Image by Mr Bultitude via Flickr
A friend of the older girls disappeared earlier this week setting off a fast, frantic furious search launched by concerned friends via social media and flyers plastered on buildings in an ever-widening circle.
She hadn’t shown up for work. Her car was missing but her cell phone was not.
I didn’t know her but for a handful of encounters at the house she shared for a time with Edie. She smiled but looked away or down more than she looked at you. I chalked it up to shyness or the awkwardness of your roommate’s parents descending and upsetting the singular atmosphere of house-sharing as it exists among the young today.
Twenty and employment challenged, she’d settled into work at a nearby youth hostel. You would have noticed her had you seen her, long wild red locks, round cheeks and ethereal in a Renaissance Fair kind of way. She was beautiful in that fleeting way that we women never appreciate about ourselves until decades later when we run across old photographs and wonder why we didn’t see it when we looked in the mirror then.
She wasn’t missing long.
And when they found her, she was already gone.
She driven to mountains. It’s a city we always pass through on our way to the Okanagan. A destination whose significance was known only to her and it’s where she died.
Edie and Mick were postering at a local park when they heard the news. Friends were already gathering for a candlelight vigil. Edie posted it to her status on Facebook, the town crier of our modern life.
Rob was still out, driving the babysitter home. We’d been out to formal work function earlier.
I greeted Rob on the back porch with the news.
“How’s Edie taking it,” he asked.
“You should call her, ” I said.
I listened as she told him the news through choked sobs and sniffles. Worry on his face mixed with the urge to do and knowledge that “listening” was all he had to offer at the moment.
Mick has lost friends to suicide. He asked if she was okay. Edie said they were together. Dare was there and Silver was on his way. They would not be alone.
She noted that this would be her third funeral this year. She still is surprised by death. It didn’t strike close until she was an adult. That lulls some people I suppose. I was eight the first time, and it doesn’t surprise me anymore. The way it can come in waves, taking without regard to age and leaves you grappling with feelings and thoughts you try to avoid most times.
Edie told Rob that she’d just seen her friend a week ago.
“I didn’t see this coming,” it was hard to tell if that was surprise or self-recrimination.
“It’s so hard to understand,” he said.
It is. In cases when there are mental health issues evident, serious mental illness, there is at least something concrete. I taught in an at-risk program at my first middle school, and one of my favorite students lost his father to suicide. The group’s counselor and I took all his classmates to the funeral. The man had thrown himself in front of a train. I’d met him maybe just the once. Jon lived with his mother. His dad’s mother and sisters made sure he had plenty of supportive family around, but his father’s mental illness hung over him. He was afraid he’d end up like his dad, hearing voices and trying not to listen or do what they told him too.
At the funeral, the grandmother told the counselor and I that she was glad her son was at peace. The voices, she said, had plagued him since he was a small boy. He was just too tired to ignore them anymore.
But some people’s deaths can’t be pinned to obvious causes. They hide them in plain sight secure that their game faces are just like ours, or – perhaps – they just don’t have the strength to live in the world. It’s not really Eden after all or even property east of it. Some people just can’t imagine themselves far enough in the future to wade through the now. They tire. They slowly stop treading and go under, and we are too busy swimming ourselves to notice.
My late husband lost two friends to their own hands when he was in college. After the second, he was so distraught he thought about it himself. Loaded the shotgun even. What made him pick up the phone and call his best friend that night, he really didn’t know he said when he told me about this years later.
“If anyone knew what there was to live for, it was Wally,” he said.
He could have just as easily not called though and I would be somewhere else today. And it wasn’t as if anyone had an inkling of how he felt or what he planned to do. It was just … one of those fateful things that can’t be explained even in retrospect.
Edie’s friend left behind a mother, who’s devastation I could not bear to imagine, a boyfriend, a few extended family members and many, many friends who loved her and searched fervently for her – if only she had known, and maybe she didn’t take her phone because she couldn’t carry that knowledge with her where she needed to go.
Rest in peace, Kylen.