I have gotten through today so far with only glancing at the calendar a few times and refusing to acknowledge exactly what today’s date means. I tend to do this for every “anniversary” that I would rather ignore. However, each one of those days is marked forever in my heart and mind and there is always something about them that makes it so I cannot forget.
Today is a day that, one year ago, started out with only anticipating a house warming for a friend of my husband (then boyfriend of less than a month) and getting to ride there and back on his motorcycle. It was going to be a fun, if a bit anxiety inducing day just due to meeting so many brand new people.
Then, around 9pm, my husband got a facebook message from my roommates and there was a scramble to get my phone charged enough to make a phone call and figure out what was so important that it could not wait another hour or two for me to get home or at least back to my husband’s place and away from all these people that I didn’t know.
For a few minutes my roommates and I went back and forth. They didn’t want to tell me over the phone. I didn’t want to wait the hour drive to find out if it was so important that I needed to leave now.
And they did.
One year ago I was told that Brittany, someone that had been one of my closest friends and whom I was working on repairing my relationship with, was dead. Not dead from a random accident or medical condition I hadn’t been aware of. She had been shot by her ex-husband. Another human had intentionally taken her life. Taken her away from her family and friends and destroyed her future.
All that passed through my mind in a blur, but was ignored by the part crying out “Why!?” and “How in the world could it happen?!” “Why her?” “I had just talked to her not even 3 days ago. She can’t be dead. It doesn’t happen that way.”
Honestly, I’m relieve that they conceded and told me while I was still at the party. I was able to maintain myself well enough to ask my husband to take me home and apologize to his friends for needing to leave so suddenly. I know I didn’t look good, but at least I wasn’t crying. Not yet. And I had an hour on the back of a bike with no one else that could hear or see me to cry, though I’m sure my husband felt my body shaking and the death grip I had on him. It was time to myself to just let my brain go in its wild circles and try to figure out what the word “dead” really means and how it could apply to Brittany, someone who took so much joy in life, who made sure life was worth living not just for her, but for everyone she touched.
Dead could not mean the same thing for her that it did for other people, could it?
What does dead mean for someone who didn’t even get a chance to fight for her life? She was washing a tea pot. She didn’t even know he was there. She had no chance. How could she be dead?
I don’t mean she should have been given the chance to wrestle the gun from his hand or anything absurd like that. I mean that there should never have been a gun. There should never have been a chance for her ex to even contemplate taking away her life, her rights and freedom. There should not have been a human hand taking part in her leaving this world, in her death. If she was going to die it was going to be after a long life of doing things to help others. Maybe the unlucky random chance of an accident or some illness, but at least in those circumstances she could have tried to do something, anything more than what happened on 7 May 2011.
But that was taken away from her. The worst part is that the way she died has overshadowed how she lived in many ways. She was a bright, empathetic, courageous, empowered woman of God who did mission and community service work as well as working in health and human services fields including massage therapy. I have many wonderful memories of her, time spent together and conversations on the phone and through skype… but all are tainted with grief and pain knowing that there will be no more new memories, no more new experiences. The knowledge that the last day of her life was painted red by anger, pain, and the blood of four different people.
I miss my friend. I miss talking with her. I miss listening to her. I miss her support and being able to support her. I miss random adventures and taking off for a weekend on a whim. I miss just knowing she was there. I miss her. And nothing will be able to change that, no matter how much I cry, how much I think about or don’t think about her, how many people I try to educate about domestic violence, how much I oppose violence in all forms, how much I work to help every individual I meet who is a victim… none of it will bring her back. It doesn’t detract from the things I can do and what I do… but some days, days like today, it just doesn’t seem to be enough. I feel selfish and don’t want to work with the person in front of me. I just want to have Brittany back, to be talking with her about the crazy things or adventures she is doing or planning to do. Now doesn’t matter as much as what could have been.
I suppose I can take some heart in knowing that there is an alternate reality where there was no gun and we are still talking and today would be a day on a calendar, not this unhappy anniversary.
Thank you, Brittany for showing me I possessed the courage to leave my ex. Thank you for showing me different perspectives and ways of seeing the world and helping me to grow. Thank you for all the work you have done to change others lives. Thank you for all your support, all your love, your forgiving nature.
You will not be forgotten. I still love you. I hope you have found that better place you knew was out there. Be well.