I’ve read this message a thousand times.
I scroll back up through several Facebook instant messages. We discuss our lives, our kids, make promises to get together. Let’s do lunch, I type. I’m really busy right now with kids, work and school, but soon, I promise!
Maybe I fooled myself into believing that with enough distraction, the truth would fade. The truth that hours earlier, she took her own life with a gun. Could I have saved her?
I walked nervously into the funeral home. Strolled past all the people. Into the dimly lit room. I took a deep breath and peeked into the casket. Walked closer. Ran my finger down her cold cheek attached to the beautiful face I had envied countless times 14 years earlier.
“Do I have any cellulite on my butt? You guys, I’m SERIOUS!” She looked over her shoulder at us, flashing that million-dollar smile. Standing on the beach of Lake Arcadia in a little black bikini, she looked like a girl who worked out as much as she breathed. The only thing more flawless than her face was her round little cellulite-less bum. I tried to work out with her once, actually, and on our third lap around the track with HEAVY dumbbells – I quit.
One more reason to try and hate her. She was annoyingly close to perfection.
We were playing house back then, at 19-years old. Our boyfriends were best friends, we both moved in, and some of the most fun years of my life ensued. There were ski trips and late-night rollerblading sessions with enough debauchery mixed in to keep things interesting.
But she didn’t participate in any debauchery. While I was sleeping off a hangover most days, she was up before the sun. Going to work, going to school, working out, cooking and cleaning. Reminding all of us to clean up after ourselves. Mothering her younger sister, spending time with her grandma and mom. Her overachieving highlighted my chaos, and I didn’t like her much of the time.
Until one night, she drank with us. Two beers and she was lit. We sat on the couch laughing at the antics of our wild boyfriends, and she mentioned being raised by her grandma. My mom has been a drug addict and prostitute most of my life, she told me, with a look that said she wasn’t comfortable talking about it. But talk about it we did, until the wee hours of the morning. I understood her. Finally. This is why. She’s determined to break the cycle.
I never pressured her to drink with us after that.
As most chapters do, ours closed and we lost touch. Until one day I received a random message from her on Facebook 14 years later. My, how our lives had changed.
I rested my hand on her cold face for what seemed like hours. The regret. So heavy.
I talked with her grandma. The depression had taken over, as I knew from our messages. Swallowed her whole. Most days, she couldn’t get out of bed. Ashamed of her new appearance. Struggling to raise her young daughter. Lost everything she worked so hard for all those years. It was difficult to compose myself as I said, “I meant to go see her. To hug her. Tell her in person how I remembered her. That it wasn’t too late to get it back.”
But I was busy. Work, school, kids, I’ll call you when things calm down.
Suicide is never selfish. She wasn’t selfish. She was wounded. We convince ourselves that the wounds close up, and then one day, they appear in the form of a big, black cloud called depression that follows us. There’s no escaping. It lies. Kills our joy. Twists reality. Some claw out, but others, bless their souls, they believe the world would be brighter if they snuff out.
The past cannot be changed. The world keeps moving. But one day, when that little girl is old enough to understand, I’m going to find her and tell her all about her mother. That’s how I will close my wound.
RIP, beautiful girl.