Dear David, it’s been almost two years since we lost you, and I still don’t know how to accept that you’re not coming back.
Grief is not linear. It’s not uniform; it’s not a stage. In my case, it has endured, shifting forms, ebbing and flowing from overpowering to subtle, from ruthless to dull. When I first found out you were gone, I was numb. I couldn’t distract myself from my thoughts long enough to remember how to take a breath; I forgot how to put one foot in front of the other and fell in pools of my own tears. My heart changed, swelling and hardening at the same time, never to return to its previous state. Loss is not something I have learned to move on from but rather to reconcile into a changed version of myself.
I wish you had been there to join me for my first legal drink after you watched me count down to that day for so long, and we’d laugh as we looked back on the times you stayed behind to hang out with me when I was the only underage one in the group. We would have remembered the nights we spent on Chat Roulette, burning macaroni and cheese because we were just so engrossed, and I would have remembered to tell you how much I appreciated your willingness to sacrifice bar exploits to keep me company.
I wish you could be here to chime in with the perfect witty comment right when I need you to, just as you always did during my overdramatic tirades regarding school or relationships. Such rants feel sickeningly trivial in hindsight — so wasteful of our time together. If you were here now, I’d finally admit to how many Clif Bars I really took from your never-ending supply in the pantry — it’s more than the three I owned up to, and I’d thank you, truly thank you for the generosity that I failed to acknowledge as frequently as I should have.
Here without you, though, I am left to reconcile the colliding emotions that have marked the past year and a half on my own. Often, I succeed at transforming the pain into motivation to live better, to love better and to be stronger. But sometimes, I am overwhelmed with wishing I could have done something, with regret crushing my heart like a fist.
I didn’t know. None of us did. The pain was private, obscured. You were the karaoke powerhouse with perfect pitch, the finance genius with unfathomable intellect, the dedicated employee at a “real person job,” who, to our dismay, couldn’t partake in our late-night antics that summer.
Dear David, not a day goes by during which I don’t wish I could have known the magnitude of your suffering and — somehow, some way — been able to change what happened. Each day, I have to actively swallow my “what ifs” to prevent myself from sinking. Living without you means not letting myself drown in guilt and sorrow. Living without you means finding solace in the memories I had the privilege of sharing with you and honoring your life by breathing new purpose into my own.
Suicide Prevention Month is coming to a close, but we cannot let our awareness and efforts cease. We must do more. We must know how to recognize warning signs and any other signs of concern; we must firmly establish ourselves as known allies in the lives of our family and friends. We must acknowledge the legitimacy and gravity of mental illness in both our hearts and our policies. Together, we can ensure a voice is given to this silent epidemic — throughout every month of the year.
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