This time of year is always very hard for me. It brings back so many happy but painful memories. Seven years ago, I lost a childhood friend. We grew up and went to school together. For a long period of time we were like sisters. After we graduated high school, we both got married and lived in the same neighborhood. Our kids went to school and even played together. Our friendship was stronger than ever before.
After being in a committed relationship for 15 years with her high school sweetheart problems started to build. With each day a new problem was presented to her until there were too many problems for her to handle. Being under constant pressure and with little choice, she and her husband divorced. The divorce was anything but mutual or friendly. My friend and her young daughters moved away. She was the strongest woman I knew so when she thought the move was best to protect herself and her girls; I agreed with her decision. Afterwards I didn’t get to see her as often as I would have liked. Sometimes months at a time would go by, but even with distance between us, we somehow always managed to remain close friends.
She was the kind of person that would do anything for you. She would take from herself to give to someone in need. She honestly had a heart of pure gold.
After she moved to Detroit, Michigan I had no idea what she had got herself into. I later heard from her family that she got in with the wrong crowd. Along with the wrong crowd, she picked up a few bad habits. She went from one bad relationship to the next until her girls were removed from her care and sent to live with mother.
I always said we were on the same road, our lives just took us in different directions, but the path to our hearts never changed our friendship or love for each other.
One morning I received a phone call from my brother. He was crying so hard I couldn't understand what he was saying. He kept saying, "she's gone. She's gone." I had no idea what he was talking about. I asked him to calm down so I could understand him. He stopped crying and said, "she's gone. Auntie called this morning and said she died." My heart sank. How could this happen? Why did this happen?
Moving to Detroit didn't save her life. Instead it took it. She couldn't resist the temptations of addiction. Between her struggles with addiction and her ongoing abusive relationships; the two consumed her whole until she no longer had any fight left within her. She couldn't escape and she lost her life.
After she died I kept asking why and how? Why this happened and how something like this could happen to such a good person? With time and sifting through the shades of gray I realized abuse and addiction will take your life in the blink of an eye; even the strongest people we know and the ones we love. It has taken me a long time to recover from her death. For the longest time, I didn’t know how to begin to put the pieces back together after losing someone who has been such a big part of my life.
When someone in your life dies, your life stops, but life for others go on and people keep living. I have always looked at life and death, as everyone has a time to live and everyone has a time to die. I feel it is somehow timed or planned by God, that God doesn’t give you anything in your life you can’t handle. The attitude that everything happens for a reason and to never look back.
Today I know firsthand that a tragedy can unite people, test our faith in God and make us stronger to survive an unimaginable loss. As I look at my children and grandchildren, I can’t begin to imagine what her parents went through with her death. Today I see life and death a bit differently and a bit more clearly. I know the importance of using your voice and speaking out about violence in a relationship even if and when it upsets your friend or loved one. Maybe if someone spoke out, she would still be alive? For many years I blamed myself. We grew up in a time where your business was kept behind closed doors and it wasn't talked about. Your problems were just that -- yours!
To this day I still ask myself why didn't I ask or confront her on her addiction and abusive relationships? It is probably one question I will take to my grave. Today I am a different person. I ask questions regardless whose feelings get hurt or who it upsets. Through Dreamcatchers for Abused Children I know the importance of having a voice, being a voice and taking a stand, and I encourage you to do the same.
Today I ask you to take a stand and vow to speak out against drug addiction and abusive relationships. It may just save a life.