For Rochelle

Four months ago my friend committed suicide.

She was a fragile little sparrow, it was one of the things I loved most about her, it made her authentic. Her fragility was such that life suffocated her to the point she could no longer breathe. I don’t know what it was that eventually pushed her over the edge. We exchanged some messages in the days before and whilst she seemed upset, I truly thought that she was just venting. If I had known that not long after she would check herself into a hotel and take her life I would have responded with more urgency.

I received a message from a mutual friend the day after to tell me that my friend was gone. I was numb. The eldest of my daughters was awake and we both sat together embracing in tears. My daughter loved my friend but in that moment she was the one holding me tightly to console my tears. I love that child.

The horror of my friends passing hit me hard. I had lost people that I had loved before, my grandparents, my aunties, some distant friends, but nothing could have prepared me for this. I cried for her loss, for the pain of her partner and her other long-term friends. I cried for her parents, her extended family. I cried for her beloved cats that she considered her children. This was the initial grief, a torrent of tears fuelled by a current from every direction. The hardest thing was imagining her in the hours/minutes before her death. What was running through her head? Did she think that she was alone? Was she at peace or was she so tortured by this life that she saw no other option? I’ll never know.

I spoke openly and honestly with both my daughters about my friends passing. They knew her well and loved her dearly. They were enormously pained but insisted to join me at her funeral to which I was grateful. They were the only children there and the way they conducted themselves made me so proud. There were many life lessons learnt for them.

Her funeral was beautiful. Those that knew her best spoke about their memories and funny anecdotes as they fought back tears. For a girl who felt so alone, the church overflowed into the streets as hundreds gathered to pay their respects. And then it was over. It was if somehow, now that she had been laid to rest, so should our grief. Not possible.

A few days after her funeral I was lying in bed thinking of her. She knew everything there was to know about me. The thought that all of those deep and meaningful conversations had now ended and that she had literally taken my secrets to her grave overwhelmed me. I lay in my bed and said out loud, “if you are here with me, please give me a sign”. Immediately I heard a loud ringing noise in my ear. Initially I thought that it must have been as a result of all the crying I had done, but each time I doubted it the ringing became louder.

I know now without a doubt that my friend is with me every day. Like me, she was a writer so it is at these times when I am busily tapping on my keyboard and lose direction or inspiration that I close my eyes and ask her to guide me…and she does.

The last song at her funeral will be the song that I remember her by. Hugh Jackman’s version of Peter Allan’s “Quiet please, there’s a lady on stage”. In this song is a verse that says

Quiet please, there’s a person up there

Who’s singing of the things

That none of us could bear to hear for ourselves

Give her your respect if nothing else

These words stood out because my friends passing forced me to stop and address my own life and things that I had run from for so long. She knew what they were, she was one of the few and I knew that she was protecting me as I faced them.

I will live with her in my heart always and I am so grateful for her short but powerful influence on my life and that of my daughters.

The day before she took her life she posted a note on Instagram.

Be careful not to hurt people,

They can begin to love you less.

The pain you cause can chisel their hearts,

Until theirs nothing left.

We never know the silent war that so many are waging within. Let’s vow to be kind to each other and live with loving compassion in our hearts because when it’s over…its completely over.

In loving memory of Rochelle Nolan


Originally published at www.melaniesheppard.com.au.

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