I remember standing in a friend’s driveway on a summer day in the middle of Junior High. There was a new kid at our school that year, and he had come over to hang out. I don’t remember if it was my first time meeting him, but it was the first time I paid attention. He was shirtless and playing guitar. He had a scar on his chest from a surgery when he was younger, and my best friend was mesmerized by it.
At school that year, our whole class fell in love with him. He was funny, hilarious actually. He was a little bit of a rebel and always the first to try something new. He was constantly disrupting class and rarely finished his homework (though he was smarter than most people). He was friends with everyone. He was loud, silly, fun, and happy. He was the kind of crazy that made everyone want to be friends with him.
Two years ago this week, that same boy committed suicide. That same boy no longer thought life was worth living and ended it. The boy who made everyone else fall into a deep passionate love with life wanted it to end forever.
I’ve never had to deal with depression; I’m lucky that way. But in High School, he taught me what it was like to live with it. He showed me that even the seemingly happiest people had dark places that they hid in at night. Before we were friends, I would’ve never guessed that he dealt with depression or self-doubt, but after we had grown really close, he told me about the monsters that lived in his head. We were only close for a short while, but it was long enough for him to teach me how to care for people in the deepest way possible.
We didn’t talk much the last two years of his life. I got the occasional phone call, and he would tell me what had changed, but that was it. Most of the time, I still feel like he’s alive. It had been a whole year since I’d seen him last, so it’s easy for me to convince myself that he’s just off living life somewhere. It’s easy for me to look at an old picture of him and imagine him MMA fighting or dancing around to Kid Cudi, but it’s hard for me to imagine that he’s gone. It still doesn’t make sense in my mind. I’m not sure that it’ll ever make sense.
Right after it happened, I started reading as many articles as possible on how to deal with death. Every article that I found said something about how the loss won’t ever get better, it’ll only get easier. Or how you only ever learn to deal with the pain, but it never goes away – you just live with it. I keep hoping that they’re not true, that this will eventually go away. But it still feels like it happened yesterday, and I think it always will.
When a young person stops believing that life is worth living, it’s hard to look back at that life and feel happy. It’s hard to remember that there were great memories and incredible friendships. When the regrets and “what ifs” of life come swarming in, I try to remind myself how lucky I was to be close with him. He was one of my best friends in High School for a short while, and I’ll forever be thankful for how much he taught me.
This week, it’s really easy to be sad, and to dwell on the past. But this week, I want to spend my time celebrating his life. I want to remember the time he played Just Dance with me at my birthday party even though I had to beg him like 100 times before he finally gave in. I want to remember the time that he chased me around the school just so he could give me a hug. I want to remember all the times he disrupted English class only to be praised for how funny he was. I want to remember the time we visited him in Omaha and he told us about his new school and introduced us to his friends. I want to remember the random phone calls I got and the long conversations we had at 3 am. I want to remember the last time I saw him and how happy he was. I want to remember how he could light up a room and make you feel like you were the most important person in it.
I want to remember the good stuff. I wish every day that I could go back just once and tell him how loved he was or how much he’d be missed. I can’t do that, and I’ll never be able to. But now, I’m not afraid to say it. I’m not afraid to disrupt someone’s life and tell them how important they are, no matter how long we go without speaking.
I’m not sure if he knows how much he’s taught me since he’s been gone. I’m not sure if he knows how much everyone hurts without him here. And I’m not sure if he’s counting down the days, but I’m sure that I can’t wait to see him again.