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Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Year Of Mourning

I woke up last year, much like I woke up today; reaching for my alarm at 7a.m., remembering that it was my fiance's birthday. I was a bit frazzled as I rushed to shower, get ready, and prep what little I could for dinner that night. Luis is one of two people whose birthdays I always work to make extra special and memorable. In my haste, I never had even the slightest notion that I would spend the next year caught off guard each time I was faced with the sickening feeling of my stomach that often comes with a huge drop on a roller coaster. Later that night, gifts were handed out, dinner was served and now it was time to blow out the candles signifying each of the twenty-four years since he had been born. But, there is always that sick, dark, ironic twist- isn't there? Only twenty minutes away, the young woman whom I had asked to stand up at my upcoming wedding as my maid-of-honour was counting down her last minutes. I will never know what she was thinking as she prepared to take her own life, in a way that I can only imagine must have been absolutely terrifying.

To this day, I still listen to the voicemail from another person who is also long gone, calling to tell me that I had better rush to the hospital because the odds were not good. I'll tell you, those crushing moments you see on TV where the person falls to the floor in a moment of shock after losing a loved one are absolutely real. The emergency room floor, right in front of the security desk, with a dozen ailing patients is never ideal. With some assistance, I did eventually find myself somewhat upright, walking ahead of my fiance who was parking the car, unaware of the tragic blow we had all been dealt.

I have spent 366 days replaying in my head every moment of those two hours at the hospital. It's a lie when they tell you that death looks like sleep, because it doesn't. It looks like absolute torture, if you ask me. This was not the girl I had considered more than a best friend and more like a sister. Her hair was too thin, her polish too chipped, and the bruises were never there before. It's strange how it was so painfully obvious it was her, but at the same time it didn't look like her at all.

Lauren was the stronger of the two in our relationship. Stronger in that she was the one who ran for me in the second grade when a mean girl challenged me to a race. Stronger in the way she didn't cry when we tripped over a skateboard and she broke her leg in several places (which required surgery and a cast up to her hip!). Stronger because she was the one to comfort me through all my fits and tantrums growing up over fights with my parents and trouble in school. She was a stronger writer and reader as well. At first I was jealous of how incredibly bright she was, but then that jealousy became inspiration as it challenged me work harder. I spent my life looking at this girl through rose colored glasses that it was a shock to me a few years ago when she called me up, completely distraught.

As an adult she could no longer solve problems with a race on the playground or a well written essay. These were problems and dilemmas that she intended to keep secret for better or for worse. I would love to think that if she could have been picked up and dropped down in an entirely new life that she would have been okay, but the damage was done and it ran deep. She did still have goals and dreams, but they were for a future far off that she did not know how to create. She was caught up in the madness that eventually took over her, as well.

In the past year I have broken down in bridal dressing rooms, in the car, at home, in front of people, and in private. I have yet to learn how to manage the hurt I feel when I think of her and how empty life is in her absence. I have come to one solid conclusion, though. We should not start by working to prevent others from taking their own lives; instead, we should work to make life worth living.