I remember it perfectly. It was nice afternoon in May. I was driving around town on the scooter, and I was enjoying the weather. I stopped at the bank to make a payment on my car loan and as I was walking out, two classmates, still in high school, pulled up. They got out of the car. We chatted a little bit about this and that, and right when I mounted my scooter, the girl said “Oh my God, Kelley! Did you hear about Casey?” I asked “Casey who?” she told me. I said, “uh…no? What happened.” At this point my heart was already racing. I knew it had to be something bad because of the way she had slouched down and got really close to me. She got quiet and said, “He overdosed. We don’t know on what, we were told it wasn’t on purpose.” I was stunned. “So, what does that mean? Is he in the hospital?” “No,” she said. “He died.” I had no response but a simple “oh. Wow.”
I almost didn’t believe it. I went home, I got on the internet, and sure enough there it was on Facebook and (at the time when I had it) Myspace. It was staring me in the face. I didn’t know how to handle it. Utter shock. I told my parents. I called my friends. Then, I went about my day. Every once in a while I would blurt out “this is crazy.” It wasn’t until the next day when I woke up thinking “That was an awful dream” that I realized it was real. I tracked down his mother’s phone number and called her when I got off work. I spent an hour and a half sitting in my car talking to her and sobbing. It wasn’t until I started talk to her that I realized that day in particular was the day we had made plans. We were going to get together when I got off work, have a picnic, go shopping, and end it with drinks since his birthday wasn’t but a few days before that.
She told me that when we had gotten in a huge fight that threatened to end our friendship he was heart broken. That when we rekindled our friendship he was overjoyed. That he talked about me to them every time we had seen each other. She told me that she knew just from that that I was important to him. That I was a major part of his life. She knew we had had plans because he had told her we were going to hang out that day. It was at that point that my heart broke in half. I had no idea that I meant that much to him. To this day, I still wish I had expressed to him more what an influence he was on me.
When I was having issues we had talked and he had reminded me of a song that had come out when we were younger that had connected the two of us. Follow Me by Uncle Kracker. He told me that no matter what the situation, that no matter what the circumstances, to hear that song, to sing it to myself, and to know that he was pulling for me. That he was thinking of me. That he would always be there. I fought tooth and nail to go to his funeral, but I was unable to get the day off at one of my jobs. The day of his funeral, I woke up and heard that song. I heard it on the way to work, and during the few short hours I was at work, I heard it twice. My boss had no idea why I was emotional and pulled me aside. I explained to him the conversation that had happened between me and another manager about me having that day off to go to the funeral and how I wasn’t granted the day off. He graciously sent me home, but at that point, it was already too late for me to go. The funeral had already started. I got in my car to go home and the song was on again. I sobbed the rest of the afternoon, and spent that evening feeling a little dead inside.
Whether or not you’re a believer in spirits, what happened to me 2 days after the funeral goes as follows: I had fallen asleep on the couch while I was watching a movie. I remember hearing a door quietly open and then quietly close. I opened my eyes slightly to see a shadow, the TV turned off, and I felt pressure on the couch next to me. A hand touched my arm, I heard the words “It’s okay, Kelley. I know you loved me,” and the blanket came up over my shoulder. I fell back asleep but shortly afterwards woke back up, thinking it was a dream, until I got my bearings and realized the TV was off, and the blanket was covering my shoulder.
I spent the next couple of weeks talking to his mother on and off and crying with her. I went out to his grave multiple times and put flowers out there and “talked” to him. Over the course of a year I heard Follow Me many more times than I ever had. When a year had passed, my father went out to the grave site with me as comfort. When I arrived, his whole family was there. We hung around and chatted for a while, and as usual, I began to cry. I told his mother how I felt like I didn’t get to say good bye. How I was angry that I didn’t make it to his funeral. How he had died 2 days before we had planned to hang out for the first time in weeks. She reassured me that he knew he was in my thoughts. She told me about the experiences that she had with seeing him at the end of the bed. I told her about what happened. She laughed and said “He’s just making his rounds.”
Years later, I still find it difficult. This last may was the first time I was unable to make it to his grave since we’re in South Carolina. I requested for my father to put flowers on his grave for me. I called his mother and asked her to say a few words for me. We talked and cried more. There have been so many times that have been difficult for me that Follow Me has come on the radio or played over the speakers in a store and I felt comforted. I know deep down that it’s luck of the draw. That it just happened as a result of randomness, but something in me still pokes and says “No, it’s Casey.” The last time I went to his grave. I pulled up and to the church graveyard and the song started. I sat in my car for the duration of the song, and then got out and placed the flowers on his grave. After I said a few words, I left and Ceelo Green’s, Fuck You came on the radio. I had this vision of him sitting in the passenger seat and the two of us singing our hearts out to it. That was him.
Why is it though, that after all these years, I still can’t come to terms with it? Is it really just because I feel like I didn’t get my good bye? Is it because I feel cheated on closure? At some point the tears have to stop. At some point the grieving needs to end. But when is that? How long does it take to grieve over someone? How long does a person need to get over a death? I know everyone is different. I have been to many funerals and no death has hit me quite as hard as this one. It has been 4 years now and he’s still in my thoughts. I still feel him.
I just came from the ER to get my stitches removed. As I was leaving, I began thinking of all the things I need to do for the wedding still and how I don’t feel like I have any time. I was thinking “I just want to put this in someone else’s hands. I just want to be done. I am SO STRESSED” and what song comes on the radio? Follow Me. I laughed. I teared up. I sang along. I felt better. The closer I got to home, the more I got thinking on this topic and how I wish he could be there. Exactly how long does it take. How can I still feel the sting after 4 years?
I’m not sitting here blaming myself. I ‘m not sitting here say “oh, poor pity me.” I’m just trying understand the reasoning behind it. He’s here. I know he’s here. Even if not as much as he was. I know he’s still here, and I don’t want to lose that. I don’t want to be disconnected from him forever. Maybe that’s it. I know I’ll be 100% okay with it some day, but for right now, I have to settle for 90%. Some day that other 10% will be filled