Thursday, March 14, 2013


The last week has been rough. I didn't post much because I've been a mess. It hurts. And I understand that everyone else doesn't feel the same, so I tried to avoid talking about this too much...
I think it's important. That people know. That those who have lost someone realize they aren't alone, and that those who are thinking of taking themselves can take a moment to see what it's like for all those you choose to leave behind. Trust me, you are more important than you think you are, and if you don't believe me, read below. Don't make your friends and family go through what I had to.

March 9, 2013

“Goodbye. Goodbye, I hate the word!
Solitude has long since turned brown and withered.
Sitting bitter in my mouth and heavy in my veins.”

I had a date today. My first in over a year. It was with that kid I gave the Mustache Chocolates to.
I had to go. I canceled our lunch date yesterday, after I heard about you.
I told my valentine that an emergency had come up. I didn’t say what. I was glad he didn’t ask. I didn’t want to see his pity, or hear his questions: How did he die? Why did he do it?
I don’t have answers.
My valentine and I went bowling. I sucked at it. I laughed more than usual, thought things were funny that really weren’t. When we went to an arcade, I did a little better. With our 173 tickets he bought three army men, and I got three little plastic animals.
It was sort of a relief to forget for those two hours, why my insides felt like they wanted to be outside.
But when I got home I felt guilty about letting myself forget you. About letting myself be happy. It’s still so much of a shock today. This has stopped being real.
I felt so exhausted, I just wanted to lay on my couch and…
That’s another thing we’ve all been stumbling over lately. Metaphors have stopped being metaphors. They’ve stopped being funny when we say things like “You’re killing me with kindness” or “I’m dead tired” or “I just want to lay down and die.”
I got together with Miranda, Mariah, and Gabe. We watched Merlin for a while, to try to cheer up. It only made me feel worse though, to think that I was trying to forget you again. What made me feel truly miserable was knowing that the four of us had been planning this night for a while, to celebrate a promotion I got. I think I was the only one who remembered it was supposed to be a celebration. I didn’t mention it. None of us much wanted to celebrate anything at that point.
When I got home, I cried again.

“I keep myself busy with things to do
 but every time I pause, I still think of you.”

I wondered why God didn’t warn me that you were feeling this way. And I finally realized it was because He knew there was nothing that I could do. You made your mind up about this. And I couldn’t have stopped you.
I tried to go to sleep, but I couldn’t. Instead, I stayed up late reading conference talks about suicide. They scared me something awful, until I found one that gave me hope. Suicide is such a heavy sin in our religion, but all sins can be forgiven…

“Suicide is not a mistake but a choice. If you receive suicidal thoughts seek help. There are many options to help you to get through it all, do not make yourself become a victim. By believing in recovery you already believe in yourself and that your life is important; you are important.”
~Zeba Koli

March 10, 2013

I thought I was doing okay, but when I got to church today, I could barely keep it together.

"Wherever You Will Go"

I couldn’t sing any of the songs. My voice got thick, and caught in my throat, and my eyes watered until all I could do was sit there, eyes squeezed closed, breathing deeply, and trying not to think of you.

“I could fill a thousand pages telling you how I felt, and still you would not understand. So now I leave without a sound, except my heart shattering as it hits the ground.”

It was hard. We had a testimony meeting, and everyone kept bearing their testimonies about how we aren’t really alone, about how God is always there for us. It made me think of you, and how alone you must have felt, to do what you did.
I thought about bearing my testimony. On how much souls matter. About how much people you don’t know may love you, and about how each soul is so precious in the eyes of God.
But I couldn’t fix the words in my mind. Not without crying. So I bore my testimony silently in my heart.
My brother called me just before Relief Society. His car had broken down, and he was stranded three hours from home. He needed a lift.
My sister was thrilled with the idea of us racing off to his rescue. But I asked if I could go alone. I needed some time to think.
In the car I cried again. The tears ran warm down my cheeks each time I blinked. My friends keep telling me not to cry and drive, but I keep doing it anyway, because in my car I can truly be alone, and let my emotions leak free.
It surprised me how many tears came. When I wiped my face on the sleeve of my jacket, the fabric was darkened with a salty lake.
I started talking to you. Praying to God that he would give you a message from me, and that he might return one from you.

