Remembering faces

Memories and the morning after

His face is fading.

Years ago, a gymnastics teammate invited me to his dorm for Thanksgiving dinner. It was fun but uneventful; the typical thanksgiving turkey and green beans and an above average pie-to-person ratio. I barely remember who was there or what happened.

He killed himself a few weeks later. That, I do remember.

I remember how furious I felt.

How sad.

How helpless.

And yet his face is fading; I'm starting to forget.

Every year I write this as a rememberance. This year has been hard, and we could all use some kindness - to others and to ourselves.

Suicide is still stigmatised and depression downplayed. We like to think of depression as weakness, and that only failures get depressed. Yet, consider this list:

Something they have in common? They're all tremendously successful.

Another thing they have in common? They've all had depression.

I'm not going to cite stats or experts this time; we all know it's a societal issue. Sometimes we just need a reminder to remember.

If you're suffering from depression, know that you're not alone and it's not your fault. We don't blame cancer victims; cancer and depression are both illnesses.

If you're feeling suicidal, please seek out help. Friends and family might not realise what you are going through.

Don't want to talk to your friends? The US suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255

Don't even want to talk on the phone? Text 741 741

And if you're lucky enough to live life without falling sick, know that some of your friends might be secretly suffering. This talk is helpful for understanding what they're feeling. Look out for them, be there for them, and remember them.

I may not remember his face much longer.

But I remember him.

"The morning after I killed myself, I woke up.

I made myself breakfast in bed. I added salt and pepper to my eggs and used my toast for a cheese and bacon sandwich. I squeezed a grapefruit into a juice glass. I scraped the ashes from the frying pan and rinsed the butter off the counter. I washed the dishes and folded the towels.

The morning after I killed myself, I fell in love. Not with the boy down the street or the middle school principal. Not with the everyday jogger or the grocer who always left the avocados out of the bag. I fell in love with my mother and the way she sat on the floor of my room holding each rock from my collection in her palms until they grew dark with sweat. I fell in love with my father down at the river as he placed my note into a bottle and sent it into the current. With my brother who once believed in unicorns but who now sat in his desk at school trying desperately to believe I still existed.

The morning after I killed myself, I walked the dog. I watched the way her tail twitched when a bird flew by or how her pace quickened at the sight of a cat. I saw the empty space in her eyes when she reached a stick and turned around to greet me so we could play catch but saw nothing but sky in my place. I stood by as strangers stroked her muzzle and she wilted beneath their touch like she did once for mine.

The morning after I killed myself, I went back to the neighbors’ yard where I left my footprints in concrete as a two year old and examined how they were already fading. I picked a few daylilies and pulled a few weeds and watched the elderly woman through her window as she read the paper with the news of my death. I saw her husband spit tobacco into the kitchen sink and bring her her daily medication.

The morning after I killed myself, I watched the sun come up. Each orange tree opened like a hand and the kid down the street pointed out a single red cloud to his mother.

The morning after I killed myself, I went back to that body in the morgue and tried to talk some sense into her. I told her about the avocados and the stepping stones, the river and her parents. I told her about the sunsets and the dog and the beach.

The morning after I killed myself, I tried to unkill myself, but couldn’t finish what I started." - Meggie Royer

In memory of Hunter Smith