Saturday, April 17, 2010

Rest in Peace

I had this friend named Collette.  I met her in a creative writing class at my junior college.  As I recall she had written a story which turned out to be a thinly veiled story about herself, in which the main character was dealing with some conflict with her husband.  I mentioned in the feedback that the story was frightening, to see such a clear example of spousal abuse, and she came and talked to me afterward, to ask if I really thought what she had written about constituted abuse.  I told her I thought it did, and in some mysterious way this caused us to become friends.  That's my first memory of Collette.

Over the years we kept in touch occasionally.  Krista and I both briefly worked at the same school as Collette.  She got our newsletter, and she and I would send notes back and forth on Facebook.  She sent me theological questions every once in a while, and made funny comments on my profile about as often.  A few years ago I visited her at her house, and hung out with her and her kids.

Collette was a sweet, loving, patient woman, with a lot of ability to endure difficult things without realizing they were difficult.  She wrestled with tough questions, but with an underlying certainty of God's goodness.  She was friendly, and pleasant, and kind.  She had a sincere faith in Jesus Christ, and spoke about him often and with great affection. I considered her a friend, and I like to think she considered me a friend, too.

And that's about all I can share here about Collette.  This last Monday Collette decided for some reason I cannot fathom that it would be best if she took her own life.

How I feel about this is complex.  I think it's safe to say that the first thing I feel is regret.  I wish she had called me and I had been able to talk to her about whatever it was that made her think this was a good idea.  I wish I had known her better, had been a close enough friend that she would have even thought about calling me.  I was in her town the day she did it.  I wish I had thought, somehow, to call her.  I wish it had crossed my mind.

Related to that, and intertwined with it, is the sadness and a sense of loss.  When someone is gone, there's a realization that I can't call her now.  I left a note on her wall on facebook, but that's more for me than for her. She's not checking her messages anymore.  Or, well, I don't really know how that works. But there's this moment in the feelings of loss where I just want to go back and remember every insignificant conversation we ever had.  I want to re-read our dumb facebook notes to each other.  I want to double check her theological questions and see if I missed a warning sign. I want to make sure to remember every last thing I knew about her, because that's all that's left of her, for me.

And then there's this next-to-last feeling that I'm not sure how to express because it seems wrong to say.  I know it's normal and even expected, but I am really angry at Collette, too.  Killing herself was selfish, pretty much the most self-involved thing she could have done.  It doesn't change that I liked her, or that she was a great person, but I just don't understand how she left her kids behind, and left all of us behind without a goodbye and without asking for our help.  Or maybe she did, and I wasn't close enough to be in that circle.  

The last thing, Collette, is that I'm glad you're beyond this now.  What I mean is, I know you're in the arms of Jesus, and even now he's wiping the tears from your eyes and showing you that all those years you spent broken and worried and hurt and abused and crushed and uncertain of your own value, that all those things are a million years behind you and you are in a place where you can experience (at last) perfect love and see yourself the way our Creator sees you.  I'm very, very thankful for that.  I wish you could have found a big enough piece of that here, but I'm glad you're in the arms of our savior now.

So. Rest in peace, my friend.  I will pray for your children and family, and I hope to see you well and whole when next we meet.

Your friend,

Matt