Without Goodbye

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep… Beep…. Beep….. Beep…….. Beep……….. Beep………….. Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

‘She’s gone. No, it can’t be. It can’t be true. It’s not true. Please tell me it’s not true.’ I could see that her brain was in overdrive, desperately trying to escape the drone of the beep. Of the final beep.

“Please don’t be gone!” she shouted. “Come back, I can’t do this without you!” The girl ran over to the bed. ‘It’s not true, it’s not true’ her brain cried. “You didn’t say goodbye, you promised you’d never leave. And you definitely promised that you’d never leave without goodbye.”

The young girl, now dropped to her knees by the hospital bed, was crying. Her breathing rate was increasing, and she suddenly felt that she couldn’t move, paralysed by the emotional shock. A nurse entered the room, looked at the body lying on the bed, and tried to lift the young girl out and into the corridor, but the girl screamed, lying on the floor and waving her fists. “Don’t take her away,” she wailed, “How could you do this to me?” BANG. She smashed her hand on the ground one last time, before lying, defeated, in the middle of the hospital floor, sobbing, but otherwise motionless. The whimpers echoed in the room, and I felt her heartbeat slow. As though sensing me, she touched her chest, and tears slipped down her face. The girl realised that she’d never feel the heartbeat of her friend again. She’d never feel the warmth of a hug, and hear that comforting repetitive sound that came with it.

For the days that followed, the girl locked herself into her university bedroom, and sat, motionless on the bed. She didn’t talk to anybody, and for four nights, she didn’t sleep. Whilst she tried to manage the odd biscuit, she’d usually vomit within half an hour. She couldn’t face a proper meal, and I watched her, for the whole time. I could see that she only tried to eat for her friend. She knew that her dead friend would be angry with her coping mechanism, but I gave her no choice.

The day of the funeral came, and the girl didn’t know what to do. With only eight hours sleep in seven days, she couldn’t compute a sensible suggestion. All the while, I watched the girl from the corner of the room, hiding in the shadows. That morning, she attempted on three separate occasions to eat a slice of toast, but she was sick seven times. Every time she moved, she feared that she would faint, but somehow, she made it into the shower. The water caused a panic attack, as thoughts of what had happened and what would happen that day attempted to drown her. Still, I watched, and I waited.

She dressed in black, as was the requirement. She tied a blue and a purple ribbon onto the bottom of her long plait, and crying her makeup away, she walked out of the door.

The girl remembered, with a little help from me of course, that usually, people took flowers to a funeral. Panicking once more, she tried to hide her pain and search for the nearest flower shop. What she found instead was a little gift shop, hidden at the back of an alleyway. In the window, she noticed a glass heart, swirled blue, lilac, and pink. She went inside to buy the item, along with a cards that said ‘I love you to the moon and back’, and ‘A true friend sees the first tear, catches the second, and stops the third.’ Running, as she was now late, she climbed on a bus to the funeral. On the back of the cards she wrote,
‘I love you, you’re an amazing little super star. My heart won’t last long without my big sister beside my side. Always and forever, I’m sorry I didn’t get to say goodbye. I’m sorry I couldn’t fix it. I’ll miss you honey.’

She was alone. She hadn’t realised it until now, but upon entering the church for the funeral, she realised that she was alone. She was surprised that she was able to hold off the years long enough to place the heart on her bet friend’s chest, and the cards next to the coffin. She sat, quietly at the back, disappearing into her seat, and dissolving into tears. Nobody sat beside her.

Of course, I didn’t allow her to remember explicit details of the funeral, and for a while, I don’t think that she paid much attention. What caught the attention of the young girl was when the question was put out as to if anyone else had anything that they’d like to say. She wasn’t sure why, but the girl wiped her eyes, and walked to the front.

“Hello, I’m sorry that I didn’t prepare this beforehand, I didn’t know that this would be an opportunity, and I’ve also never been much of one to talk, even if I had known. However, there’s a few things today that I think I’d like to say, so please bare with me. One week ago, we lost a very special person from this earth, and I lost my best friend. She was a beautiful, strong willed, and caring person. I may have only known her for four years, but she’s changed me, and made me into who I am today. She’s picked me up when I’m sad, and she’s held me when I thought that there was nothing left. She’s smiled with me too, and she’s laughed. We’ve had fun, we’ve leant on each other, and we loved each other, unconditionally. It’s sad that we had to loose such an amazing person. It’s sad that she let this consume her so much, that she lost touch with the world, and died so tragically. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye, in fact, I didn’t get to say goodbye at all, and I’m sure that many of you didn’t either. But she wouldn’t have wanted us to sit and mope. She would have wanted us to support one another in our journey of growth, to move on, and to continue with our lives. That will be hard, but my best friend will always be loved, especially by me. She wouldn’t have wanted us to forget, and I’ll never forget. Without her, the prospect of survival seems impossible. She made a promise to be here always and forever, but now they’ll be no more smile to light up my days, and I’ll miss her. It’s like I’ve lost a sister, and it’s heartbreaking, but I know that tonight, when I look at the sky, I’ll spot the brightest star in the sky, and I’ll know that she would have wanted me to be happy. It’ll be hard, and there will be lots to fight. Without her by my side, mountains will be taller, and paths longer, but I urge you to look for a star, and I urge you all to remember her as the beautiful and clever girl that she was, not the demons that we saw take the real her away in her last few days.”

