I didn’t plan on writing a long post today, but I did want to leave a few thoughts about something that weighed heavily on my mind this weekend.
Life is so unpredictable. You can never be sure what may change or happen at any moment. You could lose someone, gain a new outlook on life, change the world, or disappear, and none of it is something you can always see coming.
At times in my life I have faced experiences that were meant to make or break me. September 20, 2008 I encountered one of those moments that ended up turning into something that changed my life forever. I was lying in bed with my boyfriend at the time. We were watching TV or a movie. I don’t remember what it was, or much about the details of what happened around the time I received that phone call. I remember more about that morning. The day started with a headache. At the time, I was getting them fairly frequently and I didn’t feel up to doing much. But by afternoon it had faded and I agreed to go into town with the guy I was seeing. It had ended up being a fairly nice Saturday and was wrapping up quietly.
Growing up in my house I was taught that you don’t call people after 9pm. It’s disrespectful to potentially wake someone up. And my friends all knew not to call my parents’ house after 9pm. Unless it’s urgent, or they are expecting it, a late night phone call never incites a good feeling. So when the phone at my parents’ house rang at almost 10pm, a chill immediately ran through me. The caller ID announced that it was a good friend of mine. It unsteadied me, and as curious as I was to know why she would call so late, the words on the other line where not ones I expected to hear.
She had called to tell me that our mutual best friend, someone we had both known since grade school and had shared more memories with than I can possibly count, had been in a car accident, and had passed away. This girl was my first real best friend in school. She was the first friend I remember staying the night with. She was the first I ever snuck alcohol with, and the first I ever stayed up all night consoling over a heart break. She was gone. Killed. My world turned. I dizzied, wobbled, and choked. “WHAT?” I didn’t, couldn’t believe it. This young woman who had just recently been married had been on her way to the Army base to take some items to her new husband and she was T-Boned at an intersection. That moment threatened to break me. When the person you call your closest confidant, your dearest friend, your most trusted person in the world, that gets you more than anyone, is taken away without warning, it’s gut wrenching. It makes you feel like you can’t breathe. All of the air sucks out of your lungs and you feel like you are underwater in a boiling tub. Hot, searing pain consumes you from every angle. Blackness bears down on you and the world starts to spin. She is gone. Disbelief and denial want to set in, protecting you from the truth, but from the looks in the eyes of everyone around you, you know it’s real, she’s gone.
After what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was only a collection of about 3 minutes, the caller continued. “She was on her way to take her husband some things he needed on base. She had someone with her, but we don’t know who it was yet, or what happened to them.” She had someone with her. Someone. Immediately my breath came rushing back is a quick deep gasp, filling my lungs back up with what felt like fire. Oh no. He was with her. I just knew. Desperate to be certain if this other person in the car is who I feared it was, I rushed off the phone with the promise of calling right back. I had to find out.
I went to my parents and choked out what had happened. My dad’s face tuned a strange gray color and my mother’s flushed quickly. They were obviously as equally affected as I was by this news and understood the urgency of my questions. They too had watched both the girl, and him grow up beside me. They had seen the struggles and joys and tears and laughs that I had shared with these two people over the many years I was blessed to know them. A series of phone calls were then exchanged. I can’t tell you how long they took, nor can I recall exactly who all was called, but what I can tell you is that when I stopped spinning from the antagonizing wait; when I grounded my feet back to the ground and wrapped my fingers on the edge of the chair; when I made eye contact with my father again, it was as I heard the words, “Yes, it was him, he was in the car too, he didn’t make it either. They are both gone” Everything that I had just felt in the moments before came flooding back, only this time they were doubled. Not only had I lost my childhood best friend, I had also lost the first man who ever stole my heart. He understood my mind better than I was ever able to put into words. He made me think, he made me laugh, and he made me feel after years of being broken and numb. That young man was so much more than the boyfriend I had once called him. Even long after we realized that being lovers was not what worked for us, we had continued to grow close as best friends should. He would spend hours with me just talking about everything under the moon. Whether it was a Tuesday afternoon after work, getting shitfaced playing pool and laughing until it hurt, then walking around Kroger until we sobered up, or sitting in the parking lot of the library until 5 am just talking about all the things that touched our hearts in the world around us, he was always there for me. And no matter what emotions we went through together, we always ended with a laughing fit that ended in happy tears. But, he was gone.