“I have so many feelings, but there aren’t enough words to describe them.
I keep saying the same things over and over again, like
‘I love you’
‘I miss you’
‘I’m sad’
I’m scared that I’ll keep repeating them and they will lose their meaning.
Then, I won’t be able to say anything at all…”

I feel like that prayer was answered.
On that two and a half hour car ride, I talked to you a lot. I went through every rainbow of emotions: sorrow, anger, hurt…
I think I must have bewildered you with my prayers. I’m certain you never realized how much you meant to me. I’m sure in your life, I was just a bossy shadow in the background (as the assistant coach at the place you fenced) who laughed at all your jokes. I don’t think you ever knew what an effect you left on me.
As I prayed, I feel like I received an answer that you were sorry, and that you asked for my forgiveness. I was bewildered by that request. I hadn’t realized you needed it, and it took me a moment to give it to you. But when I could, I finally felt better. I began to sing with my music. Until one of the songs reminded me of you, and then my croaky voice shook until I fell silent again. I stained the sleeve of my jacket with more salt and mascara.
I’ve asked for your forgiveness too, so many times. For being mad at you. For being hurt, and angry, and sad, and screaming my soul raw at you. For not being able to help you…
That night, I spent at my home up north, instead of at my apartment. I’m glad my cat was there to let me hold her tight. She put up with me when I woke up at two in the morning, and began construction of a book for you. I texted everyone who had known you, asking for stories of you. I gathered all my pictures of you—from fencing, from you chilling in Coach Ross’ office, looking at Magic cards. I had them because I did my photography homework at the fencing center one night, about a month ago. The quality isn’t the best. But you’re in them, and that’s all that matters…

“Sometimes, no matter how much faith we have, we lose people.
But you never forget them.
And sometimes, it’s those memories that give us the strength to go on.”

March 11, 2013

I feel like I ran away, and it left me feeling terrible.
This is the first time I’ve ever run from a problem, instead of confronted it.
I stayed up North for a little bit, trying to make myself feel better by visiting old friends, shopping at my favorite store… trying to find a reason to be up North…
But in the end, the only thing that made me feel better was coming back here, and finding my friends who understand what I’m going through, because they miss you to. We all fenced together for over a year. You were part of our fencing family…
I still haven’t told anyone but my close family that you’re gone. There’s nothing they could do to make it better.
The people who know what happened keep asking if I’m okay, and I hate that question, so much. No. I’m not. Only time can heal this pain so that eventually, I’ll be fine… But I’ll never be the same.


“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal.
Love leaves a memory no one can steal.”
~From a headstone in Ireland

When I made it back here, I went to the store to buy some more charms. When I’m sad, I buy things. I guess that’s why there are twenty-one charms on my bracelet now, including both of yours: that paper airplane, and a plaque that reads “You Never Know…”
Miranda and Mariah wanted to get some charms to remind them of you too, so I picked them up, and we went shopping again. Miranda picked a dream catcher, because there’s a song about them that reminds her of you. Mariah selected a treasure chest, because “Friends are a Treasure.” She got a shield too, with the words “The Lord Be With You.”
We went back to their house, and after calming down with a show, we worked on your book some more. I think it was healing to all of us to see your face again—to know that you weren’t just a memory that might be erased.
We read through our quote book too, and found some things that you had said. That we had preserved.
Your funeral is tomorrow.

“Hi moon!
Dim your light.

Hello wind!
Breeze soft.

Hello earth!
Spin gently.

Because my friend is going to sleep.

