Life Stands Still

Tim Messenger

Even as I sit here, my mind wanders to a day when the world around me changed. Yet did not. It's been 5 years since I attended my first funeral for a friend.

The memories of the girl assigned by pure random luck to sit infront of me my Freshman year still flood my mind. Her inside-out sweatshirt, maroon backpack and various bottles of lotion and other necessities still hold such meaning. I could sit and write a whole novel about her and the days spent in that early World History class. I remember the first day I spent behind her, shoulder length brown hair, glasses only slightly thicker than my own and that damn maroon backpack Over time I began to realize that deep inside I felt a love for the girl who I used to torment. Many a time I pondered the possibilities of asking her out, but I was always discouraged by my own negative thoughts. Even though we never hung out or even talked outside the school's perimeter, I considered her to be one of my good friends. To me it was a bond that was made without in-depth conversation or passionate nights on a parent's porch or the backseat of a car. I can't even put into words the love and barrage of feelings I felt and do still feel for her. But as always things changed and the semester ended, thus ending our classroom neighbor relationship. After that semester I rarely saw her, maybe a brief glimpse here and there. But never any situation that could spur a conversation.

October 21st 1994, definitely one of the worst nights of my life. Myself and the rest of the paintball team went to a local shop to pick up some new gear. Most of the car ride was spent fighting over what music to listen to; no one seemed to appreciate my taste for industrial and the such.

With the shopping spree over, I proceeded directly to my friend's house 2 blocks over to watch the X-Files. During the last 10 minutes of the show my friend's older brother came home from his soccer game. Insert his opening sentence here: "Did you hear about Jodi Kincaid? She killed herself!"

Flashback 25 hours, a girl had taken her own life. Nothing that rocked my boat, I had never met the girl. Sad nonetheless, but just didn't hit home. Now, forward to the night in question. It took a few minutes to sink in, then the shock hit and I went home. As I walked into my grandparent's house, they started to ask if I had heard the news. I didn't even respond, just walked upstairs and sat on the floor of my room. The weekend was spent with no sleep and no food. Everytime I tried to sleep or closed my eyes for any lengthy amount of time, the rest was shattered by the image of her final decision.

Monday mourning. An announcement was made by our principal about the 2nd suicide. I arrived at my third class and the next thing I knew my teacher, who was one of the coolest teachers I ever had, was walking me and my friend Susie to the gym. During the walk, not a word was spoken. Her cries and my solemn face were words on their own. The gym was full of people I didn't know, and who didn't know about my feelings for her. The sounds of people crying and sobbing were deafening. I sat down with a group of people I didn't know. Soon it was my turn to talk; my response was a glare and a face full of sorrow. The discussion skipped me and moved on to others who felt like talking. Little did I know, most of my free time during the rest of High School would be spent with a handful of the people that encompassed me on the rubbery gym floor. I went to find my best friend, his class was in the before mentioned World History Room. And just my luck her old seat was empty, no one assigned to it. I listened to a boy next to me confess a crush, I understood, but at the same time I felt so much more than your average crush for her. It was a love of some sorts. A girl I knew kept trying to stay in her state of disbelief, saying: "Her arms were too short, how could she pull the trigger?". Others recalled stories of field trips and days in class, but I stayed silent and suffered internally. People sobbed and tears fell.

April 21st 1997, once again I was summoned to say goodbye to a friend. He died alone in his bed on the floor. This brought back all the pain and memories of the first time I experienced death and just added to its weight. Not the death of a relative but of a peer, someone I grew with, suffered with during school and had fun with. The usual lot of friends and some new faces arrived before myself. I stood outside the funeral home and chain-smoked, refusing to go inside and accept the fact that the same guy I ran around in the rain with and yelled at yuppies with was lying in a metal box inside.

After all the brain-numbing nicotine settled and I no longer felt the need to vomit, I walked in. As the door opens, the familiar sights and sounds of people in grief flooded my senses. Mazzy Star was echoing from the speakers, definitely can't go in. After a few tears and the finale of the song has passed, I walked in to the viewing room. Rivers of tears fell again from faces I knew and loved. The pain of watching people sob and hugging mass groups of your best friends while they shake and cry is almost unbearable. Many-a-time I was one of those people in a group sobbing and crying.

The time I spent staring at my friend and holding his hand for the last-time seemed to be over in a flash. Soon the night was over and the next day had begun. I watched as they lowered him down and I began to break down at the speed of light. But thankfully friends were there to help me along.

I don't have a reason why I wrote about this funeral more than hers, maybe shock, maybe the first is too private of a memory. One only I can have, where the words of her suicide note brought shock-filled tears to my eyes with every letter. Maybe, just maybe if I would have had the courage to pursue that love I felt none of this ever would have happened. That's something I'll have to live with for the rest of my life.

January 26th 1999, the last funeral for a friend. This was by far the least painful of the three. The long battle with Leukemia, the pain finally ended. Peace was achieved but I had lost another friend. Once again I had to face and join those sobbing masses and tear filled eyes that are my closest friends, who I love more than words can express.

The feeling of loss is almost unbearable. A piece of you dies along with them. After the initial shock wears off, a whole new kind of shock sets in. I felt out of place, my reality was shattered and the world had changed. It's changes only perceivable to others and myself who shared in the experience. I won't lie to you; it weighed me down to the point where I couldn't see myself ever getting past it. But giving up never solves anything, and I'd be a horrid person if I didn't learn at least that lesson from her death.

I began to see how the world truly is, a perfect mix of good and bad. Pleasure and pain, you can't have one without the other. A really tough lesson to learn when you're only 15. I've never been good at releasing my emotions, so I did what I've always done. Bottled them up inside, hoping they would never be found. I didn't try to bottle up my feelings, just the wave of sadness and grief. Only now, do I realize the importance of opening up and relying on my friends and family for support.

It's been 5 years and I don't think a day has gone by that I didn't think of her. Anything might spur a memory, the mention of Mikhail Gorbachev makes me think of her final project in World History. How we joked about getting her a baldi cap and scribbling on it with a red marker for his birthmark. I'll love her always, with all my heart and soul. As I mentioned earlier, it can't even be put into words. For it's a different type of love altogether.

I had my first dream about her a few nights ago. We were hanging out and just running around having fun. It was good to see her again and hear her laugh. I spent today at the library copying the newspaper articles and yearbook pictures, because my originals are showing signs of wear. I don't think there is anything in my life that I wouldn't give up to hear her yell at me for taking things out of her backpack or to just see her again.

The wall that I used to hide all these feelings is finally lying in a pile of rubble. If I were to conceal it anymore I would probably just rot from the inside. Jodi, Nick and Michael, I love you and miss you beyond all comprehension. One day we'll meet again, when it's my turn to be the subject of a devastating phone call or announcement.

I wrote this poem on November 28th 1994, instead of doing my typing project. It was originally written for just one person, but it applies to all that we have lost.

You're at the end
A funeral for a friend
Still you don't believe it's true
The only person you're fooling is, you
It slowly gets worse until you face
Even then you can barely take it
I still see her all the time
But the vision is only mine
It's still hard to accept that she's really gone
Slowly time creeps by with each new dawn
Other people don't understand
until it happens to them
life stands still at a funeral for a friend.

In memory of: Jodi Kincaid, Nick Froio and Michael Gossard

Tim Messenger

You can send email to Tim Messenger at [email protected]

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Anniversary date - October 1994 /
Date of post - 1-25-00

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