This is the 3rd and final installment in the 65 Roses blog series, dedicated to raising awareness for Cystic Fibrosis. The first two can be found HERE and HERE.
Every once in awhile, God places some incredibly special people in our lives that have the ability, whether we know it or not, to change our entire outlook on the world. It is a very rare and special occasion on which they find their way into our world, but it can be magic when it happens. Unfortunately, sometimes we don't even realize it until they are gone.
On December 30, 2007, one year ago today, I was at my grandmother's house watching the Broncos and Vikings in the regular season finale. In the middle of the third quarter, my telephone rang. It was an old high school buddy calling me, presumably to talk about the New Year's Eve party that we had planned for the following night. However, this call was much different, and our party took on a much different attitude than we had planned. I can still hear the only words that came over the line: "I just got a horrible phone call. Kyle Wooldridge died an hour ago." My heart sank. I had only seen Kyle twice in the previous six months, but this was devastating news.
For everyone that knew Kyle Adams Wooldridge, we will never forget his infectious, Copenhagen smile, his Oklahoma drawl, or his "Cowboy Up" attitude. Kyle was a young man that came to Windsor, Colorado, with his family by way of Stillwater, Oklahoma. He was small; quiet at first, but everyone knew that there was just something different about this young man. When he spoke, everyone listened. He had the ability to make a silent classroom erupt with laughter, and he never backed down from a challenge. Of course, that can be said about a lot of people. The thing that set Kyle apart, though, was the fact that he wasn't just another kid. You see, Kyle always found a way to smile, even though many of us knew that he had struggles that were far beyond what any of us could ever imagine.
Kyle suffered from the horrific disease known as Cystic Fibrosis. He had trouble breathing. His body was frail, and he had to take numerous prescription medications just to make it through the day. I recall a trip to Indianapolis for the 79th National FFA Convention which Kyle accompanied the group on. We were worried that he wouldn't make it through security at the airports because he had a metal rod in his back that would hold him upright so that he could breathe. Thankfully, he made it through without any problems. No matter how much pain he was in, I never once heard him complain about his condition. I can recall numerous other trips on which I was fortunate enough to room with Kyle. He would cough viciously all night, having to get out of bed numerous times just to catch his breath, while the rest of us lay awake wondering if he was going to make it through the night. Earlier on in his life, he had dreamt of being a bull rider. He even served as a bull fighter until his body became too weak. He still spent his time giving his little brother, Cody, advice when it came to riding bulls, and even helping Cody onto his bulls at every rodeo event that they went to.
I had the opportunity to become very close with Kyle and his family, although I had only met his family twice before his death. I was honored when his mother, Dena, called me and asked me to be a pallbearer for his funeral. I hardly slept in the six days leading up to the service, as I knew that it wouldn't be easy, but I knew that this was something that I had to do. Kyle never once backed down from a challenge, and it would be disrespectful to the memory of such a close friend to turn down such a request. As I stood with his brothers, Cory and Cody, while the funeral wagon left Windsor High School that night, I realized what an inspiration that this young man had been to me in the two and a half years that I was privileged enough to know him.
There hasn't been a day that has gone by since that I haven't been inspired by Kyle's life. He was only 17 when he died, but I know that he lived more in those 17 years than most of us will live in 70. It's difficult to come up with a way to describe the impact that he has had on my life. I could say that he is one of my heroes, but that just wouldn't be fair. Legend seems the more appropriate term to describe such a wonderful and gifted young man. You see, heroes get remembered, but legends never die, and friends, Kyle Wooldridge is a legend to every cowboy that has ever fallen off, and gotten back on. He is a legend to everyone that has ever swung a rope and caught himself, but just had to keep tryin'.
The video below is a slideshow of pictures from Kyle's life. The song is "Blue Eyes and Freckles" by Chris LeDoux, Kyle's favorite artist. Good Ride, Cowboy! June 18, 1990-December 30, 2007.