Keeping Your Memory Alive

As I drove home from work last night I tried to remember where I was 6 years ago. Thanks to apps like TimeHop & Facebook’s On This Day, I have a slight memory of where I was and what I was doing. I couldn’t tell you much about my mindset on July 6, 2011 but I can tell you this:

I was recently 21, working a summer job at a radio station, which included working a summer event series called Nitefall on the River with this guy named Adam who, on this particular night, walked with me up to the steps of the state capitol and we talked about life, dreams & goals. From there, my mind is a little blank.

It didn’t need to soak up all of the events of the day or the week, the emotions I was feeling or anything else because I had no idea that, in hours, my entire life would be turned upside down.

Six years ago I was broken. My world had stopped spinning and I couldn’t focus on anything in front of me. I wrote last year about how I could still feel everything from that day six years ago; that’s still true today. And, thanks to technology, the messages I sent out six years ago still have the ability to transport me to my broken, 21 year old self who wasn’t sure she could make it through the day.

I reluctantly looked at my apps this morning and saw messages like this:

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Technology can be a beautiful and terrible thing.

I wasn’t sure if I should write this year. As many of you know, I recently got engaged. And, as the rest of you know, much of this blog is about the life lessons or heartbreak I’ve endured since my boyfriend killed himself six years ago. For many people, those are conflicting. Shouldn’t I have moved on by now? Should I no longer feel heartache for someone I truly loved? I’m sure you all have your opinions. Luckily, I have mine too.

Shortly after Luke died, I got a tattoo of his initials on my foot and, though his mom knew how much I loved him, she warned me that someday I’d move on and it might be tough to explain that to the new man in my life. But I didn’t care, and I don’t care, and I’m lucky enough to be in a relationship where my past is respected and understood.

These blog posts are therapeutic to me and are the best way I can keep Luke’s memory alive. Though years have passed and I’ve opened myself up to loving and being loved, it doesn’t mean that I can’t mourn a love I lost; a best friend who left this Earth long before I ever wanted him to.

I wrote earlier that six years ago I was broken. The year following that, I was just as broken, if not more. I’m not standing before you six years later telling you that I have it all together because I don’t. If we’re being honest, I had a breakdown on Monday night and another one last night. I’m not perfect, I hurt and mourn for people who are long gone and a big portion of me thinks that parts of me will always be broken but it’s that brokenness that reminds me of how much, and who, I’ve had to love in this life.

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Five Years

Five years. 1,825 nights. Days, months, and years that I stumbled through this world wondering what I was doing without you.

Have you ever lost something you loved? Maybe it was your comfort blanket when you were little, an important essay in college or maybe, you’re like me, and you’ve lost someone you’ve loved.

I typically hate using the word “lost” for someone dying, but for a long time, that’s how I felt about Luke. I felt like I had this amazing person and I was just wandering through this life trying to find him again. It took me three years to realize that wasn’t going to happen. And when that realization set it, in hurt like hell. If I’m being honest, it still does.

After my mom died, I would wake up each day and repeat this thought to myself before I even let myself sit upright, “Your mom is dead. She will never come back.” And for a long time after Luke died, I had to remind myself that he was gone as well. The realization of it setting in later in the day was enough to cripple me.

I don’t have to remind myself of either of these things anymore. I’m aware these two important people are no longer in my life but it never fails that on important days -anniversaries, birthdays, holidays – my mind will wander back to the days that I lost these two.

I was on my way to work today as my mind began to drift and I could feel the heat of the asphalt under my knees and it was like I was back in that parking lot five years ago as I heard the words from Cheryl that Luke was dead. I can remember my world spinning and feeling sick to my stomach. I remember grabbing the rail in the parking lot as I called my mom to tell her the news knowing that, without something to steady me, I would fall back to my knees again. I can remember the numbness that continued for weeks, months, and years after Luke died. After the numbness subsided, the pain set in, and I can still feel that today. But for the life of me, I cannot remember the last words I said to him.

