Celebration of Life Essay

The bay windows placed behind my bed let in unforgivable beams of sunlight nearly every morning around 7 A. M. For over a month I had been throwing my blankets over my head cursing the fact that I kept forgetting to buy curtains. I was almost used to waking up so early, but on the 9th of September, 2009, the sun was letting me sleep. When I finally woke up, I felt different, and my dog hadn’t come to lick my face when I called her name. Outside, it was cold, dark, and wet. I could tell today was going to be one of those days. Even though I wasn’t looking forward to my day I found the strength to roll out of bed.

Especially because I was worried my dog Daisy was causing trouble. Sure enough I had found her whimpering in the corner because she couldn’t get a bag of crumbled Doritos open. She had already demolished a half eaten roast beef sandwich from Arby’s, and what I believed to be the remains of a rotten banana peel. I cleaned up her mess and quickly grabbed her leash to see if I could exhaust her on a walk. After a half hour spent in the rain I realized I forgot my keys and didn’t have my cell phone. At the time I was living on the third floor, and the only window that I could access was up an old rusted fire escape.

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Thankfully, my window was unlocked and easily opened. It felt like my day couldn’t get any worse. So, I decided to waste it by watching TV. As soon as I made myself comfortable, a loud annoying sound began chiming every minute on the dot. I unhappily got up and went to find my phone. It had several missed calls from my best friend Rachill, and a text reading, “CALL ME ASAP. VERY VERY IMPORATANT! ” My day had just gotten worse; I knew something was wrong. When I called her back, my heart was pounding, my hands were sweating, and I was bracing myself for the worst.

Her voice answered with a very faint, “Hello. ” The words, “What’s going on? ” flew out of my mouth. She informed me that our good friend from high school, Collin Bates, had been missing for the last two weeks. My mind was already racing, wondering what could’ve happened and where he could’ve gone. There was a long silence, “I think you should sit down. ” I knew what was coming. She started to cry, trying hard to hold her voice steady. As I sat down on my bed, the words I feared most were spoken, “Abbie, C.. Col.. Collin killed himself, he was found hanging behind the mills. I asked her if it was a joke, if there was some kind of mistake; it wasn’t. Before I had the chance to respond she said she was coming over, and hung up. Trying not to let my mind run too wild, I thought about what could’ve brought this on. Why didn’t he come to one of us? Why didn’t any of us notice that something was wrong? Collin had a big heart, and he was constantly worrying about other people. He was always making everyone laugh. He was very involved in the community, especially with children. Vivid images of him flashed rapidly behind my closed eyes.

Unfortunately, the vision of him hanging had entered my mind. My stomach began to tense up and my face became very hot; I needed to vomit. When Rachill arrived, so did the tears. We held each other and cried until we were dry. We didn’t talk about what it would be like without him. Instead we pulled out an old photo album reminded us how lucky we were to have him as our friend. Our emotions were rocky, and we needed to go home to be with our family and friends. The funeral was on the 11th of September, so the next day we packed our bags, and left without a word to anyone in Manchester.

The four hour drive felt as though it took more than a day. It was raining hard, and the clouds in the sky matched our sentiments; gloomy and cold. As soon as we got to Orono, ME, the sun began to shine, and the first place we stopped was where Collin was found. We got out of the car; the air was humid and the wind was strong. With each other held close, we walked down the path following the yellow caution tape. Pine trees surrounded us, the scent filled our nostrils. We were staring at the big wooden structure made of hand-cut timber and nails.

It appeared as though he had climbed the tree next to it, put the rope on his neck, and jumped. You could see that the tree supporting the structure was bent due to his weight. All I could think about was what was going through his head when it happened. My mind was running ferociously. I was almost enraged and felt like he was being selfish. He took something we all loved, something that he loved, and destroyed it. He destroyed his life like it was something easily replaced. Then, I felt selfish. I shouldn’t of thought that. I hoped that this was what he wanted. That night, I didn’t sleep.

My brain was flooded with thoughts. What had pushed him so far past his breaking point that he couldn’t take it anymore? Part of me felt like it was my fault, that I should have made more of an effort to call him, or see him more often. I wondered if we all felt the guilt I was experiencing. I wondered how his family was dealing with the loss. Were they taking it well, or would this tear them apart? I wondered if all of his best friends had even heard about this yet. Collin was a brother to them, like Rachill is a sister to me. I wondered what it would be like if I lost her.