March 12, 2013

I saw your body today.
The fencers all met together at the Fencing Center, and then we carpooled to the church house. I was dressed my best: in a brown gown, with brown fitted boots, my hair half up with a renaissance twist, and wearing my lucky star earrings. And the charm bracelet. The one with your charms on it.
They said you were in the Relief Society room. We followed the hallway: Miranda, Mariah, Gabe, Hannah, Ross, and I. I was leading the way, though I kept trying to convince Ross, your coach, to go first. I didn’t want to lead. I had no idea what I was doing. I’ve never buried a friend before.
We found the room. Outside the door was a booklet to sign our names. I signed mine, then waited for the others. As we waited, Ethan, your best friend, and Eric, your friend and Ethan’s older brother (both of them, also fencers), met us outside. We hugged. We said little. What could we say?
 When we’d all gathered, I wanted Ross to go first again. To lead the way into the room you were resting in. But he wouldn’t. So I led the way.
I didn’t know any of your family, except your cousin Andrew. He fenced for a little bit, but he quit ages ago. I saw a flash of recognition in his puffy eyes after I said hello. He didn’t say anything in return.
I felt so awkward, because I didn’t know who was who—brothers? Sisters? Grandparents? I danced past everyone, and ended up standing in front of your casket, staring down at the person they said was you.
But I looked at you.
I looked at the face that was too old to be yours. At the hands that were too small to be yours. You were dressed in a suit, a couple cherished items tucked in beside you: photos, a tiny teddy bear…
I looked at you, and I knew it wasn’t you. The happy, smiling kid that I’d taught fencing to… The spirit that had lifted and inspired me… That wasn’t there anymore.
And in a way, that brought peace. That brought closure, staring down at you, and realizing I’d already said my goodbyes. I’ve talked to you so much in my heart over the last five days. I’ve had conversations that I knew your Spirit listened to—that I felt like you took part of.
I stared at that body that wasn’t you, and then I stepped away.
I stood next to Mariah, at a small table, waiting for the others. “Look,” Mariah said, nodding to the table. “His swords. His saber.”
That was what really hurt me: staring at those swords. Staring at that part of your essence that I recognized. In those swords, I could see your spirit: your fire, your fun.
I stared at them for a long moment, before finally lifting my eyes back up to your body.
Ross stood in front of you, his lips pressed into a thin, white line. It was then that I realized that before, he didn’t want to lead the way because he didn’t know any better than I, what to do. And he was afraid to see you. You, who had annoyed him so much at fencing, by whacking his water bottle off the desk, hitting the lever on his chair so he’d sink down, taking his shoes to hide, covering his car in fencing pamphlets…

“No matter how long it’s been…
there are still times when I think of you,
and suddenly it gets harder to breathe…”

I left that room, and found Miranda and Hannah crying out in the hall. They wouldn’t go in. It hurt too much.
I slipped off to the side, Mariah following close behind. We stood, in a small lobby, waiting for the others. Ethan came by. He exchanged his black bowtie for an orange one. Because orange was your favorite color. Eric came by. He had an orange ribbon pinned to his suit, in your honor.
We didn’t say much. What could we say? My mourning and sorrow and loss are something I can’t express aloud. It hurts too much. It’s why I’ve been so silent since your passing. It’s why people keep asking if I’m okay.
When all of the fencers were together again, we walked into the chapel. We sat on cold metal chairs, drawn out in a line. Mariah, me, Hannah, Miranda, Gabe, and Ross. We waited for you.
When they came in with your casket, we all stood. Tears slid silently down my cheeks as I watched your casket go past. As I saw your family and close friends—Ethan—file in behind it, to fill the benches. I’d looked over my shoulder earlier. You wouldn’t believe how many people came to see you. How many miss you. They were all so young—they shouldn’t have had to feel this loss.
You were so young. You shouldn’t have been gone.
As they said the opening prayer, tears pooled in my eyes. I opened them to see a blurry world. I dragged out a tissue, passed it to Mariah, then pulled a second out of my pocket to wipe away my own tears.
The service was lovely. Your brother’s love for you burned in his eyes when he spoke of you. Your aunt told us funny stories about you—including one about a cat. I didn’t know you had a conspiracy theory that one day cats would take over the world, and that you’d shared it with one of your friends. “Do you have a cat?” you asked them. When they replied in the affirmative, you said, “I’d sleep with one eye open if I were you.”

“That one friend that can make anything funny just by the way they say it.”