Did I tell him I loved him? Did I remind him how much he meant to me? I want to believe I did, knowing that it wouldn’t have changed the outcome.

Technology reminded me that 5 years and 1 day ago I posted the lyrics to Sunrays and Saturdays on my Facebook page. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had aimed that message at Luke, back then, that’s what I did. And it’s a very fitting song.

“Open the window/ Let the sunset in/If only for the last time/Let me see you smile again.”

I’m all too guilty of saying the wrong things at the wrong times, or just saying hurtful things in general, it’s something that I’m working on. But, if you’re reading this, please heed this advice and always tell the people you care most about that you love them. You never know when, or if, you’ll get another chance to do so.

BL

 

1460 Days

When someone you love becomes someone you loved, it becomes really difficult to try to wrap your head around.

They were here. You were in their arms. You held their hand. You laughed. You had adventures. You loved. You were loved.

All past tense.

Trying to understand that you will never get the opportunity to do these things with this person again is nearly impossible.

Instead, you fill your days trying to remember the exact lines of their smile. Or the way their hand felt wrapped around yours. You try to remember the details of every single conversation the two of you ever had. But slowly these begin to slip away.

35, 040 hours. 1,460 days. Four years. I could have sworn it’s been decades since he was here. Since we were together. And yet, I can still remember how he walked and I can hear his laugh if I focus. What I can’t remember is who I was before all of this happened. I can barely remember the person I was at 21 when we were together.

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Four years ago, at 11 in the morning, I received the worst phone call of my life. I can recall so much from that moment. The sun was shining, the pavement was hot under my knees when I fell to the ground, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky when I looked up questioning what it was that I just heard.

I was in love. I was head over heels in love. I was nearing the end of my college years and I was ready to start my life. My mom had just been diagnosed with cancer, which put a huge speedbump in my life, but she was going to beat it and life was going to continue to get better and better.

And then I got that phone call that shattered my whole world. The person I loved was gone. He chose to end his life. He chose to leave this world. And I was left behind to figure it all out.

I’ve never been angry. I’ve never questioned why this happened. I know why my boyfriend chose to end his life. And I could never be upset with him for that. I can, and am, sad that he felt that was his only choice. I feel guilty that, even with all my efforts and the conversations we had, I wasn’t able to save him. I don’t think that feeling will ever go away.

I just miss him. I miss the nights we spent cooking supper. I miss binge watching season after season of Dexter in my college apartment. I miss driving up to small mountain towns in California. I miss carving pumpkins at Halloween and drives to his dad’s house on summer nights. I miss talking about our dreams and how people suck sometimes. I miss his advice and his honesty.

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My heart breaks for people who are in similar situations. For those who feel so alone in this world and feel like there’s nowhere to turn.

I could talk about Luke for hours. I could tell you his views on religion and society. I could tell you about his love for Star Wars, That 70s Show, and how he was an amazing artist. But I only tell his story, and some of mine, in hopes that maybe sharing it could help someone else down the line. Maybe it can save some heartbreak, and maybe – hopefully – four years down the road, it will save someone from sitting down at their computer writing about the person they miss on the four year anniversary of their death. Maybe it can save someone. And maybe it can’t. But this is my way of keeping him alive in my memory. This is the way I can remember, and celebrate, the person that I loved.

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Five Years in the Making

One of the best aspects of my life over the past three and a half years, has been the opportunity to listen to people’s stories. Everyone in this world has an amazing, inspiring, but often, tragic, story. I believe that by sharing our story with others we not only gain strength, but empower others to share theirs as well.

For some of you, today might just be any other day, but for one particular person reading this, it’s a step to a new life. It’s a step to working through the depression and the events that life has thrown their way and turning the page.

Earlier this week I was approached with the story below and, with their permission, I am sharing this with you. Thank you for being brave. Thank you for sharing your story.