I wondered a lot. I remembered a lot, too. I remembered our first class together. Art. He was constantly mouthing off to the teacher, always a witty retort on the tip of his tongue. I remembered the first day we hung out. We had gone to Burger King (for the crowns). I remembered how we’d call each other’s last names out with every passing at school. The best times we spent together were the simple ones. I remembered his obsession with his abs, and how he believed to be the strongest kid in town. He was a great person to talk to, and always had the best advice to give to any situation.

He was trustworthy, always kept his word, and put a smile on your face when you needed it most. If there was anyone in the world who deserved a long, fulfilling life, it was him. When morning came, Rachill and I crawled out of bed and put on our black dresses. Neither of us wore any make-up; we knew the day would be filled with tears. It was a beautiful day; there was a clear sky, and a warm breeze. We walked to the church with Rachill’s family. It looked like there was a river of people on the sidewalk, and cars were bumper to bumper trying to find places to park.

Even though we had arrived and hour early, the benches in the church were crammed full. A few of our friends had thankfully saved several spots in the third row back. I could feel pain almost emanating from the crowd of family and friends. One of my best friends, Taylor, had surprised me with a warm hug from behind. It felt incredible to see others who were feeling just as I was. People had flown from all parts of the country-one from overseas-just to be here today to support each other and say our goodbyes. When the celebration of Collin’s life was starting, the silence was overwhelming.

The only noise heard were the echos of the organ player shuffling papers getting ready to begin. Sobs of misery let out as the pallbearers started to head towards the front. Tears streamed down my face, but not a cry escaped my lips. Taylor reached over and took a firm grasp of my hand to let me know everything would be okay. Six of Collin’s best friends set him down at the altar, with the football team close behind. They took their seats, reserved in the front row. The minister gave a brief opening with a couple passages from the Bible and introduced the first speaker, his sister Megan.

The speech wasn’t about how difficult it would be to overcome this loss, but rather of what a gift he was to everyone he encountered. She told funny stories, and joked about how he was always flexing his muscles in every mirror he passed. She ended the speech with the wish that he was where he wanted to be. A few more of his loved ones spoke, but what moved me the most was the eulogy from his best friend, Seth. Halfway through his first sentence, he almost broke down and had to pause. After regaining his composure, he continued, “I would like to stand up here and say that we won’t move on from this, but we will. The speeches before already had my emotions in an uproar, but I could tell this one was going to touch all of us differently than the others. He spoke very highly of Collin, reminding us all that this act was not a spontaneous one. Seth spoke with poise, and we felt like his strength was holding us together. Looking upward with a smile on his face, he spoke directly to Collin, “I’ll watch over your sister, and I promise to eat dinner with your Mom. I know what your thinking. It’s not just because she’s hot, but because I always have your back. ” Until this point, the realization of our loss had not yet hit me.

For the first time, Taylor began to cry, which in turn made me start to sob. Loudly. My eyes were swollen, my heart was beating fast, I was shaking, and it felt like I couldn’t breathe. Rachill turned to me and buried her head into my chest. Her hair was stuck to her damp face, and I could feel the heat radiating from her body. We were all wrecks. Reminding everyone to embrace his life, to be happy we were blessed with the short time he was here, and to cherish the moments we had all spent with Collin, Seth closed his speech exactly the way he had opened it.

The minister spoke once again, reading a few more passages, then informed everyone the burial would be directly after in the cemetery across the street. As they lowered Collin into the ground, no one spoke. I remember looking at his mother and thinking to myself if she would be okay. I had heard from a few close friends she wasn’t dealing with the loss of her son well, but who would? When all was said and done, we said our hellos and goodbyes. The hardest part of leaving was saying goodbye to Collin for the last time.

Rachill, and I walked back to her house with Taylor to pack our things for the trip home the next morning. I slept peacefully that night, with my two best friends by my side. In the morning Rachill and I said goodbye to Taylor, and began the long drive home. We didn’t speak that much about Collin, but we were both thinking about him. He had given us a new appreciation for life that I wasn’t going to take for granted. The next morning, the sun let me sleep. My dog didn’t come to lick my face when I called her name, and outside, it was cold, dark, and wet. But I knew it wasn’t going to be one of those days.


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