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Death of my Good Friend
by Charissa Struble

It’s hard to explain what goes through your mind when you watch them lower a friend into the ground for the first time. It’s almost as if for a brief instant everything in time stands still but you. You can feel your heart beating in your chest rhythmically as the tears in your eyes blur the scenery around you. Your breath resembles that of an asthmatic. The air that you suck in passes through your lips in exasperated gasps and you fight hard to steady yourself on buckling knees. Your throat grows tight and sore from the tears you’ve held inside. You fight hard to remain composed while your soul cries and mourns for your loss.

You lose count of the people who are at the funeral. Some of them are your friends but they are strangely unrecognizable. Sadness and disbelief mark their young faces, making them look years older. Somewhere deep inside yourself lies the feeling that you made a mistake. Something you left unsaid. Something you did wrong. Your mind scrambles to come up with ways to fix the situation. You fix everything! Your brain pounds against your skull, causing your head to ache fiercely. You try to find a place to begin but it’s impossible. Your time has come.

This isn’t a beginning. It’s an end and it’s spiraling out of control. Life as you know it will never be the same. You hate the preacher and the way she talks about your friend like she knows her. She doesn’t know her and you want to tell her this! You stifle the anger that is ravaging your body. There is no comfort in her words but you find some in the ritual. You know where you are supposed to stand. You know when to cry. You know when to pray. Even your exit is planned.

You wear purple as a silent tribute to her. It was her favorite color and she looked lovely in it. Now, as it lies against her pale white skin, you find yourself wanting to change into another dress. You never buy purple again.

Months pass and visions of her fill your thoughts and dreams. Her desk at school remains empty as if it is waiting for her to come back. Her locker was cleaned out long ago. Among her belongings was a poem she wrote for the boy she liked. It too lies waiting, as the boy has gone on to be a man.

It is months before you visit the cemetery again. Summer is approaching and a warm breeze whips around you causing your skin to prickle with goose bumps. You always feel uneasy when visiting places like this and this time it’s no different. You lay plastic flowers on an already forgotten grave. Your blood boils when you remember how packed the church was on the day of her funeral. A solitary cross marks the life of a young girl lost. You vow to come back everyday to water her grave and bring fresh flowers but alas the teenage years prove to be difficult. You’re only fourteen. You can’t drive yet and the cemetery lies five miles outside of town.

You wonder what she’d be like if she were alive today. There were so many things left unsaid. You had so many memories to share! What would she have looked like in a prom dress? Would her long red hair flow freely down her back or would she pin it up in tight little curls on the top of her head? Would she have gone on to college or marry her high school crush? Would you have gotten to meet her children and carry their pictures in your wallet? Alas, there are no answers when they’re gone. The future always looks bright for those who die young.

Ten years later, you can’t get her out of your head. You carry around pieces of her with you as you go. You remember her laugh and the way her smile lit up a room. You reflect on the way she was happy just being herself and you vow to never let another person go so easily. You beg and plead with yourself to never take a thing for granted. You love like no one has loved before. It is because of this, because of her, that you breathe easier and sleep more soundly at night. You hug your loved ones tighter. You embrace life with enthusiasm and become drunk with the little things. You know what it’s like to suffer a great loss. You know what it feels like to be in pain. You know what a terrible sacrifice it was. You fill book after book with poems to commemorate her. You say her name at every given moment. You try to make it up to her by remembering. You try to make up for the dried out grave and lack of flowers. You try to take back all your unkind words. You make it up to her by remembering. You learn to be more patient. You smile easier. You love harder. You make it up to her by remembering.

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