Content warning: death
I found out recently that a childhood friend of mine passed away. It happened a while ago, I only found out recently because I don’t follow anyone on Facebook, so it was after I purposefully started looking up high school friends that I found this out. I saw the picture first, I looked into his eyes, and I thought, “No, he can’t be dead.” But I knew it was true. I looked at his Facebook profile, because it was set on “remembering” status, which happens after someone passes away. I saw other friends talk about what a great person he was, and I saw the GoFundMe his parents set up to receive some sort of assistance with medical bills and funeral costs and all of those things. I saw this at 2am on a Monday, and I cried. I cried because I flashed back to when we used to walk home together in the second grade and I wondered if this guy was gonna be my best friend. And I felt myself in my second grade body, and I saw him both as a second grader and then as someone who was no longer alive, and I just couldn’t believe it.
All of that set something off in me, something I haven’t felt since my mom passed away. I became really paranoid about dying, more so than usual. That tends to happen when young people are confronted with their peers dying, but it confused me because I thought I had made my peace with death years ago, back when I was still trying to figure out whether or not I was going to Hell. In fact a little under two years ago, I was suicidal, I didn’t see the point in living anymore. And once I was able to manage my depression, I prided myself on eventually coming to a place where I accepted that death happens in the world and all I can do was just “enjoy all the small moments I have.”
But something was different this time.
I’m a part-time student, I’m only taking one class. I’m as busy as always, rehearsing for plays, working multiple jobs, trying to graduate on time, and the burnout is definitely real. But now there’s this impending doom I’m dealing with now. I worry that I’m gonna die before I graduate, or that I’m gonna die while I’m moving to Connecticut. I had a friend say that she was worried about me as I got ready to buy a car and move on with my life, and I started wondering if maybe some crazy incident will happen when I’m walking outside to go to my car or when I’m out with some friends at a party, and I would literally be in this world having goals and dreams and desires and in the flash of a second, I would not.
I feel like I’m turning into my mother.
My mother was possibly an agoraphobe. She raised me in a household where I watched the news constantly at a young age, seeing story after story of people dying in Chicago. I would see a lot of dead black people, and I saw a lot of men who looked like me. I thought I became desensitized after a while. I grew up with a mother who did not want me to go outside by myself because she didn’t know if something bad would happen to me. And all the time, my father would say “Nothing is going to happen to him, that is why we moved to Oak Park.” And yet, people have died in Oak Park as well, especially on the borders of the suburb. That’s where my family lived, and they divided Oak Park from the west side of Chicago, where we lived until I was four.
I had prepared myself for my mom’s death for a while. My mom was always sick while I was growing up. I spent a lot of my life being forced to take naps not because my mom wanted me to know the benefit of a nap, but because my mom had headaches and needed to rest, and figured I should do the same. I thought for a long time that my mom would not live for that long. And she just kept getting sicker and sicker, and then a she had a stroke and eventually died. And I didn’t really have time to grieve because I had marching band practice two days after the funeral.
With no time to grieve, I just kept moving and moving. I went to therapy because I figured I needed it after everything I went through, but it was only for no more than an hour every two weeks, and I still had to work hard and pour myself into everything, and there were so many moments where I wondered what it was for. And now I found out that someone I knew, someone who I was close to at one point in my life, who had goals and dreams of his own, who worked hard and poured himself into everything he did is now gone. And part of me is wondering “Why am I working this damn hard and harming my mind and body and soul when it’s so possible that I won’t be able to reap the benefits of it?”
I’m in the exact opposite place I was in two years ago. I desperately want to live and I hate the way I’m living now. I hate it immensely. And there are people in my life, in my family, former friends, people at college who would have graduated with me that are now dead. And I am now coming to a place where I am grieving for them and I cry for them, because I can’t believe how their lives turned out. And I wonder all the time what their lives would have been like if they were still alive.
I was raised in a conservative Christian household. All conversations about death revolved around God. And with God came “this sense of comfort” that comes from having to accept God’s plan, even if you didn’t know what it was. If I was a true believer, I’d believe that all these people dying was just a part of God “not giving me or them more than we can handle” (a phrase I hate) and that “weeping may endure for the night, but joy will come in the morning.” I’m weeping a lot now, and I’m trying to find the joy where I can. I guess that’s all I can do, right?