I’m not good at beginnings, so here it goes: recently, a family friend of mine died, and I’m still processing it. He was 21 years old (same age as me), and we went to school together from kindergarten through most of high school.
My whole family visited his house once; we had dinner and played Apples to Apples for hours on the floor of their living room. It was fun, but I didn’t talk to him much at school. Not because of some aversion—I probably even had a crush on him at some brief point (in elementary school I had a crush on everybody at some point). It’s just that our moms were friends, and we were pulled into each other’s orbit by virtue of that. Compared to the rest of my high school friends, I knew him; but I still didn’t really know him.
I wish I could explain all that context now when I tell people I went to his funeral. Because I just don’t know what to do when they ask what happened.
He committed suicide. I found out at the funeral, and I surprised myself when I cried during the service. Turns out, it doesn’t matter how small and threadbare the ties that bind you are; you can still mourn the line being cut.
It’s different than a relative dying. When my grandfathers died, I’d known they were sick and, in some ways, I knew how to grieve them. They were my people. But how much can I mourn across this kind of distance? Do I have the right to talk about his death without it feeling trivialized or made gossip? Do I have the right to receive sympathy?
I feel guilty when people try to comfort me, but he keeps popping into my head, sprawled on a living room rug and waiting for me to share a card.
At least talking feels like refusing to let him slip away entirely, even if he’s just the anonymous subject in a newspaper article, written by a girl who knew/didn’t know him.
Selfishly, I’m glad that I’m still here. There’s so much against us all the time. I don’t know if this will help anyone, but if you’re reading this, you’ve made it through everything up until now. All that shit. And someone out there remembers an Apples to Apples moment about you. You’re tethered to more people than you realize by these little points, and the tug doesn’t go unnoticed.
I want to hold onto each of those threads. Every single one.
Guest columns are written by The Sentry staff to give them the experience of writing an editorial and the platform to share their stories.