When You’re Forced To Say Goodbye Too Soon


It was the first time I had gone back home since the weather changed – it was weird, not having to wear a jacket and gloves everywhere I went. August proved to be the dead of the summer.

I looked around the church. A giant picture of him was propped up next to the coffin. Lovely. I was in formal attire, and I had never felt so uncomfortable in it. The blazer I had borrowed from a friend, the skirt I had bought the day before. Still, when I looked down I still had something of myself – the old, ratty combat boots I had worn all the time when we were friends. I dug them out of the closet after I got the phone call and decided then and there to wear them to the funeral, no matter how much it didn’t match the rest of my outfit.

I thought back to the day I had met him – four years prior, in our local Taco Time. He was my coworker, or maybe he had actually been my boss. I quit shortly after he did, so I only worked there a few weeks. My first night working, and the first time I saw him, he had given me a list of stuff to do before I could leave. Cleaning the bathrooms was on the list, and I must have made a face, because he crossed it off.

“I can’t make a pretty girl like you do something like that,” he flirted, smirking at me.

God, I missed that smirk.

I came to the funeral with my best friend. She was the one who called me the week before, with the news. I’d never felt more devastated, and I was a drug addict. I thought she was going to tell me her and her boyfriend had broken up, by the way she was crying. I never thought she’d say the words.

“He’s dead.”

I looked at the picture they had chosen of him again. It was a nice one, one that I actually had saved on my cell phone from a year before. I remembered him sending it to me with a witty comment. It was a selfie, of course. That boy took more selfies than a teenage girl. He was smirking in the picture too, and it made me sad. No, sad wasn’t the right word.

Devastated. Resigned. Done.

I found my seat in the back row. I wanted to see, but didn’t want people to see me. It made me uncomfortable when people saw me cry.

He saw me cry more times than I could count. I think that was what made me trust him so much. I was crying the first time he kissed me – it definitely made me feel better.

“Cheer up,” he had said, raising my chin to look at him, “You shouldn’t ever look that sad.”

“Why?” I remembered asking. I couldn’t understand why he cared.

I got my answer, but it wasn’t words, and it all made sense.

I remember the last time he saw me cry, too. I had overdosed the night before, and was too terrified to tell anybody about it. He knew, though. He always did. I sat there with him in my car, sobbing, convinced that I would never get my life together and I was doomed to be addicted to drugs. He just held me, told me it would be okay, and that I was loved.

Looking at the coffin, I wanted to puke. My friend handed me some tissues, and the service started. Most of it was a blur – a man (his uncle?) spoke, I saw lots of faces in the crowd that I wanted to forget, and I saw his sister crying. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that my friend, the boy who I spent all of my time with the summer before, was in that box in front of me. It didn’t make sense.

“Are you okay?” my friend asked, squeezing my hand. I just choked, unable to answer her. What was I supposed to say? My nod let her know that I heard her, and wanted this to all be over.

The burial followed the service – when we got to the cemetery, I almost laughed. The last time I had been here I was getting high. I never knew anyone buried here, until now, and it served as a great place to sit in my car unbothered. Thinking about it, I realized how disrespectful and morbid that was, but it was too late to change the past.

We all stood around the coffin, in the pouring rain, just like in the movies. It was surreal to see my high school friends carrying the coffin. The boy I had known since I was 12, his best friend, looked more like a man than I had ever seen him – no one should have to grow up that fast.

There was a lot of talking and a lot of crying, myself included. I guess not wanting people to see me cry didn’t matter anymore.

People started putting things on his coffin before it was lowered into the ground – flowers, a vest. I laughed out loud when his best friend put some cigarettes on it. I had thought about giving him a pack of Marlboros, but I had something else I wanted to leave with him.

The night he died, was also my 60 days clean and sober. I had gotten an AA coin that night, not even an hour before I got the news. A man from the meeting came up to me and told me, “I think you need this more than I do.”

I kissed it and left it on his coffin, trying to keep my sobs in the whole while. This wasn’t supposed to happen – I was supposed to be the one in the coffin. I was the drug addict. He didn’t do drugs – at least not to the extent that I did. He was a good man, a good person. He was the kind of person to hold an addict tight when their life was falling apart. And now he was the one who didn’t get to be held.

They told me he died in his sleep, because of his heart stopping. I knew he had troubles with it, but it was something he always kept hidden away – we all had our secrets.

The celebration of life wasn’t much a celebration. It was nice, but all I could think when people were coming up to me crying, was that the one person I wanted to see was being buried six feet under.

Looking at his family crying, I made a decision. I had every excuse in the book to use right then, but I knew if I did he would roll over in his grave, come back and haunt me from the dead. Ha.

I had a pack of cigarettes in my pocket that I had bought the night before. I was trying to quit smoking, but that went out the window. Stepping away from everyone I loved, I ducked away to have my vice – I knew he would understand; he did it all the time. Some people were letting balloons go in the air in memory of him, I was letting smoke go.

We all have our goodbyes.