My friend Jeff Sabo wrote a piece here (I highly recommend you take the time to read it). Which reminded me of a story I had written back many years ago. It was part of an assignment and headed maybe in the direction of a magazine for publishing. It never made it out of my clutches, however, with inspiration from Jeff I share it here.
The story, is true and is written through the eyes of my 15 year old self. There is much I would add to it today, or change, however something about it’s rawness sitting along side it’s simplicity makes me leave it just as is for now.
His name was Darcy Michael MacDonald and he died on May13th. As irony would have it, it was Friday the 13th. Only 17 years old and he used a gun to take his own life. I was his friend, left behind.
The day I found out Darcy died, I cried. The wrenching kind of cry from the pit of your stomach with or without tears. I cried and cried. A broken heart and confused mind propelled me forward in a dream like state. I spent the following days either numb or raw with pain. I woke in the morning and in the seconds between subconscious and conscious I forgot. Then my stomach would sink back in to the hurt and confusion. I was his friend. Why didn’t I know? What could I have done differently? Surely, I should have called more often; asked better questions or simply shut my mouth and listened.
I went to his memorial for my friend. We walked into a building, church like with pews, a song echoed “this is the end my friend, my only friend, the end.” Pictures of Darcy were scattered about the room. The seats were filled with strange faces. Propelled forward, I found a seat.
A memorial for a teenager organized by teenagers and attended in large part by teenagers. A more somber event may not exist in this world. Some spoke of Darcy as a martyr or perhaps a hero. Others couldn’t speak through their sobs. A wake was held at the home of a family friend. During the feast, I was pulled aside by Darcy’s girlfriend. She took me in to the bathroom and locked the door behind us. I was Darcy’s girlfriend before her so, a piece of me was scared. She looked at me and said, “Do you have any questions I can answer for you?” Questions? I had a million of them, but none I was brave enough to ask. We hugged and she let me out of the bathroom.
My parents were scared. They told me everything was okay and that I would be fine. But they said nothing more. In all honesty, I don’t think they knew anymore than I did. They hoped with all the hope they had that I would be fine and that everything would be okay. Saying it over and over became an affirmation for them.
A few counselors chimed in with “you know this isn’t your fault, you couldn’t have stopped him,” and the real prize winner “if anyone else is going to do this you have to tell me first.”
My friends hurt like I did, they understood as much as I did so we clung to each other as desperately as we clung to life. One particularly raw morning I sized up the antibiotics that stood next to the cough syrup on my night stand. Maybe taking this toxic combo was the easiest thing to do. Surely, no other place hurt as much as the place I was now. Today felt so dark, I couldn’t see tomorrow.
Funny, I didn’t realize I needed help until some landed in my life. A counselor at my high school wanted to meet with “us” (the group of six at our school who were close to Darcy) by now everyone seemed to know who we were. I didn’t even have to explain why I needed to leave my Social Studies class. My teacher gave me one of those pity looks that I had become accustomed to seeing and let me go. We all met in the auditorium. Jan walked in and we sat in a circle. This was new.
“If you could say one last thing to Darcy what would it be?” Tears I didn’t even know where there sprung from my eyes. All those unsaid words got caught just behind my voice box. “I love you, please don’t go,” I uttered in a barely audible tone. Then she opened the floor to us to talk about whatever we wanted. No one spoke, the session ended but not before we were assured that we would meet again at the same time next week. Walking back to class I knew I was going to be okay. Someone was willing to just listen.
A week was a long time to wait and suddenly I had a lot to say. Not the kind of things you are willing to share with just anyone but the kind of thoughts that need to be released. My journal collected my thoughts without judgment and my head emptied faster than my hand could move across the page. My new found friend listened better than any I had met to date. I wrote of my desire to leave the earth, to shed the pain, to be seen from the inside out. The thoughts I knew would frighten my parents, my counselors and even my friends were free to dance on the pages. And the thing is once the thoughts lay before me I saw them simply as words, feelings, and tiny moments in my otherwise busy day. They suddenly held less weight and felt less urgent.
Re-reading Darcy’s obituary something started to make sense to me. It read, “Because he could not share the load, he found the journey too long.” My shoulders often ached from the weight of my own load. On my journey I got lost and wanted to throw up my hands in despair. So, why am I here? Is it the courage to share my load that provided me the gift to live on? I share with friends, I share with family, and I share with my authentic self in the pages of my journal. A subconscious realization that life is worth living and at 15 years old I had barely begun to do so.
A year later, I stood in front of the largest audience I had ever been in front of. My body trembled but the courage in me bubbled up to calm my words. I am Miss Quality Foods participating in a local pageant. I never would have done this. But when I was asked I remembered a conversation. “I think you would make a perfect contestant,” Darcy had said to me in passing. The seed of possibility had been planted and lived beyond him.
I took the risk and grew as a person. Life gives us many chances to grow and learn. Embracing this, the cruelest of lessons, gave me the courage and strength to move forward and live my life fuller than I had been.