Friday, November 13, 2009

Putting One Foot in Front of the Other

I'm still not over the fact that Billy is gone. Quite frankly, I think something would be wrong with me if I were over it by now. On Saturday when I heard the news, I was in total shock. That shock slowly turned into a heavy weight, and it's one that has yet to be lifted.

Billy was the type of friend that I could pick up with no matter where we left off. The last time I saw her it was like time hadn't passed. She looked the same, smiled the same, acted the same, and therefore, our friendship was the same. It never went anywhere. Even while we were off exploring life after high school, our friendship foundation stood solid.

Maybe that's why I'm having such a hard time with this. Death is never easy, but a death you can't understand is never going to get easier to accept. They say there are some things that only time can heal, and I think the loss of Billy is one of them.

I didn't recognize her beautiful face at her Vigil. I didn't know the person in that casket. I'm haunted by that. Was her illness so grave that it distorted the way she appeared even in death? Or was her process of death so stressful on her body that it changed her body beyond the point of recognition? I wish I knew. The morbid, humanly curious side of me wants to know what happened when she was in that room all alone. I think a part of me needs to know so I can put to rest these haunting images I have. If it can be explained away, I'll feel better.

Except really, I won't.

Today, I really feel that Billy is at peace. It's like she is settling into her new existence. Her body has been blessed and buried in it's final resting place, and Billy is resting now too. Except this time she can rest without taking her little white and yellow pills. She can actually rest without worrying about what tomorrow is going to bring, and the next day and the next day. She finally found peace.

I wish I could. Isn't it strange how the person who leaves us behind gets to be a peace, while we suffer the loss? Ironic isn't it? And yet, Billy wanted peace so badly that even though I'm hurting, I can't blame her for ultimately seeking what she was so desperate for.

Mental illness is such a strange disease. It's not like cancer. You can visually see the effects of cancer on a person. And not to discount cancer because it is a horrible disease (any disease that takes a human life is horrible), but I'm just trying to say that it's more difficult to see how mental illness can destroy a person. It's like the silent demon that haunts and torments.

I keep thinking of all the wonderful things people have had to say about Billy over the past week. And yes, we tend to memorialize the dead through words of compassion because that's what we do. We're human and that's what helps us to cope. But the kind words people had to say about Billy were so touching because they were true. They really were honestly true in her case. She loved with passion, she lived with passion, and she never failed to let anyone know that she cared about them. It's so heartbreaking to know that such an angelic person (despite her sailor mouth and sporadic nuances) was haunted by such demons. I think she fought the best she could, and in the end made a self sacrificing decision in what she thought was the best judgement, for her husband and two girls.

I fear these demons myself at times. Although I can safely say that I have not experienced half of what Billy ever went through, I do know I have felt empty, alone, and sad. But who hasn't right? I guess my question is how big is the grey area? Obviously mental illness isn't black or white. I think so many symptoms of this type of disease are also common symptoms of an anxiety or depression that we have all felt and one point or another in our lives. We're human. We're not always up, and we're not always down. But how do you know when these "common symptoms" become not so common and set you aside from "normal" emotions?

It's a scary thing. And I'm sure Billy was scared too. But because she completed suicide, and because she was such a strong-willed, determined person, a part of me has to acknowledge her courage. I would be afraid to be lying in a bed alone in some psychiatric unit and having thoughts about my death. I would scare myself to actually wrap bed sheets around my neck and stare death in the face. Billy wasn't. Perhaps she was so desperate for peace that the fear was not as great as the will to find eternal rest. Perhaps her decision brought her this peace and she knew it was the right thing for her. And perhaps she was so certain that this was the best thing for her family (although I would disagree with her) that she wasn't afraid of what she was about to do.

I wonder if before she prepared to die, if she thought about what her funeral would be like, who would be there, who would weep, and where they would lay her body to rest. I wonder if she thought about these things or even cared. And maybe she put all her faith and trust in her husband knowing that whatever he chose for her would be perfect.

I won't apologize for writing these thoughts down. I'm being perfectly honest in what has been running through my mind all week (among more positive thoughts and memories of her, and trying to understand all this). I am just trying to cope I suppose, and this is one way I'm trying to do so.

Although there is so much I don't know about Billy's death, I do know that in her death she taught me that the only thing that's really important while we're here on Earth are the relationships we have with the people in our lives. How much we love them, how much we let them know we love them, how generous we are with them, and how we make them feel. Billy was a generous friend to me. She always had an ear or a helping hand. She always had a hug, a laugh and a smile. I hope when my time comes, whenever that may be, I will leave behind the kind of relationships with others that I had with Billy. And I do find comfort in having learned this lesson. I just wish it didn't take death in which to learn.

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