You were so freakin’ funny!
I looked at the people, and wondered which one was Jeff—your uncle who you’d tried to set me up with.
When your Bishop and Stake President spoke, it brought me some comfort. It’s so hard to speak of suicide like this, especially in our culture where it is one of the most grievous sins a person can do. Where we all worried that you wouldn’t receive the highest degree of glory because of this horrible choice you made. But your Leaders handled it well. Your Bishop reminded us that all things are taken into consideration on the other side: genetic makeup, state of mind, understanding/accountability. He reminded us that your good acts will be taken into account as well, and that though suicide is a sin, all sins can be forgiven. He quoted that talk I read at midnight.
Your Stake President put it this way: “Did he handle this the right way? No. Was this God’s will? No. But though God did not call him back, He welcomed him home.”
It helps, to know that God loves you. Loves us all. And that he understands why you did this. Even though I probably never will.
But I know one thing for sure. I loved you, my dear friend.
The music was lovely. Ethan and Eric, as well as two boys I didn’t know, sang “God Be With You Till We Meet Again.”
By the end of the service, Hannah and Miranda were hugging tight, sobbing onto each other’s shoulders. Gabe and Ross could only look at their clasped hands, or the floor. Mariah and I were too tough to sob. As delinquent tears escaped down our cheeks, we clasped each other’s hands, our knuckles white. My charm bracelet glinted in the light, and it tinkled every time I moved. The melodic ringing reminded me of the way swords clashed at fencing.
When it was time for you to go, we all stood again.

"Sound the Bugle Now"

We filed outside, past Eric and Ethan. We went to our cars. Ross and Hannah didn’t want to go to the graveside. I think it hurt them too much. Everyone else was wondering if they should go. If we’d be allowed.
I wanted to go.
I talked to Ross and Hannah, then found Eric and Ethan again, sitting in their blue car, waiting to get out of the parking lot. Ethan’s window was rolled down, and I stood outside of it, leaning down to peer in at he, Eric, and another boy. Maybe it was Jeff. I asked if we were allowed to go to the graveside, and when they said yes, I told them I’d see them there.
When I made it back to my friends, I asked if we could go, and they all agreed that they wanted to. I don’t know what their reasons were, but personally, I needed that closure.
I stood at your grave site, waiting for you to arrive. When you did, I pulled out my camera. Because I don’t want to forget you.

"I Will Remember You"

“1 universe, 9 planets, 6 continents, 204 countries,
809 islands, 7 seas, and I had the privilege to meet you.”

I took pictures as Ethan and the other pallbearers lifted your casket out of the vehicle, and set you on your grave. I was afraid of being disrespectful. But I was more afraid of not being able to remember the last time we would be with you.
I saw Eric, and led Mariah, Miranda, and Gabe over to him. I touched his shoulder, and gave a half smile, before slipping in just behind him, and to his left, where we could see your casket. Then we prayed, and dedicated your grave.
Ethan set his white, pallbearer’s rose on your black casket. Your mother—I think it must have been your mother—was given a white rose, and after she set it down, she collapsed back into her seat, keening at her loss. More people I’d never met comforted her. Or tried to.
I slipped back, away from the others, and took more pictures. Of the people who had come to see you. Of Eric setting his orange ribbon on your casket. Or Ethan hugging each of the fencers, and of Eric hugging each of the fencers who had come to say goodbye to a special member of our fencing family.
The people who saw my camera were very kind. They’d step back, out of my way, and offer me a sort of apologetic smile. Thank you, for your kindness, strangers.
And then we left. We left your body, there, at the grave, to be buried.
But your spirit is still with us.

“Those we love don’t go away,
they walk beside us every day,
unseen, unheard, but always near,
still loved, still missed and very dear.”
~Message on a headstone

We’re all making stupid jokes now. We’re all pulling dumb pranks, and we’re all trying just a little harder to be a little happier for our sakes, for each other’s sakes, for your sake. We’re trying to be like you.
You aren’t here to shine your light anymore, and now, we’re all trying to shine just a little brighter to make up for it.
But we’ll never be you.
I miss you, and I love you, my dear fencing friend. I’ll never be the same because I knew you.

“My soul is full of whispered song;
My blindness is my sight;
The shadows that I feared so long
are all alive with light.”
~Alice Cary

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