magic Giant and this magical moment on a mountain. This song and experience is something I will cherish forever. Each day I will keep the spirit of love alive and find ways to do something similar for those I meet. I’ll listen to their stories and give back in any way I can. Together we can really live, even after we’re gone. What will your legacy be? How will you impact someone’s life?

Listen to Jade on Spotify or YouTube, buy it on Apple Music and pre-order Magic Giant’s album here. If you ever have the chance to hear these guys live - take it.

Shine on, Magic Giant. Shine on, Jade. Let's Really Live - while we still can. 

I will Jade, I’ll keep it forever and ever...

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Katie Miller9 Comments