Seven years ago, right now, I was supposed to be at my best friend’s apartment celebrating her boyfriend’s birthday and hanging out. I decided not to go earlier that day because I was annoyed that she had made last minute plans to go to a party at her cousin’s house later that same night. I told her to just go to the party and we would get together the next weekend or whenever. Seven years ago tonight was the last time she would ever stand on her own two feet.
I can’t help but think that if I would have just gone to her apartment that night, maybe we would have had so much fun that she wouldn’t have gone to her cousin’s party. That she wouldn’t have decided to go swimming. That she wouldn’t have dived into the pool and broken her neck.
Or maybe I would have gone with her to the party. Maybe I would have gone swimming with her earlier in the evening, instead of her getting frustrated that no one wanted to go with her. Maybe I would have insisted on opening the gate and using the ladder. Maybe she would have followed my lead and jumped in feet first instead.
Every June 5th since 2005 has been an anniversary of her accident. I’ve dreaded each and every one, but also felt partially grateful that at least she was still alive. At least I hadn’t lost her. For the first couple of years, when she was in the nursing home, I would spend these anniversaries with her, crying, reminiscing, and trying to help her to see the positive. She could only ever see it as the day she should have died, the day her life as she knew it ended, the day everything changed for the worst forever.
I don’t know how to feel about it this year. This is the first June 5th that she’s not here. I no longer have that little glimmer of positivity, that small fact that at least she’s still here – because she’s not. She’s not here. She’s gone, and probably free of her pain and suffering, and yet we’re all still here stuck with the memories and the grief and our own pain. Part of me feels relieved that she doesn’t have to relive this night anymore, wondering what would have happened if a million little things had been different. She’s not lying in bed tonight, unable to move or even wipe away her own tears, beating herself up for making the mistake she did – a mistake that could happen to anyone – and wishing it was all over or different or had never happened.
But I’m still here, questioning myself, wondering if things would have turned out differently if I had made a different decision. Wondering if I could have done more, said more, somehow found a way to change her outlook, found a way to relieve her pain. I know logically I did and said everything I could, as she told me many many times, and I know none of it was my fault (which she also reminded me many times over), but my heart hurts and my mind wanders.