Today is a very difficult day for me, and it has been for the past five years. It’s not because tomorrow is my birthday, and I’ll be one year older. No, I’m happy to be alive, and I count each year as a blessing. It’s a day filled with sadness for me because it’s the anniversary of the death of one of my closest friends. He doesn’t have the blessing of having another year. Six years ago, he’d spent Thanksgiving with his boyfriend and was on his way home when he was in a car accident that killed him. We had been texting about an hour or so before his death, and I’d told him to text me when he got home and the last thing I wrote while he was alive was, “I love you.” Later that night, I became suddenly nauseous and threw up. I texted him to say, “Text me when you get home. I’m going to bed because I’m not feeling well.”
I never received the text that he was home safely. At first I thought he’d gotten home and fallen asleep forgetting to text me. I was becoming frantic the next day, my birthday, when I had not heard from him. I knew he’d never let my birthday go by without acknowledging it. I knew something had to be wrong. Later that night, I received an email from a friend of his telling me he’d died in a car wreck. I began to cry uncontrollably and basically did so for the next year or more. Grief nearly consumed me. If it had not been for Susan’s friendship, I don’t know how I would have survived.
Thinking back on that night six years ago when he died, I’m convinced he died at the moment I became sick that night. Some of you might think that is crazy, but we had a connection like none other I’d ever had. He was more than just a friend. He was like the younger brother I never had. One that I could tell anything to. He was the first gay friend I’d ever had. In him, I had someone I could talk to about being gay without any fear of judgement. He encouraged me to pursue my own happiness and was my greatest advocate when I got my job in Vermont. He knew it was a very gay friendly state and believed I’d flourish there. I guess he was right, but it took coming to terms with my grief over his death before I could begin to flourish in Vermont.
I had been in the closet for so long. Yes, I came out twenty years ago, but when I moved back to Alabama, I was kept pretty firmly behind that closet door. If it hadn’t been for him, I wouldn’t have met the boyfriend I had when I moved to Vermont. Sadly, said boyfriend is still in Alabama, and I’m up here, so it didn’t work out, but we had some great times together. I’d almost chickened out on meeting my soon to be boyfriend for the first time, but my friend encouraged me to go anyway, and I’m glad I did. It was a wonderful experience in my life.
I talked to my friend multiple times a day. We would text back and forth for hours. Though he lived in another state, we would even sit and watch TV shows “together.” We always watched Teen Wolf and How to Get Away with Murder together. I haven’t been able to watch either show since. He was there one day and yanked out of my life the next. I still find it hard to talk about him without getting very emotional. That’s why today is such a sad day for me. I always remember what a wonderful person he was, and what a great person the world missed out on getting to experience. I try to be more positive on my birthday, but I’ll be honest, it hasn’t been the same since he died.