Today, my heart is broken. Some people that touch your life just become part of your journey. Diontae and I met in the summer of 2015. He had transferred to Olive Branch as an Assistant Manager and I was a part-time head cashier. We were the new kids, so we closed together a lot. When you spend as much time with people as we did, you make connections.
Diontae became my work husband. We kidded about this all of the time, but we had each others backs. You all know the person. The one that you go to complain to so you don’t take the stress of the job home to your family. The person who just GETS the struggles of the day to day grind of your store. You learn each other’s kids names, talk about your families, dish about the newest gossip.
I thank the stars for him at that time in my life.
I left that store in April of 2017 for personal reasons. At the time, he was my direct supervisor. The first person I called when I walked out of my store was him, my work husband. He understood why I did what I did. Yet I felt horrible, because I was losing an important person in my life.
I came back to the same company in May of this year, just at a different store. The first time I called him for some information for a customer at my current store, he told me that my old position was open and that he wanted me back. Every time I spoke to him, he’d say the same thing.
Today my heart is broken.
My first work husband is dead. He left behind a daughter and a family that loved him deeply. He also left behind a work family that loved him wholeheartedly.
Today, the world is a little less bright without Diontae in it.
I lost my best friend, my very first true best friend, the one who taught me how to love and how to be loved back, to suicide in July 2015. The following is my thoughts when I found out he had taken his own life…
…4 months after it happened.
You see, we had lost touch and I had made myself invisible to everyone around him. I don’t typically believe in regret – it only leads to negativity – however in this case I truly regret leaving his circle. I’m still not sure why I felt it necessary. I missed his memorial. I missed the late night call. I missed saying goodbye.
Because the brain is a funny thing, I seem to have blocked out most of the hardcore grieving.
So here, from my Facebook and various platforms, the recounting of my thoughts and feelings during that time:
November 11, 2015
The journey of life is such a strange thing. I just learned that the person who was my light when I couldn’t see through the darkness left this life a few months ago.
November 12, 2015
I woke up this morning and he was still gone. It wasn’t all just a horrible nightmare giving me chills while I sleep. It’s real life.
I went to sleep crying and I woke up crying. My 2 year old keeps asking why I’m crying. Mommy’s just sad baby. So very sad.
“There will come a day when the joy runs out. Do not ask “What could I have done?” but instead ask “What will I do now?” Think of me when you hear music, and laugh at something you remembered me saying. Know that I am silent and still, and believe me when I say that sweet nothingness is preferred to this life of disgrace, heartache, and pain. I will be no longer be a burden. There will come a day when the joy runs out.”
Pat wrote this on his Facebook February 18th, 2012.
I don’t recall what inspired him to write it, but I saved this note because he put his soul into words.
Words that rang true, unfortunately, way too soon.
So tonight, at Pat’s request, I’m asking myself, “What will I do now?” Instead of the “What should I have done? What could have I done?” that has plagued me since I found out what had happened. Months ago. That I did not know had happened.
I lost him through choices that were very much my own. What will I do, now that my heart is incomplete? I will think of him when I hear music. I will laugh when I remember something he said. I will remember that he isn’t here suffering in the prison of his dark thoughts and insecurities. I will continue to love him as if he were still here, because I don’t know how not to.
In a serendipitous way, he’s the reason that my husband and I are together today. I had stopped at Walmart to grab some books because I was preparing for an extended visit with my friend, Pat, who was having a rough night. The (future) husband just happened to be building a feature nearby. We got to talking and planned to hang out soon.
Three days later, we were sure that we’d never be apart again.
Pat officiated our wedding in the rose garden at Gage Park a year later to the day.
We had lost touch the last couple of years. I’d gotten busy raising kids and building our new extended family and Pat had been busy working and playing his beloved music. We met for coffee at Denny’s about two and a half years ago to catch up and share memories. He had changed and so had I and we couldn’t find our common ground anymore. We both just kind of let our relationship slip into fun memories and the occasional longing to be together, where we used to be.
I’m a firm believer that everyone comes into your life to give you a lesson, good or bad. Pat taught me many lessons in our time together; a hug is the best medicine, astrophysics is fascinating, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, Carl Sagan and Alexei Filippenko are awesome to watch in lecture. That music is a piece of my soul and goes deeper than a Top 40 pop radio station. Today Pat is teaching me to not take for granted the people that come into your life unexpectedly and leave the same way.
I love you, Pat. I’ll forever miss your hugs and dumb Assy McGee references.
I’ll never forget your smile.
January 1, 2016
You’re on my mind a lot today, buddy. There was a curious string of songs in my Pandora shuffle and while I know that if you were here you’d tell me how silly I was being and it’s just a coincidence, but I can’t help but think that it’s you giving me a little boost when you know the day is rough.
