No Place Like Home

img_1436You know that saying, “Home is where the heart is”? Well, I find that to be particularly true.

I went home this week for Thanksgiving break, but that’s not all. For the first time, I visited my best friend. Not in the usual way that most college students would. No. I went to a cemetery, looked down at the newly placed stone and hoped that she could hear all the words that filled my head. Words about my college experience and simply put everything that  I haven’t told her already. Words that I had waited to tell her and words that I wish I knew how to say. While I stood there, I wondered all of the same questions that I had a million times before but no answers came to surface.

Then, I remembered the day. I visualized me walking up to the door to realize she had already come in. I saw her small little dance that she did. Then we walked to the living room and I turned on Glee, the show we had been watching together. We talked forever, not even really paying any attention to the show in the background. We had seen it a million times already. We joked and laughed all day. Not only do I remember what we did that day, I also remember how I was feeling. It was overwhelming happiness. For lack of a better way to put it, I was home. I was with my best friend whom I loved and who made me happy. My heart was whole. I had no worries. I was not stressed. I was carefree. I was happy. I was home. As the day went on, I remember feeling a bit of dread because I knew she would have to go back to her house soon and I simply put didn’t want her to go. After she left, it would just go back to being a random, boring day.

Standing at her grave, all of those feelings rushed back to me. The readiness to see her. Not necessarily happy, but whole. It was the first time since the accident that I had felt still. Not still in the frozen kind of way, but steady. As I stood there, my whole existence was unraveling before me. I wasn’t torn in two. I was just there looking at the stone that sat above where my best friend lies permanently. For the first time, I wasn’t unsteady. My mind wasn’t racing with a million thoughts. My heart ached no longer because I was there. I was with her even though she wasn’t physically there. I was there and this was where her body lied and for me that was enough. It wasn’t like last time when I watched her lowered to the ground. My heart aching. No more tears left to be shed. It wasn’t like that. I was just visiting a friend. I was visiting my best friend. My best friend took up most of my heart. I loved her and I lost her. As I remembered her laughter and jokes standing there, I realized that I had lost my home. My safe place. But in a way it was all around me as I stood there. My mom standing beside me still supporting me through everything, just as my best friend would have.

Then I realized something else. Just like the saying previously mentioned, no matter where I am–big city or small town that no one has ever heard of–I will always have a piece of me that is home. Because that’s where she is. And that is also where my family will remain. And they are my safe places. They are what take up the space in my heart and that’s how it always will be.

The Constant Change

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Every day is constant. The sun rises and the sun sets. Each day you wake up and go about your life, then go back to sleep. Everything is set for us. Each day just comes and goes and somehow we still just keep living. The world is constant. This video serves to show you the constancy of the world all the while exhibiting fleeting time. Each day we have moments. Every moment is fleeting. We have things that we fail to say. Things that we regret. Things that we enjoy. But while the world is constant, our time here is not. And this video shows you how things can change in just one instant. How things can be uprooted in your life in just one instant and you have to then figure out what to do next.

Music credits go to Saturn by Sleeping at Last

Searching for a Silver Lining

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There are different places and different things that lead each person to their path ahead. There are certain things that lead people to see light in each situation. When my best friend died, I saw light in nothing. Now I had been that way before. Sitting there in a tunnel of darkness was not new to me. It wasn’t the first time that I had felt a total sense of loss and despair. It most certainly won’t be the last time either. But anyways, after she was gone I had nothing but anger and overwhelming sadness built up inside me. I was tired of hearing that everything would be okay. God needed another angel. Or everything happens for a reason. You’ll be okay once again. A person like me did not want to hear these meaningless phrases. Not when I had heard them many times before. When someone dies like that or even just simply leaves abruptly from your life, you don’t automatically think you’ll be okay. You don’t want to think about how everything just happens or whether or not someone else needed them. You just think about how you need them. You think about how you would give anything to have them once again.

