Saying GoodbyeOne beautiful, sunny day in late May was a marker of the beginning of the end for me in many ways. My senior year of high school was drawing to a close with final exams that week. Feeling sufficiently prepared for my upcoming tests, I agreed to play a quick game of soccer with my friends. Life looked great. I was graduating in a couple of days, I was ready for the last exams of my high school career, and I was spending precious time with my classmates. Everything seemed perfect, but as I would come to learn appearances and reality are sometimes two very different things.
Tired and sweaty from the close match, I retreated to my car, buckled myself in, and turned the key in the ignition. As the breeze from the air conditioning whipped across my face, the distinctive buzzing of my cell phone was heard. Hastily reaching for the electronic device, I saw that I had received a text message from Mary, a manager where I worked. I was puzzled. Why would Mary be texting me? I was not scheduled to work all week due to my impending exams. Blissfully unaware of what I was about to face, I opened the message.
“I’m so sorry, baby, but Martin is dead,” read the text.
I re-read those words over and over again, unable to comprehend what those exact words in that very order could possibly mean. How could Martin be dead? My mind simply could not grasp the concept of how he could just be gone. I had just seen a very much alive Martin less than thirty-six hours ago, and now I was supposed to believe that he was dead? Unwilling to see the truth, I tried to convince myself that she was merely taking advantage of my gullibility yet again, and this was all a big joke. I was numb. Needing to confirm my suspicions before I would be able to think straight, I decided to stop by work quickly.
As I sped to work, my thoughts revolved around Martin. He had been a close friend and co-worker for a little over two years, when we had both been hired. Even though we had a very strong friendship, he always wanted to be more than just friends. I, however, did not. Despite being politely rejected multiple times, he remained firm in his passionate feelings for me and hoped fervently that someday I would love him, too. As I flew down the roads at very illegal speeds, I thought back to the last time I turned him down and pondered if that was the last time that Martin would ever try to win my heart over.
Nearing my destination, I laughed at how insensitive the message had been. Text messaging someone that their friend had died was not exactly a very thoughtful thing to do. But I could not shake the small thought in the back of my head that maybe this was not a hoax. After all, who makes fun about things like death? But the part of me that not only wanted but needed for this all to be a joke was quick to trample those thoughts into the ground. When I arrived at the restaurant, I sat in the car for a few moments to prepare myself. I was not however preparing myself to have my worst fears realized. I was preparing to be convicted of being easy prey to yet another prank.
Hopeful that my ego would be the only casualty of the day, I marched myself straight over to the front counter and asked to speak with the manager on duty, whom I assumed to be Mary. I was surprised when instead one of the newest managers, Letty, came over to greet me with a big smile.
“Is Mary here?” I asked her casually. Her wide, welcoming smile faltered.
“She’s in the office. Did she… contact you?” she asked warily.
“Yeah,” I rolled my eyes. “Joke’s up. You all got me good!” I laughed. I stopped when I noticed she was not laughing with me though.
“It’s not a joke,” she started, looking uncomfortable, “Martin died in a car accident this morning.”
No. It could not possibly be true. I had simply misheard her.
“What?” I choked out. “No, he can’t be dead. He just can’t!”
Letty began to inform me on all the details of the accident, but my mind was in overdrive mode. I could only decipher bits and phrases of her desc
The numbness I had so far been experiencing was suddenly gone. My vision blurred, my clenched hands became sweaty, my stomach immediately felt as if I was on the big drop of a roller coaster, and an anvil was pressed on top of my chest, preventing my lungs from getting the necessary amount of oxygen. With the extreme lightheadedness and increasing nausea that threatened to bring me to my already shaky knees, I felt as if I was drowning in my own emotions.
Before I sank completely though, a familiar and comforting voice broke through the increasing anxiety and pulled me back to the surface.
“Go away, Letty, you’re just making things worse,” ordered a highly displeased Brendan, who was another close friend. After Letty had gone, he gently laid his large, strong hands on my shoulders and looked me in the eyes. The eyes of my personal savior were full of concern and sadness as he asked, “Are you ok?”
I was unable to respond, but he knew I was not all right. He pulled me into a tight hug and I broke down completely. Heavy, uncontrollable sobs wracked my whole body and tears streamed down my face as I clung to Brendan for dear life. I was too lost in my grief to remember that I was crying my heart out in the middle of a restaurant, all the guests staring in confusion. All that mattered was that Martin was gone, and I was not even sure if he knew how much I loved him.
“I didn’t even get to say goodbye!” I wailed into his chest, choking on my own words.
“No one did,” he said gently. One hand rubbed soothing circles on my back while the other held my head close to his heart. “But you know, it’s never too late to say goodbye,” he offered. As I began to realize the truth of his words, my cries of lament slowly subsided to sniffles and hiccups. “Wait until you’re ready,” he advised. “Give yourself some time.”
Looking back, I now understand why I was so affected by Martin’s passing. At the time, I assumed it was just the normal reaction to the loss of a friend. Still grieving over a year later though led me to conclusion that I was not just saddened by the death of a friend. I was suffering from the realization that I had fallen in love with him and I was too late. I am still unsure when or how, but somewhere along the way Martin’s perseverance paid off. He won my heart.
Although I might be too late to return Martin‘s love, I remain mindful of Brendan’s words of wisdom: I am not too late to say a final farewell. Yet even after I say goodbye and my life seems to go back to the way it was before, I know it will never actually be the same because things are not always as they appear to be.
Rest in peace, Martin. You'll always be in my heart.
(Written for a personal narrative in college)