A Letter To My Best Friend On The One Year Anniversary Of Her Death

Flickr / Kamil Porembiński
Flickr / Kamil Porembiński

Hi.

I miss you.

I wish that was enough to accurately describe how I feel, but it doesn’t, not even close. I don’t just miss you; I feel so much more than a mere longing. I could create a galaxy full of life with what I feel for you. I feel; how crazy is that? I feel everything. My heart hurts so much, but it also is filled with so much love, especially for you.

I miss your laugh, your lame jokes, your hugs, your singing and dancing, I miss your “hi” text every morning from twenty feet away. I miss you. I miss you. I miss you. I can’t say it enough. I miss seeing everyone happy. I miss your family and Brynne’s sass. I miss Sunday dinners and lake days. I miss crying about boys. I miss studying with you. I miss stuffing our faces until it hurt to breathe. I miss cuddling and chugging fireball in your room. I miss how we would get ready together because getting ready in our own rooms was absurd.

I thought 365 days would at least put a dent in how much I hurt, but it didn’t. It’s been 365 of your absence, 365 days of missing you, 365 days of “being strong”. It’s been 365 days of trying to forget, 365 days trying not to care, not letting anyone close enough to hurt me, to leave me. It’s been 365 days and I feel everything stronger than ever, and it hurts so much more than this string of words could ever portray. I don’t understand, Brooke. I thought time was supposed to heal; it hasn’t healed anything, only replaced memories and has served as a constant reminder that you’re gone.

Happiness is seldom what I feel, no matter the smile on my face or laugh in my throat or twinkle in my eyes. You’re all I see and it hardly makes me smile, especially as of recent. It’s impossible to be truly happy when the only person who never left my side, actually left and I will never get back. Every time I think I’m getting better, I remember what I was running from to begin with and am brought right back to the start.

I tried everything to accept that you were gone, or at least forget. I tried going out, having fun, drinking. I tried detaching myself from everyone. I wanted to be invisible, transparent, forgotten. I tried not to exist. I tried becoming overly involved in something you loved. I pretended to be happy; I let myself be sad. I tried not caring about anyone or anything, not taking anything seriously. I tried taking everything seriously, caring too much; but, nothing brought you back, nothing changed what happened, nothing made this okay. You’re still gone.

I’ve felt more miserable the past month than this entire year. I think the past twelve months I pretended it never happened and with your one year anniversary approaching, I couldn’t run anymore, I couldn’t hide from the fact that I missed you. I had to face it and trying to be strong for your little, Gabby, became so difficult and for the first time was at a loss for words. It got increasingly harder to be grateful for the time we did have. I feel like it’s happening all over again and it hurts just as badly, if not worse.

***

I still remember the sound of your voice that night. You called because I wanted to be rescued from our sh*tty apartment. I remember looking forward to a night out with you, it had been a while since school and work occupied a lot of our time. We always had fun and got in trouble and would laugh until we cried or our abs became sore. I can still hear it sometimes– that laugh, your laugh – so deep and masculine and absolutely perfect for you. It was nearly midnight by the time you got back out to UCF and called to say you didn’t drive. I decided not to go out but insisted you hurried home so we could laugh and eat pizza. I remember texting you after hanging up saying I had cake. You never responded. I fell asleep with a smile on my face thinking about how we hated going out and would sit in your car outside of Pub with too much anxiety to actually go in. I thought about how old we thought we were getting; we weren’t old at all, you were 19 and way too young – way too young to die.

Throughout the week and a half you were in the hospital, I was hopeful; I wrote on your Facebook wall, texted you, tweeted, and consoled anyone having a hard time. I was optimistic and it felt strange, alien. I’ve always been a realist and say things as they are, but the weeks preceding your death were the most hopeful I had ever been. I was proud and yet, shocked at the person I was. I felt like I was holding everyone together and all the tears I choked back were for a good cause. Today I see a different girl; I see a heartbroken immature hurt little girl who got through her days with the idea that everything would be fine, how stupid she looks to me now. You would be stomping around our apartment in no time and we would laugh about how big of a deal everyone was making things, right? I texted you about the shirts someone made and how I was only buying one to dance around the apartment in and to make fun of you; I’ve never worn that shirt. I texted you every day, laughed a lot, smiled a lot and seldom cried; I should have been more prepared.

