Free Meck! Donate to suicide prevention in honor of lost UNCC student
Posted on 2 Jun 2010 by Meck
UPDATE: The fundraiser ended at midnight on 6÷5÷2010. Winners of the drawings will be posted shortly on http://kuwtb.com and twitter. Thank you all for your generous support. I’ve reached AFSP’s participation goal!
When I was a junior at UNCC, I lost a close friend to suicide. You can read the story of how suicide affected my life below.*
Now I need your help. I’m having a fundraiser for American Foundation for Suicide Prevention through the end of the week, and my goal is to raise $2000. Every $5 donation to AFSP enters you to win 2 Orchestra Tickets to Wicked, a $100 Visa gift card, a 1 hour massage from Felicitea, and gift certificates to Dilworth Billiards and Amelie’s French Bakery.
I need at $1000 to be able to participate in the Overnight Walk in Boston later this month, as of this posting I’m about $250 away.
But if I can raise $2000, I’ll reveal my identity. No excuses.
If you can, please read my story and make a donation today.
And consider tweeting the following to help spread the word:
I helped @MeckCharlotte raise money for suicide prevention in honor of UNCC student Heather Brink http://cltblog.com/7345 #freemeck
Narrative Summary of the Circumstances Surrounding Death
Tattoos? Birds/seagulls in flight…
On March 18th 2007 I woke up. I got dressed, brushed my teeth, and went to breakfast at IHOP with my boyfriend. I came back to the dorm to see an ambulance parked outside of our building with the doors open. A girl was hanging on a boy. She was crying. That was when I knew.
Not really knew what, of course, but knew something. Something was wrong. I went back to my dorm room to change for Greek Week rehearsal. Then Gabby knocked on my bedroom door.
“Meck” (and I wish that right here I could tell you what her voice sounded like. I can’t describe it. But I can still hear it. Even right now).
“Get in the study room.”
I exited my room and saw her and Kirkley Fan making their way down my hallway. Pounding. Screaming. I made eye contact long enough with Kirkley Fan for her to see the question on my face.
“Heather fell out her window last night.”
Tattoo, cursive “silence”
I pushed past her to the adjacent hallway and saw police loitering outside Heather’s open door. Jlo was crying. Her boyfriend shifted uncomfortably. I made my way to the study room. Now this is where it starts to bleed. Not the memories. Those remain. Stuck. I couldn’t wish them away even if I wanted to. But when I look back, I’m not really sure what order everything happened in. The whole first 24 hours, when I allow myself to turn it on, plays like a broken reel. Images cycling, repeating.
There’s Ashley stumbling. She looks like she’s drunk. But she’s not. She just can’t walk. The other Ashley is dry heaving into a trash can. For some reason we are all sitting the same way. On the floor. Knees pulled up to our chests, arms holding on. Gabby is uncharacteristically calm, reading to us from a sorority crisis handbook. Do not talk to the media. Do not call the family. Do not tell anyone outside the Chapter. Jenny is staring at a wall. Kristina is holding Amy up. Jessica is picking at her toes. Jenn is tugging her hair. Noses are sniffling.
Next, the police want to know what the past weekend looked like. We all know what it looked like. It was Heather’s goodbye party. It had been a weekend of drinking and saying goodbye, because she said she was withdrawing from school. Leaving early. She told us she was going home.
“The friends locked the door behind them when they left and that was the last time anyone saw her alive.”
So then we said the stupidest thing we could say. That she was fine. Because of course she wasn’t. She had a history of bipolar disorder and had been struggling with mania and medications. Her mother died by suicide, father wasn’t around, and she was raised by her grandfather and they often didn’t get along. She had tried to die once before, on these very same floors, when he forgot her birthday. She hadn’t been fine.
Except that, for those past few days, she was. She was great and seemed truly happy. In fact it is one of only a few times I remember her being that way. She was difficult to get along with. Her mood could change in an instant. But she had been so grateful those few days. So carefree. So aware of her friendships. And sad, in hindsight too sad, to be saying goodbye for just one summer.
School officials came. The Dean, a counselor. They told us they understood. That they had been there. But they were so awkward. Holding us at arm’s length. Probing for details we were too numb to give. After they left that afternoon, they never contacted us again.