With that, I was heartbroken. But most of all, I needed time to be sad. I needed time to let my heart ache for her. I needed to need her back. When you spend almost eight years talking to someone, they become a part of your life. If not, a huge part. Then they leave and there’s this hole in the middle of your chest and there’s no way for it to be filled. I was sitting in a tunnel of darkness with no possibility of light. I couldn’t process what had happened and I needed to. So with every moment of grief, I questioned why we loved people if they always ended up leaving. This led me into an endless spiral of loneliness. I never talked to anyone really about my feelings on what happened. Why? Because I felt like I would get the same meaningless answers. Also, because people didn’t know what to say. I didn’t let anyone in because I couldn’t get over the fact that I had lost her and she would never return. I also believed that no one would ever replace her so I didn’t try.

However, there comes a time when you have to take a risk. You have to take a chance and you have to get back out there. Whether you want to or not. I had to get out there. I had to take the chance of talking to different people. I had to take the chance of loving people again. I had to let go of losing a person that changed my world. That doesn’t mean I had to let them go entirely. I will always have those moments we shared and I will always remember that day because it is forever a part of me. As great as that time was, she’s gone and I can’t bring her back no matter how bad I want to. So I had to move on. I had to step away from the routine that I built for myself. I had to break the routine. To do that, I took a chance. I had my time to ponder everything and now I needed to put the pieces of my heart back together and start again.

So last night when we turned off all of our flashlights and looked up at the sky, I looked all around me at the people I was with. Then looked back up just in time to watch a shooting star fall with them yelling telling us all to look. Shortly after it, we all felt warmth that replaced the freezing cold air that once surrounded us all. Everyone was shocked and amazed. At that moment, with the rush of the water beneath us, I knew that this was my start. This was my moment to begin again. Metaphorically, there was finally a light in all of the darkness. I wasn’t completely there, but one day I might be. That doesn’t mean it makes losing my best friend okay or fine, but it makes it easier to deal with. The pain just might ache a little less. Furthermore, listening to the laughter and music around me, I knew this was my silver lining and I was perfectly okay with that.

Keeping What’s Left Alive

It has been said by many that they keep things from people they have loved once they lost them. I am no exception. I have an old, floral comforter, which, might I add, is not my style, that is stuffed in the bottom of my closet at home. It was given to me by my great-grandmother who has been dead for around 9 years now. I have sets of jewelry lying around that were given to me by my grandma and multiple books that I will never get rid of. I have text messages from my best friend that date back to late April. The storage on my phone will forever remain full because of them. To me, they are pieces of the people that I have loved and lost that are being kept alive. Pieces that I will forever carry with me for as long as I live.

Though those aren’t the only things that I have. I have one more thing that I didn’t mention above and that is a bookshelf. However, I didn’t mention that above because no one gave it to me. It may be just a simple bookshelf to someone who doesn’t know the story, but I may forever keep it because of what I put into it. You see, the day after my best friend died I got up and began to paint the bookshelf. My best friend was with me just before she got into the car accident a few minutes from my house. I told her that I was going to paint it the day after and she was excited about it. The excitement probably wasn’t because I was painting the bookshelf, but, more or less, the fact that we were getting ready for college. Either way, I’m not one to break a promise. I’m far from it. If I say something, I will do it and I will not complain. It was extremely hot that day and the sun beat down with no mercy, but I kept painting. All the while, questioning so many things at once. What happened? Then what actually happened? Because there will be two answers. How did I not know before? Why did I let her leave? Why wasn’t I there for her? Why did I wake up that morning and she a figure of the past? With each question, I slung more paint onto the bookshelf, not caring how much, then spreading it out.

My sister came out and offered me water and I didn’t touch it. She also came to help then eventually went back in. My mom came out telling me to take a break and ushered me inside, but then she left and I went right back outside. I had to finish because that’s what I was supposed to do. I was supposed to get up the next day and I was supposed to move on even though I didn’t want to. So with each beat of the brush, I grew infuriated. Infuriated at the driver who didn’t slow down. Infuriated with the people around me telling me everything would be okay. Infuriated at the world for taking her and leaving me. I heard the music blasting next to me. Music that spoke words of anger, sadness, guilt, regret, and sometimes even death. Words that I barely understood before coming through to me in a different light, listening to every single word and understanding clearly what each meant and why. My dad came and went. Me, not bothering to show my face to him. I just kept painting. My vision already impaired by a cluster of tears. I didn’t want anyone to see me like that. Then my mom came up to me, grabbed an extra brush and began painting with me. I hid my face from her while knowing that she already knew. She began covering the spots that I missed while I continued to make random, angry strides at the shelf I was working on.

