Missed Connections, friendship, and farewells

I attended a funeral yesterday that required a seven-hour round-trip drive. It was for a friend I’ve had since the early 90s. We met at music camp in junior high, we were almost exactly the same age, and we became penpals for many years. Once email, and finally Facebook, became a thing, we kept in touch that way. I sang at her wedding; she danced at mine.

We never lived in the same place, but we stayed in each other’s homes on many trips. I can honestly say that she was one of my closest friends. I wish I knew if she felt the same way.

About two weeks ago, her Facebook posts made it clear she was in some kind of crisis. She had just returned from a trip with a new boyfriend, and she started making posts about pain, broken trust, and hoping to become numb. She changed her profile picture to a negative shot that made her look like a ghost. Two days later, I found out that she had died that same night. Her teenage son found her the next morning.

I’ve been kicking myself ever since. Why hadn’t I sent her a message, reached out, asked if she was okay, at least let her know that someone cared? Of course we don’t KNOW that she committed suicide; the last I heard, her cause of death was still unknown, and we’ve been urged not to jump to conclusions or spread rumours. I only know what it looks like, from the outside, from a distance. She was the kind of friend who, when we had been chatting online, heard that I was depressed, and actually picked up the phone, and spent the next three hours talking to me, and cheering me up. Why couldn’t I have done the same thing for her?

It took some creative scheduling on my manager’s part to give me the day off from work, but she did it. My beloved Trekkie was also able to take a floating vacation day to come with me for support, even though he barely knew her, and it was a marathon of highway driving. I needed to go. I needed to say goodbye. I’m not sure if it helped.

Before the service, there was a viewing. My friend has been dressed and made up in a way that was so unlike her. Her face reminded me of one of those action figures that is clearly supposed to look like a specific person and just… doesn’t. I only lasted a few seconds of looking at her face before fleeing the room, trying not to sob. The service was… intensely Mormon. She had been raised Mormon, but had not been Mormon in a very long time. I couldn’t help thinking that some of the decisions that had been made intending to honour her memory would have pissed her off, if she had been there.

Today has been harder. I thought going to the funeral would make it easier, but it’s not. I keep going in circles, thinking about the fact that I can’t send her a text anymore, and asking myself why I hadn’t when I still had the chance. Maybe it wouldn’t have helped, but at least I would have tried. Maybe I would at least know what she had been going through in the last days of her life. That’s what she would have done for me, if our positions were reversed.

I want to be the kind of friend that she was. The kind that can be counted on. The kind that will reach out, support, help, whenever she is needed. I know it won’t bring her back, but it’s the best I can do to honour her memory.