Thursday night I received a call from an old friend who lost her sixteen year old daughter to suicide. I don’t completely have the words I need for everything that is going through my mind, but I’m also a writer. I need this outlet to express myself and start taping up the hole in my heart so I can be strong if I’m called on. Right now I don’t seem to have enough tape.
I’ve known this friend and her daughter for seven years. There was a period of time during our friendship that we were inseparable. We were both struggling with parts of our lives, and were there for each other. We were so close, and had such chemistry, that people who didn’t know us would often ask if we were dating. An odd question to be asked by a stranger, but I’m sure the age difference and the hot chick / stubby dude combination made them wonder. It was always a joke between us because we were never romantic, just close. One time, we were standing in line at a haunted house, talking with another couple. The man asked, “How old are you?” My friend answered, “29”. He then turned to me and asked, “And you?” I was 40 at the time. The man then concluded, “29…40…that can work.” I teased her about that for years.
Her daughter would often spend the night. She was several years younger than our own daughter, so they were sometimes great friends, and sometimes reluctant friends in a sisterly sort of way. My wife and I adored her. She was bright and always full of energy. I fondly remember many nights watching old Star Trek episodes. She would often sit next to me, something my teenagers were much too old to do, so it was pretty wonderful. When she discovered that we had a mini trampoline, she would jump on it while watching shows until we got tired. One day while driving her to my house for a sleepover, she proclaimed there was a monster in the car and it was in the front seat. I teased that the monster had to be in the back seat. The mock argument went on for some time, and that became our nickname for each other, monster.
As it happens sometimes, my friend and I fell out of touch. We began working for different companies and saw less of each other. She found the right guy, fell in love and got married. It became harder to spend time together. There were some hurt feelings in the parting, I’m certain on both sides, and it’s more complicated and boring than I care to go into. But as time heals most wounds, earlier this year we met for drinks. One thing led to another and the company I work for hired her on. It’s been great seeing her every day again, a touch of what things used to be when we were close, and I’m happy to have her back in my life. Before I left work Thursday, we went for a brief walk, much of our conversation was about her daughter and how fast she was growing up.
My friend called Thursday night to tell me she had found her daughter after getting home from work. Understandably, her mind was all over the place and she was worried about taking time off after just getting hired. We fortunately work for an amazing company with great people, and I hope that I made it clear to her that she had nothing to worry about. My wife, who was standing there listening, said that I explained myself well, that I was strong for her, but to me it’s a bit of a blur. I had to muster up some of that strength and courage I write about to choke down the sobs. Writing about it is much easier than actually doing it.
I rarely cry to the point that I’ve wondered if my tear ducts had dried out long ago. It’s not because I’m a man, or a sociopath, I just don’t. I didn’t. I guess now I do. I’ve been heartsick over the last 24 hours, and the tears seem to stop only when I become exhausted. Losing someone, and the mourning process, is possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced.
I also feel like the most selfish person in the world right now. What has happened isn’t about me, it’s about my friend and her family. We haven’t been close for years, not like we were. That young woman who died wasn’t my daughter. But she was a part of our lives. It hit so close to home. I was always very fond of her, and that never changed. If it hurts me this much for me, I can’t even begin to fathom what her family is going through, what my friend is going through.
My heart goes out to them, and especially to her. I will do everything I can to be there when asked. To my friend, and her family, I can only say this. Your daughter was an amazing person and my family couldn’t be more grateful for the time we got to spend with her. Thank you for letting her be a part of our lives, and a part of mine.