Second Thoughts & Paper Hearts: Remembering Dave, 15 Years Later

Monday, February 10, 2020

"I always thought it was weird that you wrote about him so much," a friend admitted to me recently. "I just felt like... it was so long ago, hasn't she moved on? But now I feel guilty for ever thinking that. I get it now."

My friend's words, just a few months ago, frankly spoke to one of my deepest fears when it comes to my writing about my late boyfriend, Dave, who died by suicide in 2005: "Hasn't she moved on? Why does she still have so many feelings?"

I worry, sometimes, that I look like a crazy person for talking about it over & over again, year after year, 15 years later.

Fifteen years later. Today.

But it's not crazy to have loved. It's not crazy to retain fond memories of that love throughout the decades, long after that love has gone - & especially when that love has left you in such a painful & unexpected way. (Look, would I still be writing about my high school boyfriend, at age 35, were he alive & well & living out in the world somewhere? Almost certainly not; God, I hope not. That's weird.)

But to remember love lost, to honor a life lost, to reflect on the ways that someone's life & death changed your fundamental existence... that's not weird. That is very, very normal. And I just happen to be a little bit better at words than a lot of the people who have experienced very, very similar losses & who I know have very, very similar feelings that they are unable to express on their own.

And so I want you to know: I write for him, & I write for me. But I also write for you, whoever you are, for you who are struggling or who have struggled or who will struggle. I write so that you will know that he was him, & I am me, but also that, if you're going through this too, well, we are we. And our stories matter.

I write to convey that for those of us left behind, there is life after suicide. It is a long, difficult, dark road; it is a lonely road riddled with guilt & grief & "What if?" It is sadness & struggle & remembering & recovering & rebuilding, continually, on a loop. It does not go away.

But it does, as they say, get better. If you let it. If you are open to it. If you seek it out, if you try like hell, if you do the work, if you ask for help. It gets better if you make it better. It gets better if you allow yourself to get better.

Dave died 15 years ago today, & not a day goes by that I don't remember him in some small way. I bear his tattoo on my wrist; I display his photo on my desk. He is as much a part of me as my fingerprints & my birth date & the scar across my eyebrow. He is inextricably woven throughout the fabric of my being, of my formation, of the person I was & the person I am & maybe even the person I will still eventually become.

In time, Dave's story has become my story, just as his death became my rebirth. I will continue to talk about him because I cannot let myself forget that before he died, he lived - & I feel a responsibility to keep reminding the world that he could've lived, that life today is unrecognizable from life 15 years ago, that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary place in time.

I write about Dave, still, because I can't not write about Dave. I write about Dave - his story & my own & the places where they become one & the same - because that is what my soul requires of me, what my hands do on their own, what my brain creates whether I am awake or asleep or conscious or trying to conceal my feelings from the world or even from myself.

And if you want the truth, I will tell it to you, as painful as it still is to admit that it exists: I write about Dave because I feel, still, that I owe it to him. Because even now, 15 years & so much healing later, some small part of me - a part that is maybe not actually that small - remembers all too clearly the way that I, at age 17, let him down & broke his heart & contributed to the shattering of his soul.

I write about Dave because it is the only apology I can ever give him. I write about Dave because it is both my responsibility and my punishment. I write about Dave because I can make something good & strong & brave & powerful out of something terrible - maybe even something helpful.

And above all else, I write because I am a storyteller, because I was born this way & made this way & will never cease to be this way, & because for as long as I am here, Dave's story will be the story that feels most important for me to tell - for him, for me, for you, & for anyone who needs it.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please reach out. In the U.S., help is available 24/7 by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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