There is a quote somewhere in the world that says “Life is not about how many breaths you take, but how many moments take your breath away.” Most of the time when this quote is referenced, it’s on a “shoot rainbows out your ass because life is beautiful”agenda. What people seem to overlook when they use this quote, is that our breath may be taken away by every beautiful moment or act of love we experience (as it should), but there are also a handful of moments in life where we are subjected to tragedy so deep that it cuts into our lungs and steals our breath away as well.
I was in a “shoot rainbows out my ass” every day of the week and “pour vodka in my mouth” every weekend mindset in my Junior year of Undergrad when I was hit with the biggest bus of tragedy I’d experienced in my nineteen years of life. I had just transferred to the University Park Penn State campus, and I was LOVING life. I was in love with my major, in love with my roommates and our cute little apartment, and in love with just about every aspect of life and my University. I had a job, amazing friends, and a future filled with amazing opportunities lying ahead of me. I had no reason to complain about anything, even the stress of classes didn’t damper my attitude too much at that point in the semester.
I was waiting for my Uber outside my apartment, about to be late for my second day of training at T.G.I Friday’s when my phone started buzzing.
Well…let’s backtrack a bit. Before I go into detail about being struck by tragedy, I need to go into detail about the beautiful, six foot piece of universe named David Spaceman. David came into my life when I was 14 years old. All 6 feet and some odd inches of him made quite the entrance, letting out metal head screams and stripping down to his boxers in the trunk of our friend Hannah’s RAV4 on our way to Barne’s and Noble at 9 o’clock at night. Mind you, we were on a busy section of Vestal Parkway and Hannah was yelling at him while switching lanes to put his clothes back on because “there’s a 14 year old in the car!” (They were all about five years older than myself.) However, I’m weird, and he was clearly weird, so I could tell we were going to get along. But, I didn’t know what our friendship would blossom into. Dave was a fantastic drummer, one of the best I’d ever heard. He was largely into the music community in the area he lived, and he’d toured cross country and done some smaller tours with several different bands. He knew how to strum a few things on guitar, but he was a natural born drummer. Dave liked to pretend that he was an insensitive, Satanist, metal head; which he was. However, when verbally giving people a short bio of himself he forgot to mention that he turned into a puddle whenever he saw small animals or his nieces and nephews, and that he was the most loyal, giving person in the world. I remember one night, I was drunk and he knew a lot was on my mind. We ditched our friends and he drove me out to a spot in Whitney Point, NY near where he grew up. We stopped at a scenic overlook and parked the car. We got out and danced in the grass to the music on the car radio, I tried teaching him yoga poses and he held me and kissed my forehead while I drunk cried about things that won’t be relevant to my life in a few years. That’s the beautiful person he was, he was just there, whenever you needed him. He always forgot to mention that he never failed to make people smile or brighten a room with his corny jokes. And one thing that Dave conveniently failed to mention before I got to know him well, is that he was a hopeless romantic. If you were close enough to Dave to cry on his shoulder, or have him cry on yours, you were blessed astronomically. His emotional membrane was semi permeable, and if he allowed you to pass through it then there was nothing better in the world.
The day I found out Dave had passed away, a piece of me packed it’s bags and left, and where it was, became empty. I was waiting for my Uber, silently panicking that I was going to be late for my second day of work when I got a text from a close friend that Dave had passed. Dave had a vulgar, twisted sense of humor. I thought this friend was joking, I thought it was one of the twisted jokes that I would punch Dave for after he told me he was only fucking with me. But then more and more phone calls started coming in, messages from other members of our close friend group letting me know what happened. Family members who had heard already were calling and asking if I was okay, and as I rode my Uber to work to tell my general manager that I couldn’t work that night, all I could think of was “No, no I’m not okay for once.”
I felt so numb. So empty and filled with rage and overwhelmingly sad all at the same time. That day, and the week following lasted an eternity. It seemed like I was sleepwalking in a terrible twilight zone. Every time I almost snapped out of it, my mind would call the image of “Dave just died” flashing on my cell phone screen back to haunt me.
“Bekkah I need to talk to you.”
“Bekkah call me.”
“I just found out what happened, are you ok?”
I wanted someone to slap me.
I wanted someone to do something to take away the hurt.
I wanted to call my Davie and cry to him and have him hug me and say “It’ll be okay munchkin, I’m here.”
But I couldn’t. And all I could do was text his phone and tell him I love him and tell him I missed him and tell him I was sorry.
And I just expected him and Hannah to show up with a bottle of wine and snacks they picked up from Wegman’s, because that’s what we did when one of us had had a rough week. We had a wine night and listened to music and tried to mimic Justin Bieber dance video choreography. I’d wake up in the morning to Dave piling pillows and blankets on me, and wrapping his arms around me and telling me to wake up. We’d all make breakfast sandwiches and watch Netflix until we had to work. Right? That was how it always went.