Miss you, been missing you. Wish I could tell you that.
(To my friend in a private chat) I can’t say this on my picture because it’s too public. But I’m having such a hard time dealing with his loss.
It’s like a shot to the gut. I feel like I failed him. He couldn’t function on a “hey how ya doing” every six months. He was a full-contact, likes-to-hang-out-in real-life type of guy.
I knew that about him and I just, I feel so badly that I let him grow away from me.
That I let myself become a part of his list of “people that don’t give a shit” because I totally gave a shit. I guess I’m really struggling with what I know his last thoughts were before he took his life.
I know he was listing off all the people that had failed him because I talked him down from that thought before. Many times. I have a Facebook messenger full of me talking him down from that. I wasn’t there that time to talk him down from that.
I know that’s not fair of me to put that on myself. I know that intellectually, but it hurts my heart so fucking much.
This. This haunts me so
He was there for me in my bad time. I was there for him in many of his bad times. I wasn’t there in his last bad time. I don’t know.
I feel selfish. For not trying harder to make him a part of my life. I’m struggling in the shoulda coulda woulda. It’s a favorite past time of mine. I keep pep talking myself “You didn’t know, There’s no way you could’ve known, he shut himself off, too”. I’m just really struggling today. I’ve been in tears for hours. I’m just struggling with my choices. I’m hurting.
February 23, 2016
It’s your birthday today. Normally, I’d be constructing some smart assed email joking about getting old and having you sneak goodies in to me at the nursing home. Instead I’ll be heading out to see your headstone in the country, along with the kiddos so I’m not tempted to be out there for too long. Missing you Pat. Today and everyday. Happy Birthday.
July 3, 2016
It’s been a year. I can’t believe it’s been a whole year. What I wouldn’t give for a Pat hug today. Instead, I’m watching astrophysics documentaries, some of your very favorites, Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson and of course Alexei Fillipenko. They’re not the same without you here to dumb them down for me, but it feels like the right thing to do.
I’m looking forward to catching up with your family later today and celebrating your life and sharing memories. Until we meet again, I love you and miss you so, so much.
July 3, 2017
It’s been 2 years that you’ve been gone. I still miss you every day. I find myself in tears when I come across random 6 ft tall bald dudes, with sweet beards sporting some chucks. There are more of those than you would expect. It’s never you, if only I could convince my brain to stop looking. What I wouldn’t do for one more Pat hug. Love dove.
February 23, 2018
Happy Birthday dear friend. Watching some Cosmos tonight and thinking of you. Miss you so much, today and every day.
“when you meet that person.. a person. one of your Soulmates. Let the connection, relationship be what it is. It may be five mins, five hours, five days, five months. Five years. A lifetime. Let it manifest itself, the way it is meant to. It has an organic destiny. This way if it stays or if it leaves, you will be softer from having been Loved this authentically. Souls come into, return, open, and sweep through your life for a myriad of reasons, let them be who and what they are meant.”
I’m not usually one to do stuff like this. I’m the creeper lurking in the corner wanting to make friends but never approaching anyone.
But I have a story, and I need to let it out.
I was your typical Midwest teen in 2006. I was 15, went to the movies with friends, spent all the time I could in the band room or wandering around the pastures surrounding our house. Life was pretty good. Then came that fateful day in February.
My half-brother got arrested for murder. My dad and I always knew he’d end up in an institution somewhere. He wasn’t raised in a good home like me and he had a hard life; we thought he’d get some time for burglary or car theft.
But never this.
After he was arrested, all these issues from the few years when he lived with us surfaced again, all the abuse he put me through before mom came home from work. My school never did Sex Ed, I didn’t know. For years they were buried…he hadn’t lived with us for awhile, but when he was arrested, the memories came back.
But I never told anyone, until now.
I failed my first class ever that year. I just didn’t see the point in doing any work when spring came around and my brother was in court and here I am in school while the people around me are complaining about how the school food sucks or how some teacher took their cells. On the outside I was the same as always, but inside I didn’t know who I was anymore.
I made it through the year, when my mom yelled at me about my D grade, I thought about ending it that night. Just swallowing a bottle of pills, but I was able to get online and talk over all the stresses with my internet. Life was stabilizing again.
Then came the day I can never forget, and I still have trouble talking about.
June 11th 2006, 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning, I got a phone call from my best friend.
She told me that 3 students from our school and our Spanish teacher were lost in the ocean while swimming on a school trip to Costa Rica. The body of one of the students had been recovered already.
Sunday, they recovered the body of one of my closest friends. The third student was recovered Wednesday. Sr. C wasn’t recovered until Friday.
