As I was catching up on Facebook today, I was reminded by my oldest friend about the anniversary of a dear friend's passing 8 years ago.
Jessica Ann Stinson... September 19, 1977- October 4, 2003.
Jessica and I were the best of friends starting our sophomore year. Before I really knew her, I always knew of her. Everyone knew Jess. She was the smiling-est person I ever had seen. She had the BEST laugh and if she was laughing, everyone was laughing, it was so contagious. She was the most loyal friend anyone could ever ask for, fiercely protective of her friends and someone who could brighten any room she came into. If I remember correctly, it wasn't a party until she walked in.
We were inseparable sophomore and junior year. She was there for the meeting of my very first "real" boyfriend and again when I met my future husband. She and I were only children and we connected in a way I never had with any other friends. We were "twinsies" with long, blond, permed hair that could poke your eye out if you stood too close due to all the gel and hairspray. Occasionally, we'd even accidentally where the same outfit to school. Looking back, I'm sure we were somewhat annoying in that respect, but I thought we were pretty cool.
After high school, I moved to NE with Craig to attend cosmetology school. It wasn't until I moved back, that I found out that Jessica had an eating disorder. Was I blind to it? Had it come on recently, or had it always been there and she just was very good about hiding it? Jessica had somewhat major self-esteem issues, though you'd never know it unless you really knew her. I remember all of us trying to talk to her about her problems with food, but Jessica was very secretive and it had gotten to the point where it was the elephant in the room no one ever would mention.
The last time I saw Jessica was around the time I got married. She had gotten really into drinking (among other things) and the last time I saw her we had taken her home from a friend's wedding that she was in and had to break into her house, because she couldn't find her key. From that point on, I only ever talked to her on the phone. I'd hear about how skinny she had gotten, I'd hear from her when she'd be admitted to in-patient rehab for eating disorders. I remember talking to my mom about what was happening with her, and she would say that if she didn't turn this around, the next time I saw her would be at her funeral.
Mom was right.
I got a call from my mom, telling me that Jessica's aunt had looked through Jessica's phone numbers and found my home phone number. Of course, that was my parents house by that time since I was out of the house married and now a mother. So, it was Mom who delivered the news... Jessica had committed suicide. She finally had put an end to her pain, once and for all.
Anyone whose lost someone to suicide can tell you the emotions are a blur. First, it's disbelief. Then it's anger. Then it's self blame. Then it's regret.
The regret and self blame was because I was so wrapped up in my own life and enjoying what I had, that I never truly reached out to Jessica. I would think, "Gosh... it's just so hard to be friends with someone who is killing themselves." The pity I felt for her turned into annoyance, and I couldn't be bothered with her problems. If I had taken the time to put some effort into being the kind of friend she needed, maybe it could have saved her. Instead, I lived my own life with Jessica as a sad sidebar.
One thing I still be proud of in my actions, was no matter how upset and annoyed I'd get by Jessica's phone calls and how much I just wanted her to get better and move on, I still always ended our phone calls saying "I love you too."
But that's not a lot to be proud of.
The day of Jessica's funeral, my friend Kelly and I stood up and said some nice things about Jessica. Honestly, I think it was to make myself feel better about not being a good enough friend to her. I can't speak for Kelly. But I do believe I did my best to honor her in at least her after life.
That day was also very difficult, because my mom was having surgery to remove the cancer from her leg. I didn't know where I should be, I was torn. Mom told me to go to the funeral, that sitting around waiting for the surgery to be done wasn't going to help me deal with my friend's passing.
The tie that binded my mom and Jessica was growing longer...
The next year, on Jessica's birthday, my mama went to heaven too.
I like to think that both of them have forgiven me for not being there for them as much as I should have. Maybe I'm the one who needs to forgive myself.
Thank you Kelly for reminding me of this day. I knew it was coming or maybe it had passed. My mind blocked the specific date, but now I will always remember.
One thing Jessica always wanted was her friend around her. So, yes, Kelly.... getting together to remember her would be great and also to re-connect because that was always something Jessica yearned for.
Good bye my dear friend.