It's my friend's birthday today.
I've repeated that to myself all day, like a mantra, like a wish, even a reminder, maybe, since she's no longer around to remind me herself.
It's hard to lose someone you love. That's universal - it hurts no matter how they leave your life. But when they make the choice to stop living, like Sherrie did, it becomes almost impossible. When someone commits suicide, the grief which overwhelms the living is tainted, I guess. It's sticky, it's hot, coated in anger and guilt and shame and fear. But maybe that's true of all death, maybe it's true of every ending; these are the things of which I am still unsure.
Last year on this day I opened a bottle of champagne, because Sherrie loved it, because we used to be rock stars, and proceeded to drink it methodically, almost maniacally, desperate to cling to memories of her. I didn't do that this year, but the memories still come. They are no longer unbidden.
I'm not sure when I'm supposed to stop grieving her. I'm not sure whether it should have happened already - am I getting better? I can't tell. Hearing her name only feels like being punched in the stomach most of the time now, instead of all of the time, but I still can't talk about her with most people. I watched the days slip by this week and fought back the rising tide of panic at the encroaching date of her birth, but today I woke up and it was almost a normal day. I've learned to blame less people for the circumstances of her life, and even fewer for the circumstances of her death, but the hate and rage still slick my stomach, and if I'm being honest with myself, I still blame everyone for everything. I blame strangers on the street for not knowing her, even. But mixed with that is a sort of pity, "I feel bad for you," I think. "You missed out on knowing a great girl."
I guess that's why I'm writing this here, which I normally would not do. Because some of the people reading this didn't know her, and I feel sorry for those people. They missed out on knowing a great girl. They missed out on knowing a girl who would hunt up decades-old used books from bookstores in Australia on the most ridiculous subjects because she knew a friend who'd be interested, a girl who would leap airport turnstiles to greet people, dressed in combat boots and a frilly skirt, a girl who'd craft little storybooks as birthday cards, pieced together out of glitter pens and construction paper and bits of magazine.
I miss you every day, Sherrie. And every day I keep expecting, hoping, that things will get a little easier, that hearing your name won't cause my stomach to twist in knots, that I can see a picture of Vinnie without being overwhelmed by guilt, that something funny or clever or stressful or heartbreaking will happen and I won't immediately think, "I wish Sherrie could hear this." That hasn't happened quite yet, but something I didn't expect - something I didn't know to hope for - has: every day I remember something about you I love; every day I remember something you said or did that I'm grateful for. So maybe I can't quite accept your death yet, but I'm learning a lot about celebrating your life. And that's why I can say happy birthday, and mean it, because no matter how you left, the point was, you were here.