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Standing alone in the empty cemetery, I hear my distraught voice bounce off the headstones. “Why did you leave? I will almost never forgive you.” The cold air settles around me. The tears stain my cheeks, but I don’t stop. I can’t stop. I made a promise to my friend, Roee, that I would always be honest and speak my mind. It’s a bit harder to fulfill that promise now that he rests six feet underground and is decidedly out of earshot.
Roee was one of my closest friends, and on February 6th, 2014, he took his own life. My cemetery scolding of Roee might seem jarring, disrespectful even, but I simply delivered the truth that no one else would voice. Suicide is selfish. Things would have gotten better. I could have helped. Candid as my statements were, I knew he would have appreciated them. That’s how we were with each other, open and honest. When we talked about his plans to join the Israeli army, I told him he needed to beef-up, and when I dyed my hair platinum blonde, he told me that I had gone too far. Honesty was our unwritten promise to each other, or at least that’s what I thought.
Roee never shared the devastation he harbored inside, and I never saw his angst hiding just beneath the surface. Knowing I overlooked something so crucial haunts me every day. After Roee died, I felt a new kind of fear. How could I be sure of anything when the person I thought I had known completely had proven to be entirely different? I began to look at the world as ephemeral, losing my trust that anything around me could last forever. As time passed, however, I realized that I was stronger than my fears. I found an inner strength I didn’t know I had. I realized I couldn’t go to my parents, my rabbi, or my guidance counselor to fix what had broken. It wasn’t like when I was little, and my dad could fix my Barbie
As time passed, however, I realized that I was stronger than my fears. I found an inner strength I didn’t know I had. I realized I couldn’t go to my parents, my rabbi, or my guidance counselor to fix what had broken. It wasn’t like when I was little, and my dad could fix my Barbie boom box every time it broke. No one in my life had experienced suicide, let alone the suicide of a best friend. This was something I had to fix myself. People were counting on me. I was the one his friends sought for support and I was the one on whom Roee’s family leaned. Over the next several months, the darkness faded to gray as I began to focus on honoring Roee’s memory and living out his life through mine. My first task involved junior prom and the
My first task involved junior prom and the canceled Powderpuff game. You see, Roee had worked tirelessly to organize the male-cheerleading performance for our school’s Powderpuff game. When the game was cancelled, Roee outright pouted. To say he was disappointed is an understatement. Months later, even though he was gone, I knew what would make him smile, and it wasn’t a tearful tribute with sad music by Sarah McLachlan. So, at the prom I organized a group of his buddies to dance to his favorite songs wearing their Powderpuff costumes in tribute to our never-forgotten friend. I am certain Roee was looking down and laughing.
On that day in February, Roee’s life was not ready to be over. I’ve made a promise to live mine in a way that would make him proud. Unlike the broken boom box, fixing this is going to take time, but I have the strength and the honesty to carry on. When I stand in front of Roee’s headstone now, I let him know that I’m going to be okay. Before I leave, I lay a seashell by his side and make sure he knows that I’m bringing his ridiculous Powderpuff outfit with me to college.
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