Jesse Leach’s Check Your Head: “Its Always Darkest Before The Dawn”
Times of Grace and The Empire Shall Fall frontman Jesse Leach is back again with his second “Check Your Head” column. This week, he offers a moving tribute to a dear friend.
This past week has been very intense. A close friend of mine took herself out of this world. Without a word to anyone around her. No cry for help, no explanation…she is gone. These next few paragraphs are for her and the many she left behind who mourn her loss. (I purposely did not name names out of respect for peoples’ privacy)
The day I met her, I knew she was not an average person. I met her at a party I threw at my house back in early 2004. We talked about her love for Gwar and punk “riot grrrl” music as well as her views on the role of woman in society. She was intense and full of life. She turned me on to new music and art. She was also an amazing seamstress. She had a different view of this world than anyone I knew. She also happened to capture the heart of one of my best friends, ensuring we would have much more time to connect.
I watched as her relationship with my best friend went through peaks and valleys; we spent many weekends all together (my wife and friends) over the past few years. There were no signs of depression or any hint that she was on the verge, or the edge of a breakdown. I myself suffered a great dark time in my life and in all honesty, 2009 was the darkest year of my life and brought me to a point where — to me — the thought of dying was a growing alternative to dealing with the pain and anxiety I was suffering. However, by the grace of God, I reached out to many people…including her. She was there for me and many other people, to talk or give her own personal insight as to what a solution or the issue at hand was. So as I type this, I still ask “why”…why did she not reach out to any of her many friends that she helped over the years. Why did she not use all of the passion she had to fight for herself and her happiness.
I did not shed a tear at the wake or the funeral this past weekend. I almost felt like, “What is wrong with me? Am I avoiding my feelings and not mourning? I felt an overwhelming sense that time has stood still; it was unreal. I walked up to the open casket and gazed on the shell she left behind. The make-up was so thick on her, she looked like a mannequin. I knelt down and said my prayers for her family and my friends who were mourning her. Just before I finished, I looked at her and under my breath said, “Why didn’t you talk to anyone?” I stood over my wife as she knelt down and sobbed before the casket. I felt the lump in my throat swell — I felt sick standing there. I was imagining she would sit up and laugh at everyone who was in the room at this “traditional” funeral. I thought if she had her way, this funeral would be so different without all the tradition and stuffiness of this funeral home…but she didn’t give us a choice…
As the ceremonies commenced the next day, I just stood there, taking it all in. Her father spoke about her life, who she was and praised her for her uniqueness and strength. One of her relatives, (perhaps her cousin, my memory escapes me who, exactly) sang a beautiful gospel song. Beneath the melodies were the sounds of quiet sobbing and sniffling. Again, I felt like time was in “slow motion” and it took all of my focus to remain in the moment and be present. I had to remind myself why I was there; I had to remember my friend was dead. It all seemed like a dream or a movie.
As the funeral procession of about 75 cars slowly made it’s way through the town to the cemetery, I felt a sense of deep sadness and anger. “All of these people came out to mourn your loss,” I said to her in my head. “Any one of them would have done what ever they could to remind you of how important you were.” We all gathered around the casket, drowning in flowers under a blue autumn sky. The clouds were drifting by like lazy minutes and again, I found myself in this “time warp.” The words of the minister were almost muffled, as if he were talking in another room with the door closed. I found myself looking up to the sky, watching the clouds drift by and hearing the guitar line from Pantera’s “Hollow” play in my head. It all came crashing down on me and I looked around at all the people she left behind. We would have to figure out how to deal with her absence in our lives one way or another. I kept looking over at all my friends as they wiped tears or hung their heads low.
Before I knew it, people started to dissipate and the sound of car doors and engines starting filled the air. I thought, “This is it. This is real. She is gone.”
So I say to you, reading this: You are not alone in this world. If you are depressed or suicidal, talk to someone! If not your parents, then your friends — a relative. Even just a random person who will listen (like a suicide hot line). You will be amazed at the relief and clarity you can get from just simply talking about what you feel or think.
This life is fleeting and beautiful, with so many possibilities. There are ways to start your life over or heal from a traumatizing situation. God is real; he does love you regardless of how much we humans confuse, berate or dismiss his existence. We all come from different places and walks of life, but we all need to be loved or feel like we have a place in this world. If you have a friend who is suffering from any sort of depression, reach out to them, let them know you are here for them. Show love to those you care for and tell them how you feel, it may be your last chance to help them.
Thanks for reading.
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…and make sure you check out Autopsy drummer Chris Reifert’s column Psychotic Drivel and Perfectly Reasonable Insanity.