This is what will happen after you die.
Peoples’ hearts will shoot to their throats when they hear you’re missing. So out of character, they say. Some have a niggly thought – deep down, they know.
The police visit your family’s home. Your partner will open the door, hoping to hear good news. She’s so sure she will hear good news. When the two young constables start talking, she will start to feel as if she’s floating in water. Every word they say will become distorted and their faces contorted. She keeps it together, closing the door gently behind them. She becomes good at this in coming months.
She will look down at the palms of her hands and jagged little moon impressions of her nails will draw blood. She will drop to her knees on the tiled goddamn floor and scream and sob and scream and look up into the sky and wonder why in the hell you wanted to do this to her. Everyone is a little selfish in grief sometimes.
Your children will come running.
They too will scream. Mummy is behaving strangely. But their real tears will come late at night when they are all alone, even up until their 20s. Because it’s that day that their memories of you stopped – a firm date chiselled into stone and imprinted in their minds forever.
They are only little now. But they grow up until beautiful teenagers, then adults who have children of their own. This you never see. And every birthday, every celebration for them doubles as a painful reminder that you are no longer here. They will develop personality traits and wonder if they came from you. They will have your nose, your lips, or your laugh. People will always point this out.
Your wife will then have to make the hardest phone call of her life – to your parents. An iPhone is hard to use when it is slippery with tears. Through muffled wails she will tell your mother, who screams out for your father.
This will almost hit them harder – you weren’t supposed to die before them. They will embrace tighter than they have in 25 years. But this is a different form of closeness – a grip of sheer terror. Your mum’s knuckles go white and big, juicy, mucusy tears collect on her nose before dropping down your father’s shoulder. He never cries – but he is now. He pictures you with your gapped tooth smile and mop of blonde hair as a three-year-old, pushing your dump truck, cackling with laughter. How can a world be so cruel that you wish to leave it, he screams inside. Then he pictures your son, now the same age, and his face drops and so does his heart.
He will break away from your mother to go and boil the jug. This will be the beginning of a decade of odd and detached behaviour before he dies from a heart attack. But your mum thinks he died that day – that this cruel world killed him too. He loved you with all his heart, but he never got to tell you. He wished more than anything he could have, you know. He sobs in the bathroom in the middle of the night so no one can see his pain. So he thinks, but it’s written in the wrinkles and resignation and the anguish all over his face.
Your mum now calls your sister, who she will lean on for the next 35 years before she dies too, but naturally and peacefully. When she’s ready to go, she is happy she gets to see you. It’s her only solace in death. For seven days straight after your funeral, she stays in bed, crying only when your father leaves the room, because he’s acting like he’s not bothered. Like everything is normal, for God’s sake.
Your sister is pregnant with her third child. Your mother has to almost spit out the news. It’s a horrible taste in her mouth. Your sister cups her stomach and a single tear spouts from her left eye before they all come. You spoke to her just this morning and you asked her if she’d settled on a name. You were going to bring the family over for Christmas lunch. You were the kid’s most favourite uncle. Oh god, the kids. Oh god, she whimpers. She tells your mother she’ll be over shortly. Then she calls your brother-in-law.
He’s at work. In shock, he drops his phone off the side of the building by accident. He is suffering at the moment too.
Your friends will sit for a moment in disbelief and shock. The tears will come – often at the funeral, when reality hits like running full pace into a brick wall. You are gone, bro. There will never be another Lion Red at your local, a fish over the Mokohinaus or a lazy chin wag before a surf out west.
You yourself will never feel the cool salt water over your skin, the silence as you press the nose of your board through the guts of a five-foot wave, or the crisp taste of a craft beer paired with the tenderness of fresh snapper straight out of the big blue.
Your colleagues, who you might not think even care about you, will cry themselves to sleep. They were just your workmates, yes, but you were the highlight of their work day, you know. The life of the party. The cheerful guy in the office.
Your high school sweetheart will lay in bed awake all night.
Your old swimming coach.
Your primary school best friend.
The guy you hung out with at uni after MGMT101 15 years ago.
Even the girl who doesn’t really know you but who’s best friend committed suicide last year will cry for you. She will cry for every suicide for the rest of her life, like an open wound in salt water, never able to heal.
If you could see your funeral, hundreds of people – or maybe it’s just 10, but still, the pain’s no less – lining up shuddering with tears, maybe you would have changed your mind.
Because here’s the thing – this is not a message to make you feel guilty. This is a message to say one thing: You are loved. You are loved. You are loved.
Even if now you cannot love yourself, the love from others can pull you through this pain, I promise. Even if you don’t have many friends. There will always be one person’s heart that is broken by your passing.
Bro. You are loved. You are loved. You are loved.
Repeat after me: I am loved. I am loved. I am loved.
DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757
LIFELINE: 0800 543 354
SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234
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