We didn’t travel in the same circle. I was a ‘good girl’ a ‘smart kid.’ She was a ‘push the envelope’ kind of person and into sports. Her life seemed to be kind of rough around the edges from the start, while mine was sheltered… and for all intents and purposes, when compared with the early heartache of others, ‘easy.’
We were in the same Brownie Troop. If memory serves correctly, her Mom took on the leadership of it. We met in the smokey American Legion, and earned badges, and had Santa Claus come for visits, and we all sort of grew out of taking it seriously at once.
We had adjacent rooms for our trip to Washington D.C. in 8th Grade where we lived out our own Breakfast Club experience. The ‘Push the Envelope’ crowd and the ‘Nerdy, Goody-Goody Types’ ended up hanging out, finding common ground, having a lot of fun together for a few days. And it smacked me upside the head last night that I think I remember her taking too many pills one night, me wringing my hands in fear and wondering if we should get one of our sponsors, but for some (stupid) reason taking the word of her roommates who had evidently seen this happen more than a sheltered girl like me had. All the same we laughed late into several nights. We threw water balloons out our hotel window. Just like in the movie, it couldn’t last… completely. Still, my heart was changed towards these girls who traveled in a different crowd, but weren’t as different from me as I once thought. My heart felt more gracious to them. I hope my actions were more gracious toward them….
She tormented a good friend of mine in high school…. And I can remember times when I laughed even when I shouldn’t have because even when she was being mean, she was funny (which I feel so guilty about still), and times when I stuck up for my friend.
I feel all these awkward feelings thinking back on these relationships and the social rules that were writ large at our tiny little High School. Still somehow our class ended up being tremendously cliquey… But tremendously allied all at once. We drew together when the cards were down. We had our own cliques, but the biggest clique of all in some strange way was all of us.
I wonder about how she felt in High School. And how I felt. I wonder if my ‘goody-goodiness,’ my affiliation with the Christian Fellowship Clubs, my early evangelical zeal caused her and others to feel marginalized. I’ve always been quiet, and seemed aloof because I really am a little socially inept, and I fear that came off as snobby or ‘too good’ for those in the ‘push the envelope’ crowd. Mostly, I didn’t feel that. Mostly I just felt afraid of myself being out of control, and intimidated by those who courted that feeling. And mostly I just tried to walk the tight-rope of the high school version of ‘always do the right thing.’
She was unapologetically who she was. Always. But I can’t help but wonder if that was part of the pain she carried.
Last night, thanks to the quirks of small towns and Facebook, I found out that she died. She committed suicide. People are telling me she hung herself, and I keep thinking… You have to really want it to go that way. And that makes my heart hurt.
I’m shaken. I’m sad. I am feeling from the West Coast the incredible void now left in the midwest because she left us.
I’m haunted by her pain. I’m haunted by the loss. I’m haunted by the questions that I have. I’m haunted by wringing my hands wondering if I was one who made life harder for her or easier. Brennan Manning says there is no neutral encounter. We either push people closer to God, or farther away. I’m unsure of those High School Days… Which way I might have pushed people.
I was never a close friend. I don’t want to invite myself into this grief in a way I don’t deserve and in a level of intimacy I haven’t earned. But still I am shaken. I am sad.
Most of all I’m sad that this beautiful, funny girl is gone. That she felt so much pain that she knew no way out. I know the distorted voices of depression and I’m so upset that no light was able to pierce through. I hope and I pray that in God’s graciousness she is finding the love and acceptance that she longed for… that her pain is wiped away… that she is at peace.