Now I didn’t tell you this just for the purposes of telling you it. I told you this because now every time I look at that bookshelf I am reminded of that day. You are probably wondering why I even want to remember that day. Well, because that was probably my darkest day and it reminds me of the meaning of the word perseverance. Every time I look at that bookshelf I am reminded of the day that I got up of out bed and she didn’t. I am reminded of the day that I would have given anything to be with her. But it also reminds me of the day that I realized no matter how much I want to be with her, I can’t be. So when I look at the chips and unevenly spread paint on the bookshelf I don’t turn away in disgust, I look at it and see a multitude of tears and sweat. Then I look further and see perseverance and the day that I had to go on even if I didn’t want and even if she couldn’t. And sometimes I feel a certain hope that I will see her again. Even if it’s years from now. There will be a day where I get to tell her everything and she will listen even though she probably already knows. So with that, to me, the bookshelf symbolizes something much more. I’m keeping what’s left alive, but I’m also keeping my ability to persevere alive because I’ve already lost a lot.

Understanding What Has Come To Be

Yesterday, I was listening to this song. Shoreline by Deas Vail. It wasn’t the first time that I listened to the song. In fact, I had listened to it multiple times before then. But yesterday, yesterday was the first time I actually heard the music. After that I couldn’t stop listening to the song. I grew so fond of the song that I even researched the band a little and interpreted a meaning from the words that were being spoken.

It turns out the whole song is a lament. A mourning of something that is impossible to have. An essential expression of grief at its finest. Well, not finest, because nothing about grief is fine. It’s normal. I guess that’s the word I’m looking for. But even with the knowledge of knowing it’s normal, doesn’t help. However, besides the point, while it has the lament it also holds another aspect. A simple understanding. Closer to the ending of the song, the singer sings the words “I’ve figured you out” around three times. This is an understanding of a bigger purpose. Something that should be fulfilled. Something that should be done by the person themselves.

With that being said, I entered college smothered with grief. I had just lost my only friend–my best friend. Then I had to dive into the world of college in just under two weeks after. I was put in this new world with new people, seven hours away from my home. I had to figure out how to be happy. How to meet new people and become someone without her. College was supposed to be this big, new adventure. A fresh start, in my case, being so far away from where I actually grew up. However, when I came here, I questioned it all. Of course, people didn’t know because I didn’t want to tell them or they never asked. I wandered around with thoughts of my best friend in my head, with memories and regrets. Words I never got to say clouded my brain. I simply did not understand. I didn’t understand why she had to leave this earth. I just wanted more than anything to be with her. In the midst of all of this, I watched the people around me socialize and make friends. I also didn’t understand how socialization was so easy for them. I mean I was never good at that to begin with. Anyways, with all of that going on, I felt alone. I even asked myself if this was where I needed to be, even though I knew it was before she was gone. I just wanted to go home, because at least there someone would understand.

However, after listening to this song, I realize this is just where I need to be. Not just because I listened to this song; but, because there is something pulling me to stay here. It doesn’t get easier. Well, not at the moment, because I still have many days where all I can do is think of her. However, I know where I need to be and that is here. For what purpose? I’m not sure yet. I realize that at this point in my life I don’t need to understand everything, but I do need to have a sense of understanding. I need to believe that I’m here for some reason and that later I will understand exactly why. That’s enough for me at this moment in my life.

Speech By Speech

fullsizerender-3I walked through the double doors of the school. I thought I would only see this place maybe once more in my life, but here I was right back here. My palms were sweaty and I was already shaking. My mom could tell that I was nervous. Everyone else probably could too. The lady at the front instructed us where to sit and we entered into the gymnasium. There were already people sitting down and some at the front looking at Stancil. My sight first landed on her when I walked in. An overwhelming amount of longing rushed over me as I wished, for the thousandth time, for this all to be a nightmare that I would wake up from. My mom found us a seat and I sat, not paying attention as to where. There was only one thing I was focused on.