I had support around me in the form of parents, siblings, friends, and a man I loved, but in those moments, I was deathly alone. A sickening taste filled my throat as the bile bubbled up into my chest. Two of the people I loved most in this world, that made my every day worth living, were gone. GONE. I wasn’t sure I would be able to function anymore. I didn’t know that I could live without those two people. They were my people.
At that time in my life I had 4 people that I spent the majority of my time outside of work and classes with. And after that night, half of them were gone. Two people that helped shape and mold me into who I was at that point in my life. My world felt totaled, shaken, and destroyed. Nothing felt like it could ever be whole again. Those moments broke me. Attempting to go to work the next day and breaking down 30 minutes into the shift. Spending unrealized amounts of time lying on the bathroom floor of a retail office supply store balling your eyes out and not caring about life any more is a rock bottom type of place. It’s a defining place. When you realize that you have given so much of your heart to other people that you have forgotten how to live without them, it becomes an even darker place. The week after was a blur. I argued with my boss, I skipped work and bought new clothes for the funerals. I nearly lost my job. It was that week that I recall having the worst panic attacks I had ever had. Leaving the first viewing and walking into the back parking lot in the rain I collapsed. The grief was too much for me and I broke. If my boyfriend had not been there to literally pick me up off of the pavement, I would have been just content to lay there and wait for death to find me. But he picked me up, took me home and comforted me. He told me that my turn wasn’t over and I had to keep going. I managed to attend both viewings, both funerals, and spend time with both families. Everything seemed like it was on repeat that week. Dual Funerals, Dual loss. Heart break for friendships is the hardest kind I have experienced so far. It’s those people that you know would always be there for you no matter what life brought to you that sometimes are taken for granted. And when you lose them, the hole is the deepest. Neither of those two young, amazing people deserved the end they met. I still have tremors when I think about it, or when I think about where they would be now. I still find myself waking up from nightmares drenched in sweat and heart racing.
The only good I can take from those moments is this. I learned that I am stronger than I thought. Although I had reactions and moments of weakness where I came very close to giving up, I pulled through. I am still here. A lot of very dark, empty days followed in that time after the death of my two closest friends. But in the end I had to stay on, I could not just give up on life. Part of surviving, for me, in that time, was in learning that I had to stay alive and honor them. I had to make a life worth living. I needed to get up and stay true to who I was and live out my dreams. My friends were robbed of their lives at such an early age, and it brought me to a point where I figured out hard lessons. I had to stop taking life for granted. Living and breathing is a blessing that can be taken away at any given moment. I had to stop living on the edge and daring death.
Be grateful for every moment you have with the people in your life. If you miss someone, call them. When you think about your mother, send her a text, or ride by her house. When you see something that you know would make your sister smile, share it with her. Always stay close and stay connected. Always make sure you tell people how you feel about them. Make sure they know you love them. Don’t text and drive, or drink and drive, or argue and drive. Look both ways when you stop at an intersection. Be certain the way is clear. Don’t let the person behind you pressure you into jumping the gun. Take your time. Spend time with your cousins and your nieces and your nephews. Make new friends and stay in touch with old ones. Don’t drive too fast. Talk to people. Always wear your seatbelt. Go back to school. Apply for your dream job. Marry the girl who sets your heart on fire or the boy who writes your love song. Live your life. If it seems too hard or if you don’t feel like you are worth it, then do it for someone you love. The ultimate key is to love yourself and be your own strength, but I fully understand needing the boost to get you there. Do it for you, and for me, and for my two best friends. Do it for the people who won’t ever have the chance to live out their dreams. Do it for the chance to make a difference. Just live, and live life fully.
R.I.P my friends ❤