I didn’t tell the girl to talk, and I’m not sure why she did, but it ruined my plan for her. I couldn’t take her now, and I did not see the girl again for many years. She lived a life of heartache, and pain, but she survived on the knowledge that her best friend would have been angry if she had died for her. At the age of sixty, however, things got too much for the girl. I took her to join her best friend on the 40th anniversary of her friend’s death. That day, I made the memory of the hospital just a little bit strong, and the girl surrendered to me. The heartache and pain that she’d hidden from everyone for so long was just too much. Whilst she may have looked like she’d coped with the death of her friend, the wounds were getting deeper by the day. She couldn’t last forever, and soon, it was my turn to take her, too.

I’m very lucky to be able to say that this is a story, but it’s a story based on a very true fear. I don’t tell tales much, but this time, I simply had to share. Read, contemplate, and reflect.


Is it lack of care, or understanding?

A friend came to visit me last weekend, and she told me the unfortunate news that her grandma had died.

It got me thinking. It got me thinking about mental health. I was thinking about her mental health and how this death may have affected her. The day before, I’d also written to a friend who has just been released from an eating disorder clinic. All this thinking got me down, and a little worked up. I got home, my flat mate text me, and I told her that I was taking a little time out to be in my room.

She continued to text me. I told her about my four friends. I told her about the eating disorders, the depression, the self harm, the attempted suicide, and the rape. I mentioned no names, and I wasn’t specific about who and what. The talking didn’t help. I got emotional, and I got worked up. She just didn’t get it.

I’m slowly realising that sometimes, it’s not that people don’t care, they simply don’t understand. ‘Why would anyone self harm?’ she said. ‘It’s just so selfish.’ I wasn’t in the mood to explain, but I tried. Explaining by text isn’t easy, and still, she didn’t get it. Unless you’ve lived through it, I’m not sure you ever can get it. Even I, as someone supporting people going through it, cannot ‘get it’ completely.

It made me realise though, perhaps those people who don’t do anything do care, they just don’t understand. They don’t understand that this isn’t chosen, and that it’s not something that will cure itself.

I told her about leavers and I told her that I’d tried to tell adults and I told her how worried I was. Still, I said no names. I told my flat mate about the mother who denied her child’s eating disorder. The people that didn’t believe me when I nearly messed up my friendship by making a desperate cry for someone to help her.

My flat mate couldn’t understand why the adults wouldn’t listen. But I think that my flat mate has helped me to understand. These people are just not sure what they can do. It can be tricky to help someone when you know that in all honesty, they don’t really want to be helped. It can be tricky to try and help, because in helping, you take some responsibility. Taking responsibility for something that is so destructive and you know that you’re going to struggle to change can be hard. I know. Because I’ve been trying to help for months.

Five minutes later, after drying my eyes and breathing deeply, I walked out of my room. It just so happened that my flat mate walked out at the same time. She smiled. ‘Ready to make dinner?’ ‘Yeah,’ I said.

We have an unspoken rule, I thought. We only have deep conversations by text.

And this could be very dangerous.

It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

‘Mum suggested that we go and light a candle at the church?’
‘What do you think? Do you want to light a candle? I can light one for my grandad too?’
My parents went to spread the ashes of my grandad today. I couldn’t go. I had a guiding training this morning, and I don’t really think my dad thought that me going was a good idea anyway. I knew that today would be hard on my own, and so I arranged to have coffee this afternoon with one of my best friends. And afterwards, just as her mum suggested, we went to the church together. She lit her candle. I lit my candle. The silence was beautiful. The memories, the grief. I broke down. But my friend was there. She held my hand, she wiped away my tears. She told me that it will get easier. I really hope so. And I trust her, because she has helped me thorough so much already the past three years. And for today, I say thank you. RIP Grandad. Forever in our hearts.

Living. Laughing. Loving.