All I remember for those summer days was sitting in front of the computer refreshing news pages, hoping and praying that maybe Andrew, Jessica, and Sr. C were still alive, then it was Jessica and Sr. C, then just Sr. C. Finally it hit me. Four people I knew, went to school with, acted in plays with, sang in the choir with, played in the band with, learned from.
They lived in Kansas and they drowned in the goddamned ocean in Costa Rica.
It was 2 days before my 16th birthday and instead of going to a movie with friends or something on a Friday night I was sitting in a hot crowded auditorium with some friends and Andrew’s brother, crying, wishing it was all just a dream.
Saturday, I didn’t get out of bed. Sunday, my mother prepared all my favorite food for dinner, a beautiful cake, my sister was there, I didn’t eat anything. I got a car. I didn’t care.
Later that week, I was on a bus full of high schoolers heading down to Texas for Andrew’s funeral. Everyone thought I was okay, I acted normal for my friends. But when they played Amazing Grace at his funeral I lost it. Amazing Grace? What’s so amazing about a 17 year old losing his life?
The freshest memory of Andrew is sitting with him on the floor of the band room on the last day of school listening to Good Riddance by Green Day. Any time I hear that song, even now, 4 years later, I cry.
Then I went off to college, started smoking to get away from my crappy roommates, slept any free time I had. I didn’t have a social life outside of band and my dorm room.
Next year in college, I rented a house with a friend of mine, and I started cutting again. One night, I finally left scars. The next morning, I called the schools Mental Health Services, the next day I was talking to a therapist. I told her part of the story, how my brother was a murderer and my best friend drowned in the fucking ocean. How I almost scratched my arm raw on the first day of classes because I’m so nervous in new situations. How I’m always afraid that the worst is going to happen. She didn’t try and give me coping mechanisms or advice, she just gave me pills.
The pills made me feel nothing, I went through that semester feeling like a shadow. I tried to tell her that I didn’t want the pills, she said they were the best option for me. So I stopped. They weren’t helping the depression, the anxiety, or the suicidal thoughts. I was on my own again.
During spring break, my significant other of 4 months cheated on me with another friend. She had the dignity to tell me but it didn’t really help. I started drinking, and picked up smoking again. I failed all my classes.
But I am stronger now. I switched schools and I’m back to living with my parents. I don’t really see my friends much anymore, but I’m becoming who I need to be. I’m trying to learn to cope with my feelings in a good way instead of just bottling them up inside.
I’m 20 now, an age Andrew will never reach. I haven’t seen my brother in 4 years. I can’t trust anyone farther than I can throw them (read: at all) but I am becoming me. I’m changing the path of my life, some days are bad, some days are good, and some days I wish I could crawl under a rock. I just have to keep telling myself that everyday is worth it, that I am worth it, and that in the end I will be me.
And maybe in years to come when I look back at the last four years of my life I can smile and remember good things that happened instead of seeing this crater left by that summer.
I want to kick the dog. I want to scream at the baby. I want to pull out my hair and punch holes in the walls. I want to ram my car into something, anything. I want to choke the birds who are singing and tell the Universe to fuck off because how dare it be a sunny and beautiful day today. How dare the world keep spinning now that two little boys are to grow up without a mother. I have this untapped chasm of rage I didn’t know I could possibly feel.
I guess I met Stef when I was thirteen or so, which would have made her twelve, but really, I felt like I’d known her forever. She was one of those people that the moment we met, it’s like we bonded instantly on some molecular level; like we were made of the very same stuff at the core. It’s rare that it happens, two people who simply know each other like that, two magnets pulling toward each other, instantly attached, but when it does, you can’t forget it.
And I didn’t.
Everyone loved Stef. She had this shine about her, something rare in a teenager, that made you want to be near her; like if you stood close enough, some of that sparkle, that inherent goodness that radiated from her would rub off on you, and for awhile you would be better for knowing her.
I am better for knowing her.
Stef was one of the first people I knew that loved me for who I was, warts and all, and even now, seventeen years later, I think she may be one of the only people who genuinely will ever love me. Maybe it’s because she understood me in a way that most people don’t. Maybe it’s because she was my first real friend. Maybe it’s because that was her gift; her shine. I don’t know.
She walked tall, confident in her shoes, while the rest of us awkward teenagers struggled to figure out who we were, Stef always knew who she was. I learned that from her.
When my boyfriend slept with my friend, she was the only one who chewed him a new asshole. In a world where I had never had a soul on my side before, Stef was always firmly there, Team Becky all the way. She would have cut a bitch for me, no questions asked, because she was my friend and she loved me. Maybe other people had families that would do that for them, but I never had that. It had always been me against the world. I learned how to be a friend from Stef, too.
She was there when I’d gotten pregnant with my first son, holding my hand when his father, too, cheated on me. Again, she was the only one who stood up for me. I never told her how much that meant to me.
