Cory was my first crush. Given the circumstances under which we were introduced, it was somewhat inevitable. I was nine years old and just discovering that boys existed. My oldest cousin Denny was marrying the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen and they had asked me to be a junior bridesmaid in their wedding in Virginia. It was the first wedding I had ever been asked to be part of, and I met Cory, who was just months older than me, the weekend of the wedding. We were being paired to walk down the aisle together.
The women gathered in the fellowship hall to make final preparations for the wedding. Careful not to catch my curls, Mom zipped up my teal green satin bridesmaid’s dress. It had puffy sleeves, a full skirt, a heart-shaped neckline and matching satin roses on the sides of the neckline that were still being sewed on just minutes before the wedding began. At the time, it was the single most glamorous stitch of fabric ever to grace my chunky, underdeveloped adolescent body.
That wedding was my first exposure to the fantastical world of weddings and all of their tulle bows, romantic couples and towering white cakes. And Cory was my groom, although I would have never admitted it. I had yet to make a public proclamation that I thought boys were anything but parasite-ridden cootie-mongers. I remember how awkward it felt to have the adults intermingle our arms just before we were to walk down the aisle.
I actually don’t remember much after that, except for being horrified when I saw the wedding photos because the hosiery I wore was opaque, causing me to stick out like a sore thumb next to all the real women who wore sheer hosiery that accentuated their shapely tanned legs.
But my childhood crush on Cory remained, and as our families were now joined, I’d see him regularly, when I visited the Livingstons or went to church camps and conferences.
I think I was 14 when we kissed. It was morbidly innocent, and I’m sure it was painfully awkward although I didn’t have much to compare it to at the time. Our romance lasted one weekend, at the end of which he muttered something like, “I just don’t know what I want,” which was code for “This is weird and I think we should just be friends.”
In time I got over it. His older brother married another one of my cousins and at that point, he was very nearly legally my cousin. Since I spent quite a bit of time with my cousin Shana (Denny’s sister) I saw Cory and Spencer a lot over the years. We had some good memories. There were times when I had never laughed harder. It was the type of friendship that sticks with you even when adulthood tears you apart.
I always knew no matter how long it had been since I had seen Cory that he’d always have a big smile and hug for me. He was that way with everyone. I’d never seen Cory treat someone differently than another. And Cory was a popular guy. Being in a ministerial family, he traveled a lot. I have no doubt girls swooned for him in every port. After all, he looked like a teenage Pierce Brosnan.
I visited Cory in the hospital in East Tennessee when I was there earlier this month. I knew that he wasn’t well, but I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. Cory had been given morphine so he was sleeping when I entered the room, but the scene was familiar. He had the same look my dad had just a year and a month before, as he lay dying of cancer.
I remember looking at his mother who sat in the darkened room reading a book. She must have spent hours in that room, looking at and praying for her baby boy. No parent should ever have to endure that pain, and yet I know they do.
My heart goes out to those who were closest to Cory: his beautiful wife Jina and their adorable children Mylon and Maycie. To Cory’s parents, his brother and sister, and to my family whose lives have been irreversibly touched by Cory’s life. I can’t help but think of another friend, Patrick Wilson, who was taken from this world at a young age. Patrick and Cory shared a lot of the same qualities – namely their light was just too bright for this world.
“For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face.”
See you on the other side, friend.