This year I’m turning 29, but before I can do that – the calendar will have marked 9 years since you left us. 9 years since the glue for so many disappeared and the community got considerably darker. I have always struggled with mental health issues, not only is it hereditary, but also a boatload of trauma exasperated my mental health. We had conversations about how I had to promise you not to do anything stupid. In February of 2014, my friend Taylor lost his battle with depression.
Let me tell you about my friend Taylor. He was an avid baseball player – this guy was obsessed. He also loved his Miami Dolphins, but in general, he was a huge sports fan. He was kind, quick-witted, and very opinionated. I first met Taylor in junior high, when I started dating one of his best friends and he declared me as “public enemy number one” because in his words – I was stealing his best friend. As middle school relationships go, we of course broke up and Taylor dropped his teasing to a casual “hi” in the hallway until my sophomore year of high school, his junior year. We started to chat and became actual friends, but certainly weren’t very close. The next year, Taylor and I had a considerable number of classes together, and because he was in sports he often missed lectures due to games, we started sharing notes–and by sharing Taylor would copy my notes and tell me that “You actually aren’t a half bad note-taker, I guess.”
We both started working at the local Applebees, and because we were younger than a lot of the other employees we tended to stick together on shifts. Between classes and working together we built a good friendship. As we got older and had been at Applebee’s longer, we established quite the Applefamily with our Applebuddies. Taylor left for college to go to Crookston and we continued to text and chat from time to time but weren’t as close as we were when he lived in town. Shortly after I turned 18, Taylor was there for the first time that I ever got truly drunk – and in typical Taylor fashion he had to make sure I was okay and tucked me into bed before midnight like a little kid. It was something he never let me live down. There were countless nights that we closed Applebees together, stayed up half the night talking, and shared countless 2/$20. But that’s the thing about Taylor – he had this uncanny ability to be SO present and in the moment, it was like there was no one else around when he gave you his full attention.
He was so involved in ALL of our lives – and while this is my perspective of the story, the closeness that I felt with Taylor wasn’t a unique experience because Taylor made ALL of us feel loved. He made all of us a priority and spent time helping people with their problems, taking care of them, and loving on them. He was the first person to lend a helping hand, and he always had a smile and a shake of his head with a joke or two waiting on a rough day. When Taylor lost his battle with depression, I didn’t know the signs. I didn’t realize that he was hurting so badly that he felt like taking his own life was the right option. I didn’t see how the once-fun parties and spending time with all of us had escalated to coping mechanisms and escaping from his own demons. This same man that made me promise to never cut my wrists again and to “pretend it would be like cutting him if I did it” lost his battle in secret.
There are literally thousands of stories about what a great guy he was and that’s because he truly was. The hundreds of memories that I have with him are ones that will truly last me a lifetime–from meeting up in South Dakota while we happened to be in the SAME hotel for completely unrelated trips (his baseball, mine family) to work and school, to jello wrestling parties.
The sayings have circulated to “check on the quiet ones” and “check on the strong ones” and I can tell you with absolute certainty that never in a million years would I have expected Taylor to take his own life 9 years ago. I remember when we were finding out what had happened, and thinking that it was a cruel joke and that he was going to walk back into Applebees with a smile on his face, joking.
As a parent now, my heart aches for his momma – because while I know how I feel losing my friend, I can’t imagine that pain from a mother’s perspective. There are so many things that Taylor hasn’t been around to see – his brothers graduating, getting married, having babies, his parent’s career success, his brothers entering the professional world, his friends growing up, getting married, and having babies. I often wonder what his life would look like – who would he have married? How many kids would he have? Would he be coaching baseball? Well, let’s be honest – I know the answer to the last question DUH.
I know I will spend the rest of my life missing Taylor, and forever wishing that I knew more about the signs of suicide and severe depression like I do now. The last few weeks of his life, Taylor was telling us all goodbye and making memories that he knew we were going to need in the years to come, but I just wish that he knew he needed him to stay so much more.
If you or someone you love is showing signs and symptoms of depression, suicidal thoughts, or self-harming – please contact professional help and LOVE THEM. We NEED to remove the stigma and shame surrounding mental health, and it starts by talking about it.
Your loved ones don’t just “forget” once you are gone. It doesn’t stop hurting, and we don’t stop missing you.
Taylor, until I see you again my friend.