Son, "baby brother" of four siblings, boyfriend, favourite uncle, optimist. Born Aug. 22, 1985, in Sarnia, Ont., died Feb. 25, 2012, in Sarnia of sudden heart arrhythmia, aged 26.
If I were to try to live my life more in keeping with the way Darren lived his, I would have to make a lot of changes.
The first step in this mission would be to embark on my new fishing career. Dar had an unbridled love for fishing. In some of my clearest memories, he is surrounded by sand, surf and sun, and I can vividly see his beautiful smile and hear his full-bodied laugh. I could get on board with the water and the sun, but slippery, slimy (maybe toothy) fish? I'm not sure.
Next, I would need to buy a great big truck, and ride it out till it rusted through, broke down and the brakes all but failed. But I'd still run it with the great affection of a loyal best friend.
Darren wasn't one to be overly concerned with material possessions, but that monstrous black 1999 F-150 stole his heart. I used to joke with him that she was the other girl in his life. They were sympatico: She seemed to obey his thoughts as well as his hands, and Dar was able to sense when something was amiss with her.
So I'd need a truck, and I'd use it not only to bomb around town or down the 401, but also to help move countless family members and friends and give rides to anyone who asked.
At the very least, perhaps I could learn to play poker like Dar. Maybe I could channel his energy by wearing dark sunglasses indoors, and master an immovable poker face. Maybe I could learn to bluff, when to fold, when to call or go all-in.
Dar tried to teach me to play once before we even started dating, but even then he saw right through me, called me out in every hand and cracked only the slightest smirk when I dissolved into a fit of defeated laughter.
It seems poker is yet another thing Darren will always have on me, and I'll have to make my peace with that.
If I were to live my life like Darren, I'd have to learn to live in the moment. While the rest of the world was caught up in what comes next, or regretting what came before, Dar lived for the now, and in doing so was better able to see things as they really were, and appreciate quality time spent with the family and friends he so loved.
Dar was never too busy to lend his helping hands, to drop in for a quick beer (or two), or to dispense one of his great big all-encompassing hugs to someone who needed it.
His zest for life was unparalleled, his effortless ability to love unrivalled.
If I were to live my life like Darren, I would smile more, laugh more and love more. I would recognize that I can't stress out over things I cannot change or control, but choose to see the redeeming qualities of every situation and simply make the best of it.
I would learn to communicate all that needs to be said by giving a hug. I would make more time for friends, and would love my family above all else. I would be happy and grateful for everything life had given me.
I am not built Ford-tough, I draw the line at putting ketchup on steak, and I always hated it when we'd be driving past a golf course and Darren would perfectly time some poor golfer's drive with the blast of his horn.
But I will try to live the lessons he has taught me. The world would be a better, happier, more loving place if we could all try to live a little more like Darren did.