Zach’s tribute to Oliver
Spoken on November 15, 2020*
Thank you, everybody, for coming today to this celebration and reconciliation about Oliver’s life. To me, at least, Oliver was very many things. He was so much, but he didn’t come off like that.
He came off as Oliver.
A lot of people knew him. A lot of people knew exactly what he would do in situations. And that, in my opinion, defined him. He was the one confidant, he was the mature peer that you could always come to. He would know what to do when others were distraught. He would know what to say in comforting you in the short term. He was unlike my idea of a peer.
He was more than that.
All of us, my age, my peer group, years older and younger, as we go through middle school and high school we change. We go from inexperienced, unprepared—I would just say a novice at life. We learn things, we don’t
learn everything, but we learn what we can from each other, and from those in positions to teach us.
But something about Oliver, that I don’t think I can say about anyone else I know, is Oliver never had that change. He was always himself. He was unapologetically, unabashedly, and distinctly Oliver. And that’s something that, from the moment I met him in sixth grade to the last conversation we had a few weeks ago, that’s something he never stopped being. And he served as not only an inspiration for me, but a shepherd for others towards how they should feel about themselves, and how they should react to the terror of growing up and moving from this stage of a novice to becoming yourself.
And I don’t have too much to say because a lot of it I’m still thinking about. But I know Oliver would have something great to say, and that’s the first thing I thought of when I was thinking about this, coming up here to speak today. That Oliver was so natural at articulating what you should do. Maybe a little too articulate on what you should do, but he was strongly himself. And that’s something that I and my peers, and many people older than me, still need to understand about themselves. But you would always come to him and then come away learning something about what you should do. He wouldn’t say it outright. He wouldn’t sit you down and have a conversation. You’d learn by example from him. And I feel that’s why his circle of friends, at least in my experience, was not numerous but it was deep. And we all understood each other in a way that wouldn’t be possible without a cornerstone like Oliver.
I am going to… miss is too strong of an understatement…. I will forever be molded by not only Oliver’s absence, but also his presence and his wisdom—that I don’t even know if you could call it wisdom without age—but that’s what it was. His strength and his confidence that was infectious and inspiring.
Proceeding on through this incredibly unexpected development, I’m going to, and I hope everyone keeps in mind what I feel Oliver stood for in our conversations—he stood for learning. He stood for learning about learning from experiences. He stood for thinking, and he just stood for letting yourself be known and letting yourself be appreciated. And judging from the size of the audience today, I know that Oliver was a resounding success in making himself known, and helping others to know themselves through his unearned, natural wisdom.
Beyond that, he was a great friend. He was my best friend. And he did it so quickly. I’ve only known him since the first year of middle school, but it’s felt like I’ve known him my entire life. He’s not afraid to tell you upfront what he feels about what you’re doing, what he knows, what he’s done in the past, and what he would do. And something that brings me comfort in the way—I’m probably going to end up here—is that knowing him, and knowing how much he was in every sense of the word, I like to think that had he known about recent developments, there wouldn’t have been much of a difference between how he actually lived his life and how he would have. And that’s the greatest compliment I feel you can give to anyone.
*This speech was spoken at Oliver's Funeral Mass by Oliver's friend, Zach, who was fifteen-years-old at the time. Without a written speech or even notes, Zach simply, eloquently and purely spoke from his heart.