This is the ornament my best friend, Diana and her husband Mike, sent for Christmas along with a beautiful letter. Here is the story behind it.
Our friend, Artie Lopez, was killed in the line of duty in October. Our world was forever changed. He really was one of the sweetest, kindest guys - just like they said all over the news. He would do anything for his friends.
In their letter, Diana and Mike asked for us to pass on Artie's tradition of popping in and hand delivering thoughtful gifts at Christmas "just because." He would do this for his neighbors and friends. His acts of selflessness each year made him a "Christmas Hero" to many people. Diana and Mike asked everyone they sent the ornament to, to be a "Christmas Hero" to someone "you just want to say thank you to." And when you do, to tell them a little bit about Artie, the Christmas Hero.
I think this is a beautiful way to keep his spirit and tradition alive. He will always have a special place in our hearts.
Here is my story of how Artie, touched my life.
We met years ago when Diana and Mike tried to set us up. They kept telling me to look for him in the gym; that he went there all the time. I ended up going up to a guy that I thought was him and said "Hi, I'm Erica, are you Artie?" He said "No, but I could be if you want me to!" Then one day this guy with a mega-watt smile came up to me and said "Are you Erica?" I told him my story of mistaking him for someone else and he said he had done the same! We became gym friends and eventually he asked me out on a date. He was such a gentleman and we had a great time. He told me that he wanted to be honest with me and that he was not looking to get married or have kids. He did not think it was fair in his line of work. I told him I appreciated his honesty and that I was looking to get married and have kids. I was sick of dating guys that never wanted to get serious. So, I suggested, "How about we just be friends?"
As friends we had good times. He would come sit by my parents' pool during the summer. He knew I loved to read, so he came with a book - Everyone Poops. He joked that he was only halfway through but was getting to the good part. He had also become friends with my mother at the gym and she would fawn all over him -serving him snacks and giggling. She had a major crush!
He was so proud of all my accomplishments, yet he never flaunted his own. It was not until I was at his wake, did I see all of the awards and achievements he had accomplished. I had no idea that he was the youngest officer to be on the ESU (emergency services unit). He had told me about one of the tests he failed (treading water for five minutes- he could not swim), while taking the test to be an ESU officer. I never let him live that down and he was a good sport about it. Still, he never bragged about all his amazing accomplishments.
He was very protective of me with the guys I dated and I would give him appropriate space when he was dating someone. At times, it was really hard just being friends with him - look at him! And now looking back, I have such regret. Why did I have to be so hard-headed? Isn't better to have loved and lost then to never have loved at all? Maybe it was just not meant to be. Or maybe it was a life lesson that I needed to learn. Either way, I am grateful that he was in my life, even if just for a little while.
What I take from knowing Artie and loving him as a friend:
- Life is short...tell everyone how you feel and that you appreciate them
- Be generous
- Work your ass off at the gym! (he was always at the gym and I think he motivated me to go more -just so I could stop and chat with him)
Artie and I boating - He and I just got our own boats this summer
(That is my dad's little boat that I used to drive in the background.)
Thank you for reading this and letting me share with you about Artie. I carried on his tradition this year. I hope you will take the time to randomly thank someone and tell them that you appreciate them. Life is way too short.
I appreciate all of you followers. Every comment and/or feedback note gets read. I love knowing that in some small way, I make a difference in this world. Merry Christmas to you and your families!!!