She was beautiful. I'm not just saying that because she was my friend. She truly was. And not just her face. Her heart and mind were perfect examples of what beauty means to me. She laughed easily and often and would give unconditionally. She was there when I needed her and never let me down. She shared my hopes, my dreams, my secrets, and I hers. She was a friend like I had never had and will probably never have again. She was a piece of my soul and a light in my world.
And now she is gone.
I don't think I will ever forget that phone call. The words. The silence that followed. The disbelief and the denial. I will never forget the suffocating weight that enveloped me that morning. I can't. It's still there and most likely always will be.
I remember pushing through it. It wasn't the time to cry. I needed to be strong. I needed to talk to people. I needed to see her mum, her dad, her kids.
The thought that kept eating at me, that kept me from not falling over was a simple one. A terrifying one. “I can't let people read about this on Facebook. Not her friends. Not the ones who love her. They need to hear it from someone who cares. They need to hear it from me.”
I don't quite recall how many people I called that day, but I remember the words I said. They were the same each time, “I am so sorry to be the one who is calling you, I have some awful news. I think you'd better sit down.”
That week was an emotional conflict. I was away from my family and most of my friends, back in my hometown for an old friend's wedding. A happy occasion. A joyful moment. A walk down memory lane with people I love. I pushed through again. It was not the place to cry.
Coincidentally she had recently moved there with her youngest to study at uni and we had made plans to catch up that week. I was surprised when she didn't answer my texts about where we were meeting. Surprised, as she was on her phone almost as much as I am, but not concerned. I assumed she was working. I figured she was busy.
I spent the days after with her friends and her family. I held her little boy close to my heart and breathed in the smell of her from him. Later, when her partner and older son got to town I breathed them in as well. Knowing there was nothing I could say. No comfort I could give them. I had to be a rock for them. It was not the moment to cry.
Plans were being made for a funeral, for a wake. Because of certain circumstances there was going to be a delay in releasing her body to her family, so I came home to gather my thoughts and bring my family and some friends back with me a couple of days after.
We pulled up to my house and my husband was there, waiting on the porch. His eyes conveying his grief, his loss. My heart wobbled and my lips shook. My daughter stood there too. Her face sad, confused, young. I gathered them up into my arms and we stood together, comforting through the knowledge that there was no comfort to be had. A single tear fell, but it was not the time to cry. I had to unpack and then repack. I had to see my mum. My sisters. My friends.
That night, when the world was silent and the house was still I walked around it in a daze. She would never sit at my kitchen table again. She would not sit under my tree and sing with me again. She would not walk up the steps to my house again. She would not be there, ever again.
I have always though that in movies, when someone gets bad news and they collapse in a heap, that that was just overacting. Melodramatic sensationalism to heighten the audience's emotions. But it's not. It's real. It happens. I felt my legs shake, and then I couldn't feel them at all. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't move. I just crumpled.
I felt an overwhelming sadness that I have never experienced before in my life. My heart ached, my stomach hollowed and my skin went numb. I wondered if this was her, trying to show me the pain she had been feeling. The pain she had hidden from us all so well. I wondered if she was showing it to me so I would understand her choice, know where her heart and mind was when she decided not to live any more. I don't know. All I know is it was a pain like nothing I have felt and an emptiness that I know will never fill. If it wasn't for my husband I don't think I would have moved from the heap that I was in. He scooped me up, held me tight, rocked me in his arms and let me sob.
I didn't sleep that night. I couldn't. Every time I closed my eyes I pictured her final moments. I felt her sadness. I felt her pain. I felt her loss. I kept the light on and the television loud. I don't know what was on. I wasn't paying attention. I just needed the distraction. The light. The noise. I didn't want to be alone.
The days that followed, the trip back, the funeral, the wake, the trip home are all a blur. I remember standing at her funeral to read the eulogy I'd written and all I could think was how many people there were there. The entire chapel full and spilling out into the gardens. All the love that she had. All the people who cared. And yet she had felt so alone. So lost. So helpless.
Everyone says there was nothing we could do. Everyone says we shouldn't blame ourselves. Everyone says it will get easier as time goes on. I don't know if any of that is true, all I know is she is gone, she is never coming back and, for the rest of my life, I will love her and miss her and ineffectually wish that things were different.
Apart from her eulogy and a couple of things I've had to do for work, I have not written a thing since the day she left. Nothing creative. No stories. No tales. No nothing but stuff I have to do to pay the bills. I have felt like there's a stopper in my creativity. An emotional plug that won't let me get it out. I think I needed to write this down. Get this out. Maybe that will get my juices flowing. Maybe these words are the plug and I need to release them before anything else will come. Maybe
What I do know is, since I sat down to write this today, my brain has kept on ticking, my fingers have not stopped moving and my keyboard is soaked with tears. I really think, this piece, this day, this moment is my time to cry.
Remember, if life is hard and emotion is heavy there are always people who are there to help.
If you feel you can't talk to those who are close, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 and stay strong. It will get better. It really will.