Eric Zaun, who died Tuesday, and Avery Drost, were not just pro beach volleyball partners, but best of friends. They last played together this past Sunday when they placed ninth at AVP New York City. This is Drost’s tribute to Zaun:
By Avery Drost
If I had the rest of my life to think about it, there aren’t any words that I can put together to describe how much it hurts to lose my friend Eric Zaun.
Not just to be separated from his presence here with us, but to imagine him in pain that nobody should ever feel …
In the short time he has been gone, I’ve seen so many images of him, many taken with the two of us together. I keep looking at him and marveling at how special he was, how uniquely and wonderfully he was made, and realizing that just a few days ago he was right there next to me — and suddenly I’m overwhelmed with sorrow realizing I could have appreciated him so much more.
This is going to be hard to write.
I keep remembering something my dad said about me when I was younger: He said that I “liked to bite off big chunks of the world at once,” which was his way of saying I was biting off more than I could chew (he wasn’t wrong). But when I think about Eric, I think that expression lands on a whole new meaning. His imagination was so big and his sense of adventure was so wild, he pursued the things he loved far beyond the limits most of us would be comfortable in. He so vividly envisioned a new and creative way to approach his life, that convention didn’t even occur to him.
Here’s where it gets really hard …
I loved Eric and I cared about him so much, but I didn’t always understand him. He operated on passion, and went hard in whatever direction he wanted to go in, and sometimes I imagined that he didn’t care too much about how that affected anyone else. Sometimes it bothered me. I thought about some of the ways he acted largely in terms of how I was affected. But I didn’t always look deep enough to see what was happening inside of him.
I feel like I need to say this to own it fully. I was selfish at times, and as a result I missed out on enjoying all of the joy and sweetness that E brought into my life and into the world.
My mind just turns now to all the truly one-of-a-kind shared times we had, and the list seems to grow every moment. Thrift shopping for leather jackets in Portland, listening to James Taylor and drinking seltzer waters from the dollar store while we played vollis, a limbo contest in the Dominican Republic, throwing a football all over the Denver airport, meeting on the beach early to train with Marcus — because “nobody ever accomplished sh-t standing around,” flying overnight from Seattle to New Jersey to play in Pottstown on zero sleep, driving to Las Vegas and introducing him to the band Sublime, watching him hit serves and put balls away from off the net in ways nobody else ever could, hugging him on the court and telling him I loved him after we won in Seaside together, sitting on a beach at night talking about a girl that was changing his heart, watching him play with my kids …
I truly never imagined that he hurt so deeply, and when I got the call that he was gone, and that he had taken his life, I so instantly wanted to reach out and hold him, and I cried uncontrollably realizing that I would do anything to have one more chance.
How stupid I had been to dwell on any of the things about him I didn’t understand, instead of just enjoying my brother that I got to do life with. I’ve had a lot of good people reach out to me and remind me that when something awful like this happens, there isn’t anything that any one person could have or should have done that would have prevented the loss. I know in my heart this is true. But what I will never again forget is that Eric was and is one of my brothers, made in the image of God, perfect and precious to the Father who formed him.
I can see him now the way God has always seen him — perfect and fully known. I know I will never be the same.
1 John 4:11 says, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
Eric was my friend but more importantly he was a son of God who loved him unconditionally. That same love that the Father has for us, He calls us to show to one another. I will love Eric forever, and I pray that I will always see the people around me through the same eyes I see Eric through now: Precious and set apart, fully known and loved by God.
Thank you for being my friend and for touching my life. It was an honor to know you – I learned so much from you and my life is so much richer for having been near you.
Thank you for the time we had together on the court. I’m going to keep trying to play, and I know I will always be different for having had you as a partner and having felt the pain of losing you. I think I will be a better partner for having walked with you. Thank you for being so good to my family and my friends. I will tell my kids about you and share your story, they will grow up loving you. They miss you even now.
I see now that there is so much that I didn’t know about you, and I pray that I will get to hug you one day in heaven and learn all the things you knew all along. I’m hurting really bad.
But I’m leaning on what Jesus said on the cross to the man next to him: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
I’m praying even at this moment that you are seeing the Father’s face and all your tears are wiped away.
I’ll see you soon, and in the meantime I will try and live all these lessons that you taught me.
VBM contributor Travis Mewhirter, a pro beach player and another close friend of Zaun’s, wrote about him for p1440: https://p1440.com/news/you-cannot-replace-an-eric-zaun/