When we were out of lockdown it was time for the phone tree. To call all the sisters up to our hall who didn’t live there. To plan what to do next. As soon as the Dean and sisters cleared the room for a minute it was just Gabby and Kirkley Fan and me. We were looking at each other and I had to ask a question to kill the fleeting hope that was chewing on my stomach. A question I knew the answer to, even though no one said it yet. No one would. No one would tell us what was happening, what we all knew. “She’s dead, isn’t she?” Gabby looked away with tears welling in her eyes. Kirkley Fan bit her lip and nodded. And there it was.
“Further history indicates…”
Over the next 24 hours we took a walk. It was unseasonably warm and sunny outside. Four of us sat on a rock in Van Landingham Glen and watched the clouds pass and just talked about her. Talked for hours about what she did and who she was. How she smelled. Her tattoos. The ways she used to piss us off. The time she was drunk at a party. Anything. Everything. We went back to the dorm. That’s when the stories started. At least 3 different people were claiming to have found the body. One sister found out from a TV news reporter. Then people started coming. Moms. Old sisters. Girls who had been out of town. Girls who had quit the sorority came back. Friends I had a falling out with, seeing them brought tears to my eyes. “I’m sorry.” “Me too.” They brought food. Campus organizations brought flowers. And we started our traditions. We draped our charter and turned our badges upside down. We made candles for our ceremonies and had meetings and wrote stories and made slide shows and planned a memorial. We took to the internet and searched for reasons and warning signs and understanding. We found American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and gained some of the information we needed (but of course not an answer to the question that ate away at each of us: what should I have done?) We bought cigarettes and smoked them in “her spot” on the wall outside our dorm. We painted her bathroom locker to resemble the towel she hung over the door. We did everything we thought we needed to do to mourn. But we were just beginning a lifetime’s journey.
“The decedent was discovered lying behind the dorm building where she was a resident on the 10th floor on the campus of UNC-Charlotte.”
Two nights later when I was waiting in the building lobby I overheard our security guard talking on his cell phone. “Yep… Jumped out the window… ten floors… I’m telling you….It was like” he said as he brought his hand down on the desk. “Smack!”
There were denials. It was an accident. It was suspicious. It was homicide. Maybe it was one of the sisters. And then a friend showed me Mydeathspace, a message board that posts the myspace profiles of the recently deceased and speculates about the cause of death. On her myspace page, next to her picture, Heather had wrote “on a scale of 1 to 10, I’m awesome”. One of the Mydeathspace posters mocked the quote saying “more like starting at 10 and embedded at 1.”
She didn’t leave a note although her AIM profile contained the lyrics to the Valencia song “The closest I am to living life on the edge.” It goes:
Lets build a rocket to the moon
Just you and I
We could start a whole new world up there
Leave our past behind
Sometimes I can’t believe my eyes
I want to stare up
And get lost in the city lights
Because I’ve had enough and this is the end
And now I understand
That a heart breaks it does not bend
Someone please help me out
I never meant to take this so far
Now I’ve fallen way too hard
Take a long step back to
To The days when I was younger
Decisions never mattered all this much
It’s an emptied handed promise
From my heart to my conscious
That says one day I will make this count
Report of Investigation by Medical Examiner
Three months after Heather’s death I was working as a legal assistant, and while searching through online forms I found a way to request a Medical Examiner’s Report. So I did. But then something terrible happened: it came in the mail, along with its drawings and cold reality.
Around six months after, I started having dreams about her. They all followed the same pattern: I run into Heather somewhere and I am shocked. She tells me she faked her death. I am furious. She says, “Aren’t you happy to see me, didn’t you plead with god that you’d do anything to see me again.” And I respond, screaming, “You ruined our lives!”
Tattoo “whom a heart breaks it doesn’t mend”
It’s been three years now since she died. I’ve done a lot to move on with my life. In 2008, Kirkley Fan, Gabby, La’Nolan and I, along with two other sisters, did AFSP’s Out of the Darkness Overnight in New York City. Six of us raised $7000 for the organization. This year we will walk again in Boston. I’ve sought therapy. I’ve begun chasing dreams. Heather was the person who recommended that I take Intro to Fiction Writing. I did, and it altered my entire path. I can’t help but notice how much has changed since that day. But in a lot of ways, I feel stuck there.
