On Sunday, I got the news that a friend of mine from high school had died. No one knows for sure what happened. If it was a complete accident, she obviously needed to escape some sort of pain, and the fact remains that she’s gone.
Brandi was part of my own extended family, being so close to my cousin/closest friend for freshman year that she practically lived with her. They played on the softball team together, we all rode to football games and movies together, and they went to church together. We went to school at Franklinton High, a public school in rural Louisiana. Most after school activities were school or church sponsored. The church was so strong in the community that you could almost smell the musky bible pages in the breeze on any given day.
Sometime after high school, Brandi came out as gay. I certainly wasn’t as involved in her life as I had been before then, but I saw her out every now and then. She seemed to avoid meeting my eyes now, and I never asked why. Maybe she’d heard about ways I’d changed and just wasn’t interested in socializing with me. Maybe she had a falling out with my cousin and assumed I knew (I didn’t, because it probably didn’t happen). More likely, she was now used to being rejected by people she was once close to, and was trying to avoid giving me the chance to do the same.
We got to be Facebook friends but never talked. I would have liked to talk to her, but she wasn’t on much. I certainly couldn’t have known from Facebook if she was suffering in some great way. I can’t know for sure, but I can only imagine that the recent maelstrom of gay rights issues being thrown around with such hatred in our communities recently did nothing positive for her. And now she’s gone.
Everyone knows that losing touch or growing apart from a friend doesn’t change the fact that they touched your heart and changed your life. I want to honor her in some way… a way that reflects the light you could always find in her eyes, that reminds of the smiles and laughs she gave so freely, that says somehow that her pain wasn’t in vain.
Brandi, you touched so many lives and hearts. I am so truly sorry that you felt so overwhelmed that escape was your only option- that you somehow became convinced, through the senseless and heartless actions of a handful of people, that no one would or could help you in that moment. So I’m going to promise to the memory of you that I will try my hardest from this point on to make sure that everyone I love knows it; that I am always here to help. I want to be a walking billboard that says, “I love you, and it gets better!” I also promise to actively try and make it better- because it probably wasn’t too hard for you to start thinking that this world didn’t want you around. It’s so painful to think that there is so much hate for the LGBT community that it often completely obscures the love that you would otherwise feel from people like me, who adored you. I promise to never be silent in response to bigotry or hatred. I promise to teach my girls that they can love whoever they want- and I always love and support them. I promise to talk about the things that the LGBT community is facing for my whole life and never forget, never let the world forget; because the human beings with hearts WILL win this battle and the world might want to forget. So many people have been in so much pain, and to toss it aside like it never happened… you deserve to be recognized. To be rewarded for your strength, and not criticized for your fall.
I promise I will remember you with a smile.
Rest in peace, Brandi.
Brandi really was loved by many, and it doesn’t seem she purposefully took her own life. Even so, the struggles and pain she was enduring are glaringly obvious, even to me, someone who knew very little about what she was actually dealing with. Also, it’s important to remember that helping someone who is in a hard place in life is a struggle in itself- often you will feel it’s useless and your efforts can be rejected. It’s not any of our faults if someone we love gets bested by a struggle that we tried to help them with. Just always know that it’s not necessarily their fault, either.