Saturday, August 15, 2009

Good Bye to a Friend

My heart is breaking, and I think it will stay broken for awhile. That's the way death is. The ones left behind suffer. The words aren't coming easily because there aren't words to adequately describe grief and confusion. I guess I'll start at the beginning.

Twenty six ago, I started high school. A skinny blond guy named Shawn sat in homeroom behind me because we sat in alphabetical order. He had a locker next to me too. We talked, we teased each other in a friendly way. He called me blueberry eyes, because I wore blue eye shadow when I could get out the house with it unnoticed. I called him Bear, although the reason why escapes me now. I found out recently he had a crush on me. Unfortunately, for him, I had a crush on his brother. (It was unfortunate for me too, since the feeling wasn't mutual.) We talked on the phone once in awhile, hung out in the same crowds and were generally in each other's orbits every day for four years, having fun, supporting, encouraging and just listening to each other. The memories of over two decades ago are now more like snapshots than the short films they used to be.

After school, we lost touch. He didn't come to any of our class reunions, but I was always hoping he might be there. A few months ago, he friended me on Facebook. I was thrilled, because he is someone that I really regretted losing touch with and was happy to have him back in my life even though he was on the other side of the country. I twisted his arm into putting up more photos. I shamed him into posting to his blog again after a two year hiatus, so he wrote a post about ME! Scalawag! He followed my blog; I followed his. We followed each other on Twitter. It was an electronic reunion of sorts. Sweetie and I talked about going to California again in the near future, and in my mind, it was going to include a visit with Shawn.

That brings us to this morning. I woke up at 5:45 and couldn't get back to sleep. I grabbed my iPhone and checked Facebook. There was a message from mutual friend of Shawn's that I didn't know. Shawn had been missing for several days, and he wanted to hear from anyone that might have heard from him. I had that feeling of panic wash through me where it feels like water has been thrown over your body. I just laid there with my heart pounding, not knowing what to do. After a few minutes, I decided I'd look at his profile page and see when his last post was. That's when the second wave of panic came. I saw three RIP messages from other friends unknown to me on his Wall.

My hands were shaking and I felt sick. I was hoping they just mistook missing for dead. I was hoping he'd just hooked up with some hottie and was locked away in some hotel room not coming up for air. His family had moved away and I didn't know how to contact them. I sent a message to the friend that send me the "missing message" and tried (rather unsuccessfully) to get on with my life.

After a couple of hours without a response (it seemed much longer), I sent messages to the people that had posted RIP messages on his Wall. Before long the the shock waves came rolling in... yes, Shawn died... he took his own life... he jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge.

I can't begin to understand this and even those closest to him can only speculate and wonder, but with close friends in CA, parents in FL and a brother in CT, it maybe awhile before things become clearer. Or maybe we're all looking for answers when there aren't any. Death is my greatest fear. It's too final and unknown. I have a hard time understanding the elderly or terminally ill becoming resigned to it; someone young taking his own life is unfathomable to me.

A friend told me about the biography of Audrey Hepburn she read a few years ago. Hepburn lived in Switzerland, and was close friends for years with the French actress and model, Capucine ... the beautiful woman who was in "The Pink Panther", and other films. Capucine had suffered from bi-polar and clinical depression for decades, was under very good care by doctors, took medication and had lots of support. But, she took her own life, at 57. In anguish, guilt, grief, Hepburn and her husband talked to Capucine's long-time doctor; as the book says, " .... a kind man they knew through many 'Cap crises' .... " And, it goes on: "He told Audrey something that shocked her: 'The pain Capucine was suffering was so immense, this {to her} was really the best solution.' Only then, says Rob, did Audrey make her peace with it."

While that's very helpful to hear, it's still too raw and fresh for me to make peace right now. Sadness, anger and regret are right there at the surface like an open wound. I know it will scab over; I will pick it and it will bleed again. But eventually, it will heal and the scar will fade, but never completely disappear.

Did you know how much we'd worry?
Did you know how much we'd cry?
Did you know how long we'd search for answers why?
Did you know we'd rather say "I love you"
than have to say "good bye"?


Tammie said...

im so so sorry for your loss. there are truly no words.

~Molly~ said...

How truly horrible, I am sooooo sorry to read this. What a sad time for you, Shawn's friends and his family.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written. It's good to hear more about Shawn from someone who was close to him.

I only wish that it were enough to tell a depressed person that they are loved, but it's nothing any of us can truly understand in another.

Shawn carries on, just as he always has for you, in your memories... I'm glad you got a chance to reconnect a little.

Clare said...

I don't know what to say other than I am truly sorry.

Aunt Becky said...

Oh Sweetie, I'm so sorry for your loss. It hurts so much, I know, I know it does. Shawn will live on through all of you, but it's not the same, and it never will be the same.

I lost a good friend a year and a half ago--suddenly--and I STILL catch myself dialing her on the phone. I can't bring myself to delete her number or her address, and I still can't believe she's gone.

I hope that she, like Shawn, is now at peace.

Anonymous said...

I don't know you, and you don't know me, but my heart is breaking for you. Wishing you peace and comfort at this very difficult time.

Liz said...

How awful. I'm sending hugs your way.

Jen Anderson said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, and I'm happy that you were able to reconnect with him before it was too late.

Carol said...

Oh god so sad that you lost but don't lose hopes..
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Tammy H. said...

Betts - so sorry for your loss. I understand what you are going through. The death of someone we are close with takes away a piece of ourselves. I cannot imagine what distress he must have been feeling to believe that death would be a relief.

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