But nothing felt real, so I went home to make sure. I went home to be with our friends and family, but I also needed to be sure. I needed confirmation to wake me up.
So I went home. In the time that I was home I spent the weekend at Albany Medical Center, being with a friend who had been in the same incident that resulted in Dave’s death. I spent time with friends, and made some friendly acquaintances in the mess of things. I consumed way more caffeine than food or water, and I was able to keep my mind off of the situation off and on.
It was weird because all I wanted to do was be alone, and at the same time I couldn’t let myself be alone because I knew it would take me to a dangerous emotional place. And that was a place I wasn’t ready to go to just yet.
The morning of the funeral came, and I was anxious. I was terrified because I knew that whatever I saw, would finalize every emotion and thought that had been racing through my body for the past six days. I just wanted the funeral to be over so I could go back to school and be welcomed by normalcy, but at the same time, I didn’t want the funeral to happen just yet. I wasn’t ready to close that door in my life, I didn’t want everything that hurt to be confirmed.
I can remember every single aspect of that day. If someone were to ask me what I ate, I’d say “not much, but Hannah and I split some gummy worms.” If they asked what I wore on my feet, I’d tell them “Dave’s favorite pair of my boots. Knee high black combat boots that he thought were sexy and totally metal.” If they wanted to know what I said when I got up out of my seat and walked to the front of the room to talk about him, I could give that speech again without a stutter. The only thing I couldn’t explain to someone about that day is how I felt, because that feeling was the only truly indescribable thing in my life.
What I learned in the passing days, and weeks, and what I will continue to learn through the mourning of the loss of one of the closest people to me, cannot be summed up simply. I think that I learn something new every single day about the grieving process, and some of it comes as a relief and other times it comes as a blow to the chest. Grieving is important, and everyone grieves differently. The day I found out that he died, I distinctly remember sobbing in my Uber as my driver told me about her mother’s death, and she instructed me to never ever ever let anyone tell me how to mourn. So I’ve listened to the wise words of that Uber driver, and I’ve taken each day as it has come.
Some days are hard. I’ll wake up in the morning well rested, and then it’ll hit me that I dreamed of him, and it’ll throw my entire day off.
Some days are great because I’m distracted, I’m out with friends, or busy with classwork and clubs and waitressing.
I regret not having enough time with him, and I think that’s normal when anyone loses someone. There are times where I sit there and I beat myself up thinking about how I wish I could just kiss him one last time, or just sit in his presence and remember every aspect of it. But a friend of mine told me to stop playing the “what if” game. He said, “Playing that game with yourself where you ask ‘what if this happened instead’ or ‘what if I’d done this’ will only make it worse.”, and he’s right. There’s a balance that you reach, and I don’t think I’m quite there yet. I don’t know if it will ever stop hurting when I think of him, or if there will ever be a day when I don’t need to smell his shirt for comfort. I don’t know if there will ever be a day where I don’t associate poop selfies and excessive caffeine intake with him, or if there will be a time when I can look at a dog without instantly thinking of how he loves them. I have no idea if I’ll ever stop expecting to see him when I go to Blind Tiger with our friends, and I wonder if there will ever be a time when I stop accidentally going to tag him in videos on Facebook, or text him, or snapchat him. I truly don’t know.
What I do know, is that it’s okay to not know anything for sure. I know that it is 100% okay to not be okay. It is more than acceptable to talk about missing your loved one, and it’s become almost therapeutic to do so. I’ve learned that it is important to cry and write about and talk about how I’m feeling. It’s ok to be open about the hurt, and it’s good for you.
I miss him, and I miss the way he would hold me and hug me and comfort me. I miss dancing around in his passenger seat as he told me I was a looney and having him scold me for taking too long to pick out chocolate in Wegmans. I’ll miss the arguments, the dance moves, the post night out serious conversations after everyone else had gone to bed, and the hungover breakfasts together. There’s not a thing I won’t miss about him. I know the potency of longing to have my friend back will dissipate with time, but there will always be a lingering scent that catches me off guard when the wind blows a certain way, and that’s ok.
In closing, I want to share a segment of something that I shared at his funeral, a little tale that a friend told me that I hope will comfort anyone who reads this as much as it comforts me daily. It’s an old belief that there are two deaths for each person. The first death of a person, is the death of their physical body. We say goodbye to the physical being of our loved ones and we mourn no longer having them by our side. However, the second death only comes once your loved ones name stops being muttered, once you don’t think of them anymore, and when you stop telling stories about their time here on earth. The Universe has set up death this way, so that we do face the pain of the first physical death, but that our loved ones are carried alive with us through our hearts and our minds for as long as we live.
As I said, I don’t have the answers. I’m still learning things myself daily, but I do know that it gets easier with time guys, it really does.
My dearest Davie, I will never stop missing you, and I will always keep loving you.