I was in third grade when Mr. Z came into my life. He had just finished his time as a missionary for the LDS church and was working as an aide in my class at Cascade Elementary in Orem, Utah. I had a learning disability that no one knew about back them and really struggled in school, especially in math. I was also the victim of a lot of bullying. Mr. Z spent hours of one-on-one time with me to help me learn times tables and get up to speed in other areas as well. While most of my peers and teachers at that time had me convinced that I was stupid, lazy, and would probably never amount to much, Mr. Z helped me believe in myself and have the confidence I needed to succeed. He always made me feel like I was the most important person in the world with the ability to accomplish anything I put my mind to.
Over the next few years, even though he no longer worked at Cascade, he continued to keep in touch with my teachers to see how I was doing and write me fun personal letters of encouragement. He gave my parents and teachers insight into my struggles that allowed me to find the individualized help I needed to eventually succeed in high school and college several years later, as well as set the goal of one day attending medical school.
Without the help Mr. Z gave me all those years ago, I don't think there is any way I could have performed well enough academically to get where I am today. I will forever be in debt to Mr. Z for the love he showed me that has played such a big part of what I have been able to accomplish throughout the course of my life.
I am so grateful not only for the way he helped me back when I was a child, but that God allowed me to miraculously get back in touch with Mr. Z during the last part of his life after he had helped me come so far. I'm grateful for the small amount of time I was able to spend with him over the last year or so, that I was able to at least tell him "thank you" for all of his help all those years ago and let him see what I have become because of it.
For the rest of this life I will always miss him, his encouragement, his ability to make me feel like I was amazing, his hilariously one-of-a-kind personality, his jokes, his pictures, his inspiring posts, his stories, his voice, his example of service, selflessness, and love, and his overall sheer awesomeness.
Thanks for everything, Jason. 'Til we meet again, my dear friend.