We met when we were infants.
A childhood fully spent.
Half at my house, and half at Kylie's house. Sleepovers, paddleboat rides on the lake, my first taste of buffalo burgers. A haunted trail every October, volleyball and chorus, crushes on boys.
High school graduation was the last time I saw her. How quick I was to say goodbye to those memories.
Seventeen years later.
We reconnect, thanks only to Facebook. I had searched for her for years, to no avail. Her life was dark.
Oh, how I wish I had known. I would have pressed in. I would have written. I would have called.
But I did not know.
Why did I not know?
Because I did not ask. (Did I care?)
"How are you?" is all it takes. No--that's not true.
After that, you stop and listen for the answer. REALLY listen--with more than just the parts made for hearing. My eyes would have seen the darkness in her eyes. My gut would have known there was more behind the words.
No matter what she said, I could have heard what she was screaming.
What was she saying? I hear her now.
"I'm all alone."
"I can't do this by myself."
"Isn't anyone out there?"
I remember how heartbroken she was in high school over a friend addicted to taking weight loss pills, and over another friend who was pregnant as a teen. I watched Kylie cry over both of them, wondering how she had let them down as a friend. She hadn't, but she thought she could have done more to keep them from going down the paths they traveled then.
And now I am heartbroken that I could not do anything to keep her off her own dark path.
It must have been so dark in Kylie's world. So dark that no one else could see inside.
(I'm not ready for this season of life, Lord!)
I was really early to her visitation. For three days preceding this event, every little thing made me cry. I am tougher than that. But this loss breached my hard "nucleus".
I sat in my car and wiped a river of tears, praying for strength to be there for her family. Then I saw her mother arrive. She looked the same that day as she had so many years before. I knew I was there to reconnect with Kylie's parents, but mostly with her mother.
I still cannot bring myself to know what she saw or felt in that moment. It happened in her house, with her there. The mother in me cries tears for her most.
Her mother recognized me as I walked toward her. She said, "Which one are you?" (meaning which one of the three daughters in my family was I.)
When I replied, "Melissa", she said, "Oh, Melissa..." and wrapped me up in a hug as if I had just lost my best friend.
As she trembled and cried on my shoulder, and I on hers, she managed to whisper these words:
"She didn't think she had any friends left."
(Lord, this is too heavy!)
A closed casket.
(Can there be closure with a closed casket? I don't know.)
I do know, though, that I will remember her as she lived, not as she died.
Why didn't I come to town sooner? Why didn't I send her a message three weeks ago to let her know I was coming into town? Would she have still given up?
I'll never really ask those questions.
But I know the answer to all of my questions is to trust the One who knew her end before her beginning.
Til we meet again, Kylie. God be with you, til we meet again.
(Thank you for reading this post. It is completely unedited. Just some thoughts I have after the loss of my childhood best friend. She took her own life. Suicide is such a tragedy. My heart aches over her loneliness and also for her mama. There will definitely be more thoughts to come.)