On April 14th, my friend, Kyle, died in a tragic rock climbing accident. Two weeks later, I flew to Oregon for the celebration of life and I stayed with his wife and daughters in their guest room. At one point in time, I spent so much time with them that their guest room felt more like home than my own house. However, I’d never been to this particular house since they’d moved to Oregon. I’d always meant to, but I hadn’t made it before now. I foolishly thought I’d had more time, but that’s just a lie we tell ourselves until it’s too late.
Being surrounded by the possessions of a dead person both helps and hurts. Staying in the guest room amongst Kyle’s stuff was…strange. So many things were as he left them and it felt like at any time he’d stick his head into the room to let me know he was going to “grab something off the bathroom counter real quick” like he had so many times before in other houses. I guess he did assume he’d be back for the stuff he left behind.
Didn’t we all?
I couldn’t bring myself to move or touch his possessions. I kept almost knocking my own stuff into the sink due to a lack of counter space, but I just couldn’t disturb Kyle’s things. Or I didn’t want to. In grief, those two are the same.
Everything was so familiar despite the fact that I’d never been to that house before. The wedding photos were the same as they always were, the ones I’ve seen hundreds of times, but instead of their old dog keeping me company, there are only photos of that dog’s friendly face. She’s nothing more than photographs and memories, and now I guess Kyle is, too.
Aren’t we all? In the end?
When someone dies, some people make comments about the difficulty of coming to terms with one’s own mortality, but that’s not really an issue for me. Suicidal depressives are very aware of their own mortality. It’s more that I feel my life will slip away into nothing, an inaudible whisper of the universe. I sometimes think my depression enlightens me like the Buddha beneath the bodhi tree, but then my brain goes too far. “Nothing matters because NOTHING MATTERS LET’S END IT.”
Depression comes and goes and cycles, an ebb and flow of pain and numbness. But lately, whenever I start to dip too far below the water, I’ve been thinking about a message Kyle sent me years ago. In 2016, I finally reached out for help with my mental health and I outed myself on Facebook as someone with depression, anxiety, and mild PTSD who went to counseling and needed medication. Within an hour after posting, Kyle sent me a message.
“Fuck I love a good honest fb post. Most posts are pointless. You are brave and bad ass.”
His message reduced me to tears because I don’t feel brave or badass, but even something so short made me feel loved and supported and like I was on the right path. I’m clinging to that now because most of the time, I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing or which way is up. But I know Kyle would believe I can keep going, so I do.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the phrase “blood is thicker than water.” Mostly, I’ve been thinking about how that quote isn’t quite the whole story. The full quote is “the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb,” which means that the bonds you choose to forge with others can be stronger than the ones you’re born into by biological chance. Kyle, his wife, Aimee, and their two daughters are a family I’ve chosen. They are all indelibly marked on what’s left of my dark, twisted soul, and life without one of them feels wrong and empty. I’m grateful for the time I had with Kyle, but it also feels like complete and utter bullshit that now we all have to keep going without him, especially Aimee and the girls.
There’s so much I want to say about Kyle, but everything I think of feels inadequate to fully describe the kind of person he was. People more eloquent than me have talked about his kindness, his generosity, his humor, and the way he believed we could all be better people. The world is a little darker without him and although I feel like my words aren’t enough, I need people to know he existed and that he made the world, my world, better in the short time he was here.
Kyle was here. And he was amazing.