Feeling: HEAVY-HEARTED THEN UNEXPECTEDLY LIGHT
Earlier this year a friend of mine passed away. I’ll refer to him as J.
J was a beautiful soul. Our families have been good friends for well over a decade, so I’d known him throughout the turbulent teen years. I’d always had a massive crush on him and had held onto hopes that one day I’d end up marrying him. It was a bit of a joke between the families, but there was an undertone of seriousness in my quips.
As an unsure 13-year-old, I was super shy in his presence. Whenever he was around I was rendered speechless, or at best, stuttering. As a friend of my older brother and us all doing water skiing together, he was at our place most weekends. I loved and hated such regular encounters with a passion – joyous having him around, incensed at my inability to talk to him.
I remember one day I had entered a competition to win a mini radio from the TV Guide. To do so, you had to submit a joke which was then published. My choice was: “Why did the doctor tiptoe past the medicine cabinet? So he didn’t wake the sleeping pills”. Cue chortle.
Imagine my absolute dismay when the phone rung that night and J was on the other end wanting to talk to my brother. We exchanged pleasantries (a lot of grunty giggles and frog throats on my part) then just before I said I’d pass the phone over he said, “I saw your joke in the TV Guide.” I still regard this as one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.
As I got a bit older I was able to converse with him. When I was 16 I got some boy short pink undies and I absolutely preened in pleasure when one day I was prancing around in them and J complimented me on my bum. I kept them as a treasured possession and I wore them to his funeral under my dress.
I feel so guilty that the last few years have showed me in minimal contact with him. Life gets in the way, months and months pass, and although you keep reminding yourself that you just must catch up with this person or that one, daily routines and tasks take over and it doesn’t end up happening.
I especially feel terrible because about a month before he died he was in Cambridge with his dad and they pulled over to say hi when I was out running. I knew he wasn’t in the most stable of mindsets and I told myself when I got home that I would call round and ask if he wanted to go for a walk. Get a juice. Sit in scilence. Anything really. But instead I got home, had an ED-related breakdown, and got lost in myself.
He may have said no anyway. In fact, he probably would have. But I’ll never know because I selfishly didn’t reach out. I still feel pangs of shame and regret.
J had the most infectious laugh you’ve ever heard. It honestly broke you out in giggles alongside him. His smile lit up a room. He was a beautiful person. You know how you hear about people having a “sparkle”? J had sparkles in spades.
And it’s often those who suffer the most.
I’ve never really understood suicide. I guess no one close to me had ever been on the cusp or done so before. The grief is different. It’s odd. You don’t know what to think. It’s a tempestuous topic where different people have polarising opinions, and conversations seem to be approached with either care and hesitancy or full force and brutality.
It was during J’s mother’s eulogy that I sort of understood. “J didn’t take his own life,” she said. “Depression did.” She didn’t sugar coat anything as she told of his dark demons and the last few months and weeks of his life. As I listened I realised that J was past the point of return when he died, that he had tried, really tried, to battle. But in the end it was too much.
It wasn’t a selfish act. Not in the slightest. His mind was just so overtaken and overcome that he saw no way out. Like being tangled in a sheet that slowly becomes weighted with lead, then eventually concretes you down.
Today marks six months since the day he died. I can’t imagine how his family must be feeling. How long does it take for the pain to lessen in such cases? A year? Ten? Does it ever?
I talk to J quite often, usually once a day. It sounds so weird to write that, but I chatter to him along with my late grandparents and my great grandad. Just asking them to guide me, hoping that they’re happy, that sort of stuff.
Today when I had my inward chat with J, I was suddenly filled with this complete inner sense of peace. Like a light, warm sensation spreading though me. I just suddenly knew he was in the light and back sparkling.
Maybe it was me imagining it. Maybe it was to disminish the sorrow I was feeling. Take what you may. But I wholeheartedly believe it was J letting me know he is finally free.