What Losing a Friend at a Young Age Taught Me
August 9th, 2010 is a day that I will never forget. Yesterday made six years that I lost one of my closest friends. In the four years before Rene's passing there was a group of 5 or 6 of us that were inseparable. Weekends, school vacations, and summers were all spent together. We didn't really do much. We hung out at each others houses or at the park, it never really mattered where we were, as long as we were together.
Rene was the biggest goof out of all of us. If you were in a bad mood, that was guaranteed to change once you saw him. I'm sure I can speak for everyone when I say losing Rene was and still to this day is one of the hardest things we've ever had to go through. I was 16 years old, about to start my sophmore year in high school. I had no idea how much my care free, teenage life would be effected by Rene's passing. Over the years I've realized that the experience taught me many things, here are a few of them.
People mourn differently - I couldn't help but notice the different facial expressions on everyone's faces at Rene's wake and burial. Some people were crying, some people were angry, and some people had no expression at all. It's like they were frozen. There are so many different ways of coping with the death of a loved one. For me, Rene was the first tragic death I had to go through. I lost my great grandmother a few years before but she was 92 and lived a great life. It was really tough knowing Rene didn't get a chance to actually live his life. When you're that young and you lose someone that close to you, you really don't know how to feel. I personally felt like the pain was never going to go away. I was so lucky to have people around me that were there 24/7 if I needed to talk. That helped me tremendously. It helped me cope so much that I just figured it would help everyone else. Some of my friends didn't feel that way. They liked to have time to themselves. I had to realize that everyone handles death differently. You can't judge a person for that. You just need to work together and be there for each other to make sure everyone is okay.
Someones passing should never turn into a competition - A part of coping with someones death is validating your relationship with them. Which can easily turn into something that's really unnecessary at a time like that if it's done the wrong way. A lot of times, validating your relationship with the person who's passed is easier when you minimize someone else's relationship with them. We've all done it. You see someone at a wake bawling their eyes out and you think "were they even that close? Why is he/she crying so hard?" I even felt that way with myself. I knew there were people that were closer to Rene than I was, so I felt like I didn't have a right to be so upset. In that moment, none of that matters. It doesn't matter who was the best friend, the enemy, the girlfriend, the old friend and the new friend. What matters is your relationship with the person and that's the only thing you should be focused on. Judging someone else's way of mourning their relationship comes from the anger you're feeling. You're on edge, you're upset, you need an easy outlet for your frustration. Trust me, taking it out on someone who is also upset is not going to be a good situation.
Memories last a lifetime - Once a loved one is gone, all you have are the memories you and that person shared. For the first couple of months after Rene's passing, I couldn't think about the times we had shared without crying. Eventually I realized that thinking back on those memories could actually help me cope with the loss of Rene. One of the funniest times we shared was when he pretty much drowned like 5 of us….. let me explain. During the summer we would always go to "Turtle Rock" (did we make that name up?) You have to walk through the woods for about 10 minutes and eventually you arrive at this huge rock on the edge of a reservoir. All of the boys were jumping off the rock into the water. Rene wasn't the best swimmer, but after some good old teen peer pressuring, he was at the top of the rock getting ready to jump. We were all in the water looking up at him assuring him we would help him get to the edge once he hit the water. He took a few steps back to get a running start and right before he jumped he yelled "tell my mom I love her!!" He splashed into the water and shot right up to the surface. He looked around and we were all in shock that he was staying afloat. *SPOILER ALERT* we spoke too soon. All of a sudden he started freaking out, splashing around, kicking, screaming. He was grabbing onto everyone's head and pushing us down so that he could float. It was a shit show. We finally got him over to the edge and for the first minute we just sat there catching our breath. Once we realize we were all still alive we looked around at each other and burst out laughing. Rene jumped up saying "that was fun, let's do it again!" Needless to say we didn't take him up on the offer.
I can't help but smile when I think of these memories. I get a lot of comfort in knowing he was such a big part of my teenage years. I'm sure even when I'm an old lady the times we shared will still make me chuckle.
Life pulls people in different directions but that doesn't mean you can't still be there for each other - I know personally, I felt a lot of regret after losing Rene. I was upset that I hadn't spent more time with him in the months leading up to his passing. Life kinda of started getting in the way of our group hanging out all the time. The regret I was feeling was definitely the cause of me wanting to spend so much time with my friends after Rene passed. It was clear to us how important it was to be together. We were spending every waking moment with each other which was definitely a coping mechanism for a lot of us. It lasted for a while but soon after that we all had to try to get back to our normal lives. Again, we all went our separate ways, made new friends, and new memories. I had to realize that this was a part of growing up. We don't always talk, we hardly ever hang out but whenever we do it's like no time has passed. Once I pick up the phone to call one of them it's like I'm 14 again. I know that no matter how far we go or how long we go without talking we will always have this unspoken BFF pact that will last a lifetime.
When life hands you lemons..... - When Rene passed, it felt like life had just handed us the most sour, rotten lemons possible. Coming together and being there for each other was our version of lemonade. We could not have done it without Rene's loving and passionate family. Rene's mom, Bielka, was (and still is) the rock for our group of friends and I'm sure many others. She has shown me the true meaning of selflessness. She has definitely made August 9th a day to look forward to with her annual cookout in celebration of Rene's life. We sit around, talk, laugh, eat, dance. It's really something we all get excited for every summer. It's a time to catch up, share our stories about Rene, and find different ways to honor him every year. If you ask me, Rene's family and friends have mastered turning lemons into lemonade. Sorry Beyoncé!
Although it's been six years since losing Rene, not a day goes by without his silly face crossing my mind. I've realized so much from this experience and I truly value the relationship we shared. I look forward to making more memories with the people Rene and I share a mutual love for. I've gained a second family because of him, and I will be forever grateful.
That's all I have for now, until next time. Rest In Peace Rene, I miss you everyday...