***

The longer you’ve been gone, the worst my breakdowns get. The pain is unbearable, each time hurting in a way it never had before while clean tears stream down my flushed face in pure hysteria. I stay that way for what seems like hours but could only been a minute unable to breathe; crying and crying and then I go unmoved. I feel nothing. Not a movement of the face, no aching, no flutter of the heart, twitch of the fingers, nothing. I still don’t know what is worse, feeling everything so intensely or nothing at all.

***

A year ago, I slid down the stone wall in my mother’s kitchen as my last attempt to keep you with me failed. I cried out to the earth, moon, and stars with a shattering desperation – please stay – the only two words I could fathom moments before your time of death was called: 12:01 p.m. March 5, 2014. The pain I felt in my chest was indescribable. All I was thinking was this is a dream, a terrible terrible dream, but it wasn’t, it was a nightmare that I still haven’t woken up from. I felt like everything was falling away from me into oblivion. I was alone and for the first time knew my world was in fact ending.

It’s cliché to say after that, nothing was the same but, it’s true. People’s smiles turned to frowns, tears of laughter to tears of sorrow, silence to condolences, and hope to grief.

Grief changed me; or revealed me, either way I didn’t like it. Grief wasn’t just sitting at home crying endlessly and feeling like it wouldn’t stop; It wasn’t hearing your name and collapsing nor was it writing through the night in hopes the hurt was draining from me and onto the paper with every letter, syllable, word, phrase. No, that would have been nice; grief was all of that and then some. It was zoning out mid-conversations and having to incessantly apologize, it was feeling so numb that no infliction could or would change. Grief was “being strong”, fighting back tears; it was turning my humanity off and finding grace in a bottle of wine, or three. Grief was smiling and responding with fine at every “how are you?” It was not once meaning it. Grief was getting out of bed every day when every nerve told me to stay, shut the curtains, retreat.

How has 365 days not lessened the sorrow and aching I feel when I think about you? I thought I would hear your name and smile; a loving memory, a gift, but I’m selfish and memories aren’t enough for me. Day to day nothing changes: the grass is still the grass without you, classes are just as tedious and boring, and I am moving forward as much as I try to fight it. I feel guilty laughing and smiling and having fun, so I remember going through a period where my body and mind set to auto-pilot. The days would pass and I would have no recognition of what I had done and it was easy that way. I didn’t have to feel. I didn’t have to explain myself or talk to anyone or go out of my comfort zone. It was emotionless, painless, but was no way to live.

I hated that time. The grief turned to undeniable depression. Now depression, a cousin to grief, wasn’t listening to “our songs” with mascara streaming down my face in clumpy black lines, it was darker, colder; it was so incredibly empty. The type of emptiness that turned friends to enemies and family to strangers as I pushed and pushed so they didn’t have to see me that way, they didn’t have to feel what I feel every day. I thought I was protecting them. I didn’t want anyone’s pity, to be a burden, and the last thing I needed to hear was how strong I was and that everything was going to be okay because I didn’t believe it.

***

It hurts to think all I have are memories and with a year already in between the last memory we made, I’m terrified to my core that I will begin to forget. The smallest moments I cherish the most and I don’t know how to preserve them. I can obsess over it, let it consume me, but I don’t want to be in love with a memory; a time, a place, an instant. Memory is unreliable and memories fade.

All I have are pictures, videos, and a foggy memory. I guess the pictures and videos help me remember your face, full of life and that voice I would recognize anywhere, but I still wish I had more. I don’t want my memory to rely on these things and I guess that’s why I write. I write to remember, I write to forget. I write to understand and accept and reflect. Through my writing I still feel pain, sometimes relive it, but it’s where the puzzle pieces begin to fit. I quiet the voices in my head and there’s a brief moment of what I imagine is peace, happiness. You gave me a purpose, something to feel. I have an urge to write it all down, I want to remember everything, and most importantly I want to treasure and hold on to the memories that are mine, that are authentic.