Kirkley Fan said she hoped Heather would haunt her. In that long semester of sleepless nights, blinds shut, living in what felt like funeral home, when I avoided even walking past her old doorway, I prayed many times that she wouldn’t haunt me. But she has.
She’s there all the time. Her shadow can darken a lot of things. At my dad’s birthday dinner in December, someone innocently brought up the tragedy of a person jumping from a local bridge. I swallowed hard as an awkward silence consumed the table. And anytime someone makes a casual “I want to kill myself” joke, a light switch is flipped on in my mind. Certain memories once again illuminated.
I think most often about a few things. La’Nolan getting the phone call on the road in Boston and beating on her steering wheel screaming “fuck you, Heather, fuck you.” The alienation I felt from the UNCC campus for so long, and the way it postponed my life. The bottle of ambien I flushed in the early days after her death because I didn’t trust myself. The campus workers packing her room, and the way the sunlight flooded it when they took down her black curtains. Spending nights in bed with Gabby because I couldn’t sleep alone. Leah grabbing my hand when someone fell from the roof in a movie we were watching. The ex boyfriend who told me he understood my pain because he had recently lost his grandmother and how furious it made me. Me telling Heather at lunch the Thursday before she died that I hated when we all left school for the summer, because it felt like my college friends were dead to me. Her knocking on my door that same Thursday morning with tears in her eyes saying “I just wanted to say goodbye.”
I try to cherish the positive changes her death set in motion. Girls join a sorority to gain sisters, but it wasn’t until March 18 that those women truly became my family. I still talk to some of them every day. I am a writer now, or trying to be, thanks to Heather. Gabby decided to pursue a master’s in college student development, and got the position of Resident Director because of her exemplary work as our RA after it happened. Kirkley Fan is going back to school for nursing, considering work in the mental health field. Some people might speculate that this is all part of something bigger that we don’t yet understand. I am not one of them, but I am grateful for how we’ve made do.
I’m also grateful, or try to be, for the new understanding I gained. Even for my awareness of my own mortality and that of my friends. For the guy in a taco bell parking lot that saw my Overnight t-shirt and asked me how to help his friend in Raleigh who he feared might hurt herself. For the friends who reached out to me and who I took to the Emergency Room before something irreversible happened. For the chances to challenge the stigma and maybe help someone the way I couldn’t help Heather.
But you know what? I am still sad. I am still mourning. Because like in my dreams, Heather is alive, but she isn’t. She’s on facebook, and people still comment regularly on her wall. She pops up in mutual friends lists. She’s at the heart of our Overnight efforts and the friendship that binds Gabby, Kirkley Fan, La’Nolan and me. She’s in our careers. In our thoughts. In the Medical Examiner’s report tucked away in my closet among old cards and tax returns.
Maybe I’m hung up on it. Maybe it’s wrong that I can’t just let go. Maybe I shouldn’t still be grieving. Maybe I shouldn’t still start to feel depressed when the weather turns to spring. Maybe I shouldn’t hide under the covers when the sun starts to shine and I smell the air, waiting with dread for March 18th to roll around and the movie to start playing. And maybe I’m a little angry that I’m stuck with this story. Maybe I’m pissed because I was 22 and didn’t know the world could be so ugly. Maybe I wanted to find that out on my own terms. Maybe I didn’t want to have to change. But I had to, had to change after it happened. Maybe I’m just mourning myself. Because the girl I used to be died along with her.
I unpacked that Medical Examiner’s report today, and when I was reading it I noticed something I hadn’t before. On Heather’s arm, written in ink, was “Call Casey.” I didn’t know Casey, so Gabby and I checked Heather’s Facebook. No friends with that name. Maybe she unfriended her because it was too hard suddenly seeing her face again whenever the site randomly dictated? Maybe it was her way of saying goodbye? Of moving on? Or maybe she doesn’t have an account?
But I thought, what if Casey feels the way I do about it? What if she didn’t get to say goodbye to Heather? What if she hadn’t talked to Heather in awhile, and then found out she had died? What if they had been fighting? What if she was still searching for something, some tidbit of information that would provide her with the ever elusive closure that we all secretly desire? If I was her, even now, I would want to know. I would want to know she was going to call.
Originally published on Keeping Up with the Belks, an anonymous blog. Some names have been changed.
I donated, tweeted, and I’ll be mentioning this on my blog later tonight. Good luck on reaching your goal, and thank you for doing this.
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