I learned of the passing of someone who went to my high school today. She was 22.
I wasn’t close with her. I didn’t know what her favourite colour was or where she went to university or even her last name. But for some reason, the news of her suicide felt like someone had punched me in the gut. And suddenly, I felt the air leave my lungs. I was so heartbroken for Cheryl.
I read the news on Facebook on a break during class, so I didn’t have time to learn more about Cheryl or why she had died. The news of her passing sat in the back of mind throughout my day. I think I was waiting until I could have time to myself and try to figure out why she felt the need to leave this world.
So, after class I went upstairs to the library and I started looking for her. I needed to know why she did it, why she wanted to end her life.
I started with her Facebook page and I was able to flip through her profile pictures. No obvious signs of trauma. A few angsty-teen pictures, but those are fairly standard. Then I found her blog, on this site called Media, and I read through her posts. I found one that she had written about her mother. Cheryl’s mother, too, had passed away from suicide.
Another punch to the stomach.
I was almost in tears as I read through her deeply painful and incredibly vulnerable account of the hole her mother had left in her life. How her last words to her mom were “get well soon, okay?” I read about how she had to suffer through what seemed like an unbearable funeral and how her mother had left her family a note. This blog post lead me to her Twitter page, which lead me to her partner’s Twitter, which lead me to the outpouring of love for Cheryl.
Tweets about condolences, fond memories and hopeful resting places. I had given up fighting my tears at this point. This beautiful person, this human being, Cheryl, had so many people that loved her, cherished her, and wanted her in their lives.
After about 45 minutes of this vortex of social media lurking, I had to stop myself. Why was I doing this? I didn’t know her–I’ve never said two words to her. This wasn’t normal. And yet, my heart ached for her loss. I felt the world lose a little bit of its light because Cheryl was no longer here.
I’m still not sure why Cheryl’s death impacted me so. Maybe because I see myself in her. Maybe because we went to the same high school and she was so incredibly young. Or maybe because the loss of my father is reflected in her death. Whatever the reason, I’m grateful I got to experience, if only briefly & through a computer screen, the amazing, talented, thoughtful and passionate person Cheryl was. She seemed to be an absolute beam of sunshine and compassion in this world and I’m so terribly sorry that she felt the need to leave.
I said a little prayer to her on my way home. I wanted her to know that she is loved and missed. I wanted her to be able to find peace. I told her that if she needs to hear a good dad joke and play a round of cards that she should find my dad. He’ll be there.
Rest easy, Cheryl.