There was so much more I wanted to say to you. There was so much more I wanted to do. There was so much more I wanted to be. I thought we had more time.

I lay awake at night consumed by the thought of you and our memories and everything I didn’t get to say and everything we didn’t get to do. I let what happened get to me and life seems unlivable. I think most days I convince myself you’re on a vacation, an extended one. You’re somewhere warm and remote with no way to contact me and then I remember you’re not on an island in the middle of nowhere, you’re gone. Those are the days that hurt the most.

***

I have so many questions and so little answers and begin to act out in search of something, anything, to act as an escape and make my problems seem small and far away. That never lasts though, and I am forever reminded that my heart is always with you. Sometimes I don’t feel you here with me, I don’t see you in my dreams, there’s silence and I feel like you left me all over again; it is such a terrible feeling. It’s like having your hopes and dreams crushed in front of you, it’s like being told you were never good enough and never will be, it’s like jumping off a cliff and realizing you can’t fly.

***

Losing a best friend forces you to grow up, but how am I supposed to without my best friend to hold me? I think about how you won’t be at my wedding (if that ever happens) or coaching me through my interviews and applauding me on my writing and accomplishments. I think about how you won’t be here for any other pain or loss I’m bound to encounter or the one’s I’ve already encountered. I think about this every day, all day and it takes something bigger than me, than you to get me on my feet.

***

At the start of the New Year, I reflected on 2014 – the fights, the accomplishments, the loves, losses – and I guess all I can say is that I survived. You found me in some kind of darkness and saved me. You saved everyone. How is it possible to save and destroy someone at the same time? The people I pushed away didn’t all come back and I have accepted it. They chose me at my best, not my worst and now; I understand and don’t care because I had you, have you. There are still days where I chose not to participate in life, refuse to inhale the fresh air, smile at all, and handle things the wrong way but I’m learning, living, growing, and surviving.

I saw myself in you. I got lost with you; kindred spirits. We had the same sense of humor, values, philosophies, bank accounts.

God thank you, Brooke, thank you for everything.

You taught me that you never know when the last moment you will see someone will be and to not hold grudges, not to hold back because there isn’t time for that. You taught me to be everything I wanted and get everything I imagined, feel deeply and without regret. You showed me the kind of friends I want, the kind I want to be. Thank you. This was a higher love, a love that will last forever. As much as I want to be with you right now, I know my life will end when it is supposed to, I just hate accepting it.

My heart is different now, and every day is a fight to accept that. You are the only one I blurred my hard edges for, become soft and vulnerable for. You proved how malleable and prone to change we are, no matter our feelings towards it. I’ve always been drawn to the darker side of things but this year forced me to test what it is like to be positive and strong and every day I work on it. People constantly disappoint and it takes everything in me not to hide, remove myself, stop caring; I do it for you.

***

A few months ago, I couldn’t sleep. It was after four and I wrote about how I thought the universe fought for us, for our souls to be together, to meet, because if I hadn’t met you, who knows the kind of person I would be. There is no way we meet people by accident. You and I had a purpose. You taught me more about life and loving then I think anyone ever will, you changed everything, you changed me. For the better and for the worse, because nothing changes a person like losing someone you love and struggling to remember the last time you looked into their eyes or told them you loved them. I think there will always be the constant battle, push and pull of being so incredibly grateful and so incredibly hurt.

To this day I still lose myself trying to find myself and hurt a lot of people while I’m hurting. I don’t know when the pain will lessen or I will finally smile at your name; I don’t know if I will ever be okay or accept things as they are. All I do know is that my love for you is the only thing I am sure of. I can hear your laugh; see your big bright blue eyes with heaven in them, your kindness and goodness I can feel. You were everything I wasn’t; maybe that’s why we made such a great duo. You showed me everything I was missing, the person I wanted to be, ought to be. You continue to bring me out of a darkness I don’t belong in, you shake me and break me and help me start over. You were and still are the love of my life, my soulmate, and you know what? Soulmates never die.

Forever & ever,

May TC mark

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