Day 26: In Chapter Nineteen, I share the story of a dear friend who took her own life. Talk about how suicide has touched your life or the life of someone dear to you.
I don’t know of many people in this world who haven’t been personally affected by suicide in some way, shape, or form. My heart breaks for all of those who couldn’t see the light in their darkest days. Now, they leave behind loved ones who have to grieve their noticeable absence for the rest of their Earthy lives.
The first time I really heard about suicide was when I was about 10 or so. I actually don’t remember my exact age, but a distant family friend took her own life. She left behind a daughter the same age as me. It was just so hard to comprehend at the time, but her struggles with depression eventually came to light in the days and weeks following her death. She wasn’t someone I knew very well, but the news of her passing left us all in disbelief.
A few years later, I experienced the effects of suicide once again, but this time, it was more personal. A friend of mine from high school chose to end her life one Tuesday night at the young age of 20. She was someone who I spoke to often in high school. She had such a great sense of humor, and she always knew how to make me laugh when I was feeling down. I would bring her and her brother home from school most days, and I remember those car rides were always full of so much laughter. We went to different colleges after high school, so we didn’t always see each other often, but we kept in touch. One of the last conversations we ever had was us giving each other updates on our lives, how we were doing in school, and how we needed to get our old friend group together for dinner or something since it had been awhile since we had all hung out. At the time, she was double-majoring in Psychology and Sociology, and had plans to go to graduate school back in her home state of California. On the surface, it appeared that she was doing great. However, she was fighting some demons that none of us truly knew about.
I remember seeing her sister post a status on Facebook about her passing. My immediate thought was “God, I hope it was a car accident.” She and I had always talked about our mutual disdain for people either a) failing to use their turn signals while driving or b) driving miles and miles down the interstate with their turn signals on. It was our biggest pet peeve, and we often joked that that’s how we would die one day. Hence, the reason why that was my immediate first thought. It sounds incredibly morbid, I know, but something told me that that wasn’t the case. I wanted to believe it was a car accident because my gut instinct told me otherwise, and I didn’t want to accept that reality. I instantly called my friends, and we were just all in such disbelief. We cried so much that night, and by Saturday, we found ourselves at the funeral home saying goodbye to our friend.
We walked in and saw her sister. By this point, we kind of knew the details of what exactly happened. Her sister was so strong, but I remember she told me “just be aware, it doesn’t look like her. Her makeup’s not the same.” You see, my friend always had the best winged eyeliner. She was so good at it; it was like her signature thing. Her sister was right. It didn’t look the same at all. I’m never one who likes to go up to caskets at funerals. To be honest, I absolutely hate it. I don’t like to remember people that way, but in this case, I knew I had to go up there. I had to offer her parents, sister, and brother my condolences. I remember seeing her best friend just continuously sob uncontrollably. She was crying so much, she actually left the room before the service even started. Towards the end of the service, my friend’s sister and aunt spoke about the importance of depression and suicide awareness. That’s about all that I remember as far as words go that day. Physically, I was sitting in that room at that funeral home, but mentally and emotionally, I was gone. I remember getting to the service, but the service itself is still, to this day, a blur. I guess I subconsciously blocked it from my memory.
It just recently made 8 years since my friend’s passing. It’s not something that I talk about often, but there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her. I find myself wondering where she’d be today, had she chosen to stay. I used to struggle with feelings of guilt a lot at first, as did most of my friends. We all wondered if maybe we would’ve been better friends to her, kept in touch with her more, like we said we would…then, maybe it would’ve made a difference. Maybe she would’ve known how loved and appreciated she really was.
I still let those thoughts creep into my mind. I still occasionally feel some guilt and sadness that she’s no longer here, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from this, it’s that we all have to cherish our time with our loved ones while we have it. I now make it a point to check up on my friends more when they don’t seem okay. I always try to cheer them up when they’re feeling down.
…and someday, I’ll make it to Abalone Cove in California for my friend. Maybe then I’ll be able to feel some of that peace that she always felt there.