What’s life without writing? Words create a mood, initiate feelings and sometimes lead to healing. I’ve been writing my entire life to feel something other than the turmoil, fear and pain that follows close to me nearly every day. Poetry, stories, novellas, articles and lately, memoir.
I’ve always loved memoir and nonfiction, but over the years I gravitated to fiction. I love creating worlds and characters. I love the escape. But over the last year, I’ve been going back to what I enjoyed writing during my college years. Nonfiction. Memoir. Biography. Real stories. So when it was time for NaNoWriMo last year, I knew memoir would be my project.
But it wasn’t quite what I expected. I found myself writing essays about different parts of my life and all the people who have affected me in one way or another. I wrote about my kind, amazing uncle Lou who passed away, I believe, before his time. I wrote about my aunt Irene, who also passed away before her golden years. I wrote about our complicated relationship, remembering both good times and bad. I wrote other essays about past jobs, my writing journey and my spiritual journey.
And I wrote about Connie. This essay wasn’t planned and I love that about writing. I don’t usually plan much anyway, so one day while I was writing about my first job in a veterinary office, I stopped and felt compelled to remember my dear friend. A friend who lives on in my heart, someone I will always love and thank for giving me five awesome years of friendship. I’d like to share this essay here as I wrote it in November, unedited.
I remember Connie. I remember that day, seeing her crying in her car. She couldn’t even look at me. She wouldn’t get out of the car. I didn’t know how bad she was. I didn’t understand. And I failed. I failed as a human being, as a friend, as a Christian.
See, she did finally get out of her car and we had lunch. I remember bits and pieces about it. I remember she had chicken tenders and she picked at them at best, trying to hold a friend conversation with me. She was always a good friend. Even that day, when she was in such bad shape, she asked me about what was happening in my life. She did care, even if she couldn’t put her usual one hundred percent into it.
And I talked to her. I tried to ask her questions, encourage her, support her. We took a walk after lunch and I remember feeling determined to help her. I wanted to help my friend. So I told her we needed to get together more. To talk, to have fun, to be friends. Since we didn’t work together anymore, and I had gotten married, our time was cut by more than half. But I wanted to change that. I knew she needed to get out, she needed to socialize and love life again. I wanted to be a part of that. This was my amazing friend Connie. The fearless, smart, fun woman I had grown to love and respect. But she was hurting. She was in a dark place.
I didn’t know how dark until that weekend.
I guess I’ve mostly lived a sheltered life. I’ve suffered with family problems and some abandonment and I’ve been through heartache and grief, but up until that early October day, I hadn’t experienced a pain that struck me and would stay with me to haunt me to the present day.
There was an accident, Brian told me. Connie’s gone.
And I knew right then that my heart and soul knew what my mind would not accept just a few days earlier when I saw her for the last time. When I watched her drive away in her little silver Hyundai, not knowing that I’d never see her smile again or hear her laugh or know her special friendship.
I should’ve done better. I should’ve been a better friend. I failed her. And, being the depressed, anxious person I was, I should’ve known. But Connie was stronger than me, or so I thought. I remember telling her how strong she was and she said she would hold on, that she wouldn’t do that to her daughter. I believed she would make it through the darkness. That day, I believed it.
But she didn’t make it. We never had that date we had planned. I would never help her again, or try to help her. She was gone. A beautiful light in the world forever extinguished by her own hand.
It struck me in a way I can’t accurately describe. I had never lost a loved one to suicide. But in everything I ever heard or read, I wasn’t prepared for the intense anguish, guilt and anger I felt. I wanted to punch something, scream and yell at her. Yes, I wanted to yell at her. I wanted Connie to come see me in my dream so we could talk. And I wanted to lash out. Why didn’t you wait? You said you would’t do that. I was here for you! I can’t take the pain! We all want you back!
But she never entered my dreams, never came back to me at all. All I have left are a lot of memories and a few pictures of our five-year friendship. It wasn’t enough. I couldn’t heal. I didn’t know how to. I wrote about it in my journal, crafted poems, listened to music, talked to Brian who had lost several people to suicide, but nothing worked. And then I remembered something an old friend told me about her brother. You have no idea the pain of losing someone you love to suicide. There are no words. And you never get over it.
That was it. I felt those words. I was living those words. And they were crushing me. So I did what I always do when there’s an avalanche of pain crushing me–I wrote about it.
It was getting close to NaNoWriMo, and this would be the second year I signed up to participate. And I had a character, a setting and a theme that I was absolutely obsessed with. And the title was so easy–Bring Me to Life–for the beautiful and haunting Evanescence song that Connie heard when we were in a karaoke bar one night. She was entranced by the music and the lyrics. Her face said she was in another place, another time. I’ll never forget it. So I listened to that song after I lost her and tried to feel her presence there. And I did. That was her song. And I would write my story based on my thoughts and pain I was enduring from her loss.
Bring Me to Life was born that November in 2012, and it was and will probably always be my favorite story. I put so much of myself in that novel. I put Connie in there. I put everything I had learned, everything I was and wanted to be. It was realistic, sad and hopeful. It was for Connie.
In January 2018, I self-published Bring Me to Life, my debut novella. It was terrifying, but I’m so happy I did it. And you know what? It wasn’t just a gift for Connie. No. I believe it was also a gift from her. I believe she loved me and helped me make something positive and inspiring from her passing. Without the pain and loss, I probably wouldn’t have created such a strong piece of fiction. It was real. Bring Me to Life is me and Connie, our gift to each other.
Wherever she is, and I pray she’s at peace with the Lord, I know we’ll always have our friendship, as short as it was. Because it doesn’t matter how long you love someone–it only matters how well you loved them. How strong a connection you have. Connie was meant to be in my life for those five years, and I’ve been holding her close in my heart since the day she left this world.
Thank you, my dear friend, for giving me your caring, your friendship, trust, loyalty and inspiring me to be stronger, smarter and proud of who I am. It’s not usually easy for me, but I remember everything, Connie. I remember everything. And I’ll never forget.
I pray your soul is sleeping someplace warm.
**If you’re curious about the lyrics in the haunting and beautiful song by Evanescence, click here.
**And if you’d like to check out Bring Me to Life, click here.