An old high school friend of mine passed away last week [September]. The news came as an utter shock: I was scrolling on Facebook when a mutual friend posted a status about her. To my utmost horror, I watched the comments pour in, the memories filled with love and grief. And my memories turned to her: her laugh, the cadence of her voice, her tight hugs. Pictures began to fill the screen of days long past and forgotten, and I desperately searched for any I might have of her. I had a few; we had gone in a group to prom, renting a limo and everything.
One of her best friends, a good friend of mine, posted a picture of us going to see the last Harry Potter movie, dressed up in house colors. I remembered that night, her pride in wearing Slytherin colors as I grumbled that I actually was a Gryffindor, so why did I have to be a Ravenclaw? It was the last time I saw her.
Like every time someone passes, I desperately wish I'd kept in better touch.
A couple of years ago, I received a text from someone I hadn't spoken to in years. It said that a friend of ours, who had been a TA during a summer internship, had suddenly passed away. I remembered her vividly, because that summer was a particularly tough one for me: my abuser and I didn't live in the same city, and I was affected by him every day.
Just a few months before her death, I had gone online and saw that someone who had worked on my college literary magazine with me had been found in his dorm room. Yes, found, three days later. The details were horrific.
The summer before that, right after I had graduated college, a friend of a friend went missing. For weeks, his face circulated on flyers, his family desperate to find him. His body was found many weeks later, in Lake Michigan.
In many ways, I find their deaths sadder than those of young children. These were people who had just begun to form their identities, become their own people, discover the world as it is. And it scares me because these are cases of it happened to me. It's something we pay lip service to, but I don't think it hits home until it does just that, happens to you.
One of my closest friends lost her brother in the summer of 2015. He was in his early twenties. If I remember correctly, it was a car accident. I have another good friend who lost his twin brother about a year and a half ago. And my friend who just passed was a sister, too.
I think about that emptiness that they must feel without their sibling, not because of an inherent one-ness, but because they would have been the one person to understand them fully. Same parents. Similar genetics. Same upbringing. It's not always the case with siblings, but with only a few years apart, in all of these cases, they were close.
But lost isn't a good word. It's not the true word. We know exactly where our friends, family, strangers are, but we're so afraid of death and the aftermath that it's easier to say that they're gone. It's easier to say that they're lost to us than to admit that they're dead. As far as we know, death is final. As far as we know, death is an actual goodbye. For someone who has a self-professed belief in God, you'd think I'd have a firm belief one way or another in an afterlife.
People dying always gives us a pause to reflect, compare our lives to theirs. A car accident. A sudden seizure. Going for a swim.
I was more devastated by my (former?) friend's death than I expected. All week, I find myself thinking about her, wondering what she was doing in her final days, wondering how her family is making it through the minutes. I almost wonder if my cold wasn't fortuitous, a reminder to feel every moment of being alive, to be grateful for it. There was a time in my life that I didn't want to feel my blood in my neck, feel the coughs in my throat, but today, I am grateful. Today, I am alive, and so is my brother, and so is my husband. I dread when that might no longer be the case.
This was originally a Tuesday Telegram sent in September. The Telegrams are a weekly essay from me, where I reflect on things going on in my life and the wide world around me. Previous topics have included the Adnan Syed case and criminal injustice, the gender binary, rape culture, and friendship.