The last two weeks have been heavy. A community has been in grief. It was difficult to describe the tension in the few days after the incident, just people walking around, blank looks on their faces, people trying to look strong. I for one, was at a loss because for once in my life words failed me. I didn’t know how to describe how I felt.
I have written short stories about suicide and death, grief and loss. I do these things not as a means to get closer to these issues, but to distance myself from them. I know very well that what I write is fictional, that though the themes might have played out before in different combinations it certainly hasn’t played out in the way I imagined in my head. I console myself in that way. Sometimes the sadder the story, the more content I feel writing it. It’s a balance between living in a world I know is made up yet keeping one foot grounded in reality. Finally when the story comes to fruition my feelings go full circle and I am pushed back into this world, the door shuts on my imagination and I am back where you guys are. It’s a perverse sort of pleasure.
The incident has forced me to view things from the other direction. It forced all of us to behold the facts, before attempting to imagine what might have driven someone to do what they did that day. Rather than a world of possibilities opening up, it felt like a heavy door had been shut, followed by a vacuous slamming sound that signalled the absoluteness of the act. I struggled to come to terms with it. All my attempts at imagining how this happened failed, and I am sure this felt the same for most of those around me. I didn’t write about this precisely because what I felt wasn’t something I had ever written about before. I only knew of the limited range of emotions in my head that I put into stories. How inconsequential all those attempts at synthesising grief or sadness seemed now.
So instead we did something very different. The first instinct for many of us millennials is to hide behind a keyboard when things got tough, but this incident taught us to do anything but. Instead, we began to reach out. we began to take each other seriously in real life conversations. We began to ask the important questions such as “how are you” and “how has it been”. We sought help in each other rather than in ourselves. Because in times like these it becomes evident that no one can make it through life on their own.
Because we don’t know if people want to be alone or not, whether they chose to or whether they were driven there by circumstance. We cannot assume that loneliness is our end state. Because it really isn’t. Loneliness is a progression to greater things but never the greater thing itself. If I had any regrets, they would come later on when I thought back about my interactions with the person. It always went back to not treating people better when we had the chance, of the words we should have said and the things we should have done. This doesn’t just pertain to the person in question, but to all the other peripheral and main characters in your life that come and go and whom you always assume are okay. But it doesn’t take so much effort to put our phones away and ask them about their interests and passions, about their struggles and stories. We die a little every day when we disregard the narratives of others, and to act that way is as good as feeling that way, regardless of your intentions.
Treasuring your life and living it to the fullest is not a selfish act, because living life to the fullest includes taking care of those around you and being present to the best of your abilities. As my favourite author puts it:
“People die all the time. Life is a lot more fragile than we think. So you should treat others in a way that leaves no regrets. Fairly, and if possible, sincerely. It’s too easy not to make the effort, then weep and wring your hands after the person dies.”
In other words, we should reach out when we can, and learn to never leave things unsaid.
I hope you’ve found a better place to be, and may we all promise to live our lives to the fullest; if not for ourselves, then for the people around us.