My Sweet Friend

I have really been struggling to find my words this past week…..

I lost an old friend.

On Nov 12th my friend went missing. All of her friends rallied together, shared information and tried to locate her in the only way we could from distances far away.

You see, my friend had moved from Washington to Illinois over a year ago with her boyfriend of over a decade. And she was lonely. She didn’t have friends or family in Illinois…..

And things did not go well.

My friend has struggled since I have known her with bouts of depression…..and being isolated, away from all who loved her…..in physical pain, daily……and in a relationship that was….well, let’s just say that the relationship fueled her depression….all of this led to the moment that broke so many hearts…..

The thing is, I did not realize just how bad things were for her…or how depressed she had become because I was lost these past two years in my own storm, dealing with my family situation and my son’s addiction and mental health issues……so I didn’t know…….

This was a dear friend of mine from high school.

We spent a lot of time together…..she spent the night at my house many times and we always had a great time. When she was at my house we were up late, long nights talking, laughing and enjoying our friendship. We stayed up late baking cookies and then in the middle of the night our craving for cheeze pleezers and strawberry Shasta would strike, and off we would go, walking to 7-11 to get some…..mostly at midnight and once at 2am. As long as the two of us were together we were safe!

We spent a lot of time at her house in the summer of 1982….helping her dad to haul hay. My friend lived on a small dairy farm and the summer/fall meant hauling hay….loading the truck and unloading in the barn. We had fun doing it, even though it was exhausting work. We sang country songs and then rode on top of the hay in the big hay truck after hours hard work……those days were amazing and our friendship became stronger.

We went to camp together in the summer…..spent a lot of time in Rainbow girls…..went on double dates…..and so much more. Life with my friend was fun and crazy…..she made me laugh, made me cry, shared my joys and pains, and sometimes drove me nuts.

In the fall of 1982 my dad made it unsafe for me to live at home any longer and my friend and her mother offered me a home to live in so I could finish high school…..I shared my friends room with her and we became inseparable. She was with me, skipping school, when I met my future husband. We laughed, cried, shared secrets and our dreams. She was a sister to me.

I saw it back then, though I didn’t really talk about it with anyone…..her depression. There were times when she would be depressed and we would spend hours talking….or rather her talking and me listening and I would do everything I could to help her.

Through the years we stayed close. We both got married and then we each had children. She stayed in the same town and I moved away with my husband, going wherever the Air Force sent us. We would go long periods of time without seeing each other, but then I would go home to visit and she and I would get together and it was as if no time had gone by….we always picked up where we left off. We wrote a lot of long letters in those days before email and internet and paid for high long distance phone calls. But they were worth it. Friends staying connected.

And then her life changed dramatically over a decade ago and our phone conversations were less often, but we still wrote letters and then she climbed onboard with facebook and we would message each other to stay in touch.

It has been 10 years since I last saw my friend in person….we met for breakfast on one of my trips home……just the two of us. And we talked for hours. I could see that she was struggling, but she was surrounded by friends and family so I knew she wasn’t alone.

And then the past two years things took a turn for me and I stepped back from my friends, my family needed me and emotionally I couldn’t handle anything else.  We still messaged, but we didn’t talk……

Then over a year ago she moved away from her family and her friends, to another state with only her boyfriend for support…..and as the year passed she became more isolated, her depression growing…fueled by loneliness and…..so much more.

And now she is gone.

Gone.

I will never again have a chance to talk with her, to hear her laugh…….I didn’t know. I wish I had.  I wish I had called her.  I wish I had taken the time to listen.  I wish I had known.

And now she is gone. I am still in shock. I am hurting. I feel guilty.

Eight days after my friend went missing she was found. She had taken her own life.

Her sister called me to tell me…..

I am left with so many questions….WHY?  Why, my dear friend?

I know she was alone, having left her support network back in Washington when she moved. And now I know now just how bad things had gotten for her in that new state…….with no one to help her, to seek help for her, to love her and support her……

Why? Depression strikes so many and yet we still struggle to understand and talk about it. When are we going to change that? When is mental health going to be as important as physical health? When will the medical industry treat mental illnesses the way they treat physical illnesses…..

The image in my mind of my friend, alone…….it will never leave me. And I am left with the questions of why, and also the “what if”….what if I had called…..what if I had known…..what if…… and the “if only”.  I will never know the answers.

…..and I am left with guilt and heartbreak.

My dear, sweet friend is gone. And I realize that no matter what is going on in my life I need to make sure I keep in contact with my friends and family, that I let them know just how much they mean to me, that I never again miss the signs and never again lose someone I love to suicide.

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression and expressing thoughts of suicide, please reach out, call the National Suicide Awareness Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Today, hug your loved ones a little tighter….tell them how you feel……don’t waste another minute or day. Life is all too short and we never know when it is our last moment on earth or that of our loved ones.

I wish I had one more day with you, my sweet friend….you drove me nuts at times, you made me laugh, you listened when I needed a friend, and I wish I could tell you, just one more time, how much I love you!

I miss you my sweet friend! I hope you have found peace……

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