Dear Friend,

It’s February again. I keep waiting for the depression to seep in. It always follows me around like a dark cloud on a rainy day this time of year. No matter how busy I keep myself, no matter how much I try to distract myself from the negative thoughts and emotions, the rain cloud grows and grows and grows until it reaches its peak on February 25th, the day I was raped five years ago.

Five years ago, I didn’t understand what had happened to me. Five years ago, I didn’t know how to deal with what had happened to me. Not much has changed today.

I will spare you the specific details, but there are some things about my rape you should probably know. It happened in my own house, in my own room, in my own bed. The person who raped me was a friend, someone I had once liked.

After it happened, I immediately started shaking. I felt physically and emotionally dirty. After he was gone, I texted my best friend and explained to her what had happened. I told her things had gone too far. She told me I was raped. She told me I needed to go to the hospital. Instead I put my sheets in the washing machine and went to school. I sat through my classes and acted as if nothing had happened. I came home from school and did my homework and ate dinner with my family as if nothing was wrong. Meanwhile, depression and confusion were numbing my entire body. I wanted to explode from the guilt and regret I felt.

I dealt with what happened by binge drinking and cutting. They usually went hand in hand. I would drink to numb whatever pain I was feeling, but instead it would intensify those emotions, and at the end of the night I would slip into a nearby bathroom and delicately cut my thighs or my forearms.

Today, I have completely stopped cutting. Although I consider myself a healthier person emotionally, I still don’t know how to deal with what happened to me. Maybe that’s why I’m writing this letter, as a way to cope.

I think the hardest part for me is not feeling like I have anyone to talk to about it. I have tried to open up to friends, but no one has seemed to understand or support me the way I wanted them to. Even after I confided in some of my friends they still continued to make rape jokes or make light of rape while I was hanging out with them. This made me want to run from the room screaming but instead I would usually sit silently or pretend to laugh it off with everyone else.

The word “rape” makes me cringe or freeze up. Regardless, I still find myself immersed in books, movies, and news stories that deal with the topic. Maybe other survivor stories will help me to understand my own. And maybe my own story will help another survivor.

I’m not sure if the emotional pain from my rape will ever go away. Sure, it has dulled with the years, but it’s still there. And every February, it soaks back stronger than ever, maybe just as a reminder that I survived, and that I’ll keep surviving. Here’s to making it through another February.

Putting the World on Hold

One year. 365 days. I never knew it was possible for time to stand still but speed by at the same time. I’ll never forget the day that my boyfriend explained to me what déjà vu was. We lived in San Diego at the time and we were headed to the movies. I was telling him that I was having déjà vu and felt as though I’d been there before, he just looked at me and laughed and told me “déjà vu is just one half of your brain catching up with the other.” That was three years ago and to this day I’m not sure if that’s true or not, I just know that right now I wish both sides of my brain were at the same place. It’s as though part of me is stuck in the same place I was a year ago…it’s hard to accept the fact that someone has died, but this time it is even harder for me. When I was in high school two of my friends were killed in car accidents and I thought that was the worst kind of pain and heartbreak I could ever experience. Until I lost Luke. I not only had to mourn the death of my boyfriend but I had to mourn the loss of my best friend, our relationship, and the future we had planned.

I’m a writer by nature and that is the only way I know how to get through good or bad experiences. I write…it’s just what I do. I was reading through the many pages I wrote at this time last year about what I was going through. At one point I was trying to write everything about him that I could remember. I was terrified I was going to forget what his smile looked like or how his voice sounded or the way his touch felt when we were holding hands. It’s a year later and I know those are things I’ll never forget. I did come across this, though, in the many things I wrote after his death.

“I always told you how you were such an inspiration for my writing and you would reply with ‘well, I’m just glad I can be helpful in some sort of way to you’. You’ll never know how much of an inspiration you were to me. The highs, the lows, the in-betweens…everything helped me.”

One year ago today I lost one of the most important people in my life and I struggle every single day. But I share my story and his story in hopes that I can make a difference in just one person’s life. I’ve shared my story, will you?