It reminded me a lot of my graduation day. The way all the seniors gathered in one of the hallways and talked, joked, and laughed. I was with Stancil that day and my former boyfriend. I remember being so nervous that I couldn’t say anything. That I didn’t want to. I was set to give the valedictory speech for my class. They both told me how it was such an honor and that I would do amazing. Then we had to line up, forming two lines—it was time to walk into the gym. I waited, anxiously for our turn to walk and to get to my seat. I felt like I could not stand. Like I could not hold myself up any longer. I was so nervous, but I had them to look at.

I was feeling that among other things at the moment. Natural dread mixed in with the feelings. I just watched her. She was lying there, sleeping peacefully—never to wake again. The funeral hadn’t started yet, but I knew it would soon with all of the people now filing in. Kourtney, a former student just like me, came up and asked me if I wanted to go outside for a few minutes and wait for her friend. We went outside and just stood while other people walked up. We didn’t talk, there was nothing to say. One of my favorite teachers, and Stancil’s, came up toward us and enveloped us in a hug. I cannot remember what she told us, but I remember blurting out.

“I’m speaking.” I remember the feeling I got in my chest as I said it. It just continued to tighten as if it would eventually just explode. She looked at me, sympathy filling her eyes.

“Do you have a tissue?” I said no and she began searching through her purse for an extra one. She handed it to me. I stuffed it in the pocket of the dress I was wearing. “Take your time up there. Feel free to cry.”

“She was- She was leaving my house.” I said, feeling as if it took every last ounce of me to say those words. I felt the tears forming in my eyes, but I did not let them fall. She hugged me one more time before telling me something about the speech and going inside. Kourtney’s friend came up shortly after and we all went back in. As we sat down the funeral procession started, I could feel my heart beating faster by the second. Everything was such a blur until the moment arose for me to get up from where I was sitting and walk to the podium. Time began to move slowly as I got up from my seat. I walked the same path I walked on graduation night. Walked up the same stairs. Walked across the same stage. And then, finally, stood behind the same podium. I remembered in that moment, as I was unfolding my paper, on my graduation night that I looked out into the crowd as I spoke. I looked at three teachers that had shaped my life in some way. Then I took a look at my boyfriend. Then I searched the crowd for Stancil until I found her. As that moment went on, before I began to speak, I looked out at the crowd. There was probably less people in the gym that day, but it still felt the same. The weight of what I had to say. I searched for her and then glanced at the casket that lied before me. With that, I looked down at my paper because I realized then that I no longer had anything left to look for and began to speak. After I finished, I don’t even remember if the audience clapped or did anything. I didn’t expect them to. I just remember walking off the stage in a different way than last time and sitting back down in my seat. The rest of the service also went by in a blur, until my attention was caught by someone handing me a flower to load in the car outside. Almost everyone had gathered outside, just like our graduation day, except this time they were replaced with solemn faces. I couldn’t take it anymore so I went back inside to find my mom. When I got to her, a teacher that Stancil and I both knew, and had a class together in, came up to me and hugged me.

“You have to keep going for her now. She will always be with you.” I remembered murmuring something, but I can’t remember what it was and she hugged me again. Then the teacher I had met before the funeral came up and hugged me once again.

“You did good.” I nodded. However, in my head I was saying, it wasn’t for me. Then my mom asked if I was good to go and I nodded. On the way out, two other members of the school’s faculty tapped on the glass from the office and mouthed “You did good.” I nodded and took it even though I didn’t want the credit. I only did it for her. After that, we went to the burial site and I hugged her stepfather and talked to a few more members of her family before leaving.

Later that night, I had wondered if she was proud. If I had done the speech justice and if I had captured basics of our friendship in three short minutes. Just as I had wondered the same on graduation night. I caught myself starting to text her and ask her, like I did on that night. Then I realized looking at her name on my phone that I would never honestly know how I did on that night, because she will never be able to tell me. I checked my phone once more, just as I had the nights prior to, hoping to have a response. But nothing good would come of it. Then I realized something more devastating.

I would never be able to read the line she would always say to me— “I’m such a proud friend.” Everything had changed forever.