I woke up off this morning. I felt stressed and fretful and I had funky dreams that involved lots of people walking past me in corridors and saying things I could not remember later. I looked outside and it looked normal. I sat on the edge of the bed at 6am and my tummy hurt and I wanted to cry. Even after coffee and a shower, I felt like something was wrong.
I just looked at the date and I finally got it. Four years ago today my best friend committed suicide. I took the call at about 5am that morning and I remember sitting down hard on the floor and feeling dizzy. How could someone who was so much a part of my life be gone that fast and by her own hand?
That was a tough holiday season. For years, Shannon was the one who had decorated the Christmas tree with me and Zach. We would always get her a penguin to put on our tree and she always brought Zach a new stuffed penguin for under the tree. She was a police officer and for a few years she had morning duty outside Zach's daycare where he was a total celebrity because the police officer was "his best friend". She smuggled a huge chocolate iced coffee into me a few hours after my hysterectomy and left me a stuffed frog that sang with a red rose so when I woke up it was the first thing I saw. We watched horror movies together (her favorite not mine) and laughed at me when I hid my eyes. She came to dinner several nights a week and was a part of my daily routine. I sat in the hospital for 7 hours on Christmas Eve when Zach was a baby and when she was taken in due to an accident. I made her laugh, hugged her and forced food when she was going through relationship issues. She collected penguins - every kind of penguin imaginable. She rode motorcycles and I used to tell her that being in the car with her was like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Disney. We laughed so hard so many times and once coffee came out of her nose. When I was having a bad day at work, she would show up and take me to lunch. I held her hand and let her talk about her crazy days. I worried every time I heard that there was a shooting in her district. I took her to Gay Pride Day at Disney and kept introducing her to women I had started talking to so that she would meet someone nice. She interrogated every boyfriend I had to be sure that they would be right for me. She was my constant through some of the hardest years of my life.
I was supposed to perform the wedding for her and her partner that spring and instead, I performed her funeral. I went into the house after the police were gone and the cleaners were just leaving - only about 12 hours after she died. I was so upset because I could not smell her over the cleaning fluid that they had used to get the blood out. Even 2 years after she died when I would visit the house, it still smelled like that awful cleaning fluid. Shannon in the heat of an argument with her partner put a gun to her own head and pulled the trigger. I stared at the bullet hole in the wall and wondered what the fuck it all meant. I scrubbed at some spots that the cleaners had missed. I adjusted the Christmas tree that was turned over from the paramedics getting a stretcher in the door and saw the presents with my name and Zach's names on them. I picked her clothes out. I dug out her dress uniform to hang next to the closed casket. I brought all the personal effects to the funeral home. I sat with her mother and held her hand as she sobbed hysterically - Shannon's father had died ten years earlier and her sister had left home as a teenager so Shannon was all she had left. I made sure noone took too much valium. I stood in front of 200 people and read a eulogy and 2 weeks later performed a smaller more personal funeral after the cremation. I greeted the neverending line of police officers, some who I knew and so many I did not - they all came for Shannon. She had been a member of the police force for over 18 years. I kept it together until Mike came - he had been the only partner in the force that Shannon had. We stared at each other and he started crying and kept whispering "Why?" I kept saying, "I don't know, I just don't know" and I didn't. I didn't know - I didn't understand and I still don't. There is still a hole in my life that is Shannon sized.
So this is dedicated to you, Shannon. I miss you almost every day. I am so sad that you are not here. I am so sorry that I was not there that night. I am still a little pissed and when we catch back up one day, you get a kick in the shins and the biggest hug in the world.