Until I Did

I’m not much of a crier. I’ve always been pretty successful at holding back the tears. The last four days they have fallen freely. It’s like the floodgates have opened. When I think there’s not another tear to shed there they come. 

Every time I think of Kheli those pesky things fill my eyes. I think of her pretty much all day everyday. As I sit here with music on the t.v., my pup in my lap, my phone in my hand I think of her and my eyes fill with tears. Who ever imagined someone could fulfill so much of your heart and soul and you would never understand just how much of them filled you until they were gone. I always knew she was special to me but I guess I never realized just HOW special.

I miss her something fierce. I missed her before but I always had that hope that we would reconnect. Now that that hope is gone the missing has magnified by infinity. I try to conjure up memories of all of the amazing times we had but all I can see is her face and know I will never really see it again. It is soul shattering. Spirit crushing. I never in a million years thought she would die. I know I said it, but I never thought there was truth in it. I used it as a scare tactic. There was never meant to be any truth in it.

I don’t know how to tuck away into my comfortable life anymore. I can’t hide any longer. I can’t pretend she’s on some adventure somewhere. I can’t pretend that life is just busy. None of those things exist anymore. I have to face the reality that she is gone. That no matter how hard I deny it in my heart my brain knows the truth. The person I trusted more than anyone in life is gone. One of the few that loved me for me is gone. That’s truth.

I don’t live with too many regrets. I have made mistakes and bad decisions and I have tried to learn from them; whatever they may be. Today my biggest regret is turning my back on her when she needed me the most. When I should have stepped up, regardless of how it would have affected me, and done more to help her. I was terrified to watch her slowly kill herself. I was terrified I would lose her. I lost her anyway. The person I knew no longer existed and now she’s dead. In the end the results were the same; however, I now live knowing one of the persons she trusted and depended on the most let her walk in her darkness alone.

I’ve been told not to blame myself. I don’t. Kheli made her decisions. This was her path, but the guilt is maddening. What if I had tried harder? What if I let her come here? What if I would have reached out? What if I had talked to her? What if I told her how amazing, valuable, worthy, and important she is? Would any of that made a difference? Would it have saved her? I don’t know. What I know is I will never know.

I didn’t see the signs before Matt killed himself until I did. He was an alcoholic. He struggled with alcoholism at the age of 28. I didn’t see how it controlled him until it was too late to help. I didn’t see the signs with Kheli until it was too late. I didn’t realize how severe her addiction was until I did. I didn’t realize how much it really controlled her until it was too late to help. I put my rose colored glasses on and believed they would beat their addictions. Even knowing, through my education, that’s not how it works. It’s not that easy. I still allowed myself to fall into a systematic faith that they would snap out of it. Having faith in someone doesn’t mean they can do it alone. I understand that but allowed myself to believe something other than the truth. And now part of my truth is I failed them miserably.

I wish you could have seen you through my eyes; maybe then you would have understood your importance and your value and worth. I wish just once you would have truly understood how loved you were. How life changing you were. You just couldn’t. Maybe I should have tried harder, Khel. 

Forever and always I’ve got your 6.

One Year

One year.  That’s how long it’s been since I learned of your death.  It’s been one year that I’ve sat here waiting to hear whether you had been found.  One year since I received that phone call telling me you were dead – by your own hand.  One year since I cried for you.  One year that you made that fateful decision to end your suffering instead of asking for help.

So much has happened in one year.  Many events have happened and you were supposed to be there for those. Instead? Your buried in a 6 foot deep hole.  Our nephew was born a month ago.  Something you were supposed to be around for. Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, family vacation.  But you weren’t there – for any of them.  Always the empty chair.

Many times I have wanted to pick up the phone to call my brother or just text him. Something I did not do much of because there was rarely a response.  One or two words. Changing of a phone number without telling anyone.  I have thought about you many times over the last year. Wondering what things would be like now had you not taken your own life.  What you would be doing.  Who you would be.  I guess we will never know.

Denial of alcoholism.  Denial of sexual orientation. Concern about what others would think of you.  Bad decision after bad decision, yet you were always supported by those who love you.  You suffered in silence. You wanted us to know nothing of your suffering and we didn’t.  I am not mad at you, but I am disappointed.  You had so much going for you but you refused to see the truth within yourself.  You allowed the opinions of others to dictate your life.  You allowed what you thought people thought or would think about you to determine your life. I don’t know what was going on with you, but I’ve put my own pieces together to make sense of it all.  It may not be the right pieces but you didn’t leave me with any other option.  I had to find a way to make sense of your death and I have.

One year ago today.  

I thought about you as I got up this morning.  Then, I received a message that my best friend for over 25 years died of a drug overdose on Friday.  I haven’t spoken to her in almost 2 years because she refused my help.  She wanted to continue down the path she was on and I could not be a part of that.  I have a life, a career.  I offered her help.  I tried to convince her to get help.  She didn’t want it and she didn’t want me in her life if I wasn’t going to support her in her addiction.  My last conversation with her was how much she hated me and never wanted to see me again.  She told me to fuck off.  I respected her request in hopes one day she would return to me. Return to me by asking for help or in sobriety.  That day never came. A reminder that I have failed two people.  I couldn’t help you and I couldn’t help her. Neither of you reached out.  I guess I don’t understand.  I have always reached out when I was in need.  I put my pride away and asked for help.  Neither of you did. Maybe ya’ll were too proud, embarrassed, ashamed.  Whatever the reason, the refusal to ask for help resulted in two lives lost.  The lives of two people I cared for and loved very deeply.  I hope that wherever you guys are you are at peace. 

Kheli Nikol Bartlett 07/11/84 – 07/21/17

Matthew Steven Shackelford 10/06/1987 – 07/23/16