Shortly after my son was born, she got pregnant, too. Excited, we planned for this baby, a boy. When her son was born, the sparkle she’d had went out and was replaced by a sadness I couldn’t touch. Always a party girl, she took it to new levels, trying to drink away her pain.
No one knew what to do.
We tried to reach her, but nothing seemed to get through. She tried rehab, three times. She was hospitalized. Tried medication. In the end, she kept returning to the bottle, drowning her sorrows in a fifth of vodka. The only friends she had left were the late-night sort, the ones who didn’t care about the Stef I loved so dearly, the ones who didn’t know my friend as she had been.
She left me a message at the end of December from a pay phone, having no phone of her own, just out rehab again. Stef sounded good, optimistic, even, offering to get together for some coffee and a playdate with her two boys and mine, sometime in the near future.
That message came too late.
I got that message two days after I buried my first real friend. One of the only people who may ever really love me.
February 10, 2008, I got a call from Stef’s mom, telling me that Stef had died the night before, in her sleep. Liver failure, cirrhosis.
Stef was 26 years old and left behind two young sons.
I’ve never been able to write about her, although I’ve tried hundreds of times. I’ve deleted thousands of words because they were simply not enough. There are no words eloquent enough, true enough, real enough to express the kind of person she was. And getting her wrong is not an option.
I loved her. I love her.
I miss her so much that my heart hurts some days. I’ll probably always feel like there’s a part of myself missing now that she’s gone. That magnet, the part of me that was connected to her, that’s still looking for that other half and it’s gone forever. I’m lucky to have found someone like that in the first place.
Sometimes, in pictures captured when I am truly happy, I can see a certain expression on my own face that is pure Stef, and it makes me smile and laugh a little, because it reminds me of the e.e. cummings poem: i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
This site is dedicated to you, Steffie. When we meet again, and I know we will, I can’t wait to tell you all the things I never told you when I should have. For knowing you, I am better.
May your shine always be warm, like Stef; like the evening sun.
we met 4 years ago on a grief site, called “beyond indigo.” there were about 5 or 6 of us who all came on at the same time, and we were a nice, tight little group. (these internet sites can be great…in the middle of the night, when you feel awful, someone may be on. even if no one is on, someone has written about feeling as awful as you…helpful. very.)
she is very spiritual. she follows the sufi path. she told us all in a post about an “ancestor ” shrine, so i made one for tom. and while it is mostly dismantled now it helped me. it was such a wonderful idea and i learned and grew from it.
anna’s loves name was ishaaq, and he led groups, and loved life, and was gorgeous. they played and sang together at their meetings (i am probably getting terminology wrong here, but it does not matter) he, and she, both seemed so wild and free to me. and that’s in a spiritual sense. there were problems. he had diabetes, and died from complications of it. she has major vision issues, which have left her disabled, and yet anna is a remarkable artist.
it just comes from within her. she is a shining spirit, to me, to many people. she dreams of ishaaq, and they are beautiful dreams. she never thought my “winks” were silly. i’m grateful to her.
here’s one of my favorite anna facts: many people in her religious tradition seem to take new names. she has a friend who posts on FB as Shaqeena Nonofyourbeeswax. (again, i may be a little off, but you get the picture). that is a cool friend. anna is cool.
i guess, in reality, we all are, but she is, in reality. she has ovarian cancer. she had an operation and chemo, she was doing well, and now it’s back. and faced with a decision of more chemo and shitty quality of life, she chose hospice and pain management and, quite possibly, another lovely year…another walk around the sun.
(i now wish something that anna taught me to people for their birthdays….”a wonderful walk around the sun”)
you really can just be friends online these days. we’ve never met, but we have a connection. we do talk on the phone, and i’m always glad when she calls. it breaks my heart that she has to go through this. it makes me so happy that she has the friends that she does who do, and will continue to, support her. i think that her spiritual tradition is amazing about death, about crossing over and about soul-mates and eternal life. when she called me to tell me she said “i’m going to be the first to see my soulmate”…i knew what she was saying. in that instant i felt happiness for her.
i know anna is facing some rough times. i know she will get help from hospice and her friends, family and religious family. when she makes her transition she will be “handed off” into the arms of her beloved ishaaq. and her friends will be sad that she’s gone, that her gentle, creative and loving spirit has left this world.
i will be too. i’m her cyber-friend.
one day we’ll meet, on another plane. maybe she’ll be there wearing one of her incredible dancing outfits and she’ll sing me into another world with her sweet voice. maybe she and ishaaq will be there and they’ll bring tom to me, having befriended him on the other side.
i wish anna peace and strength and love.
i know she’ll have all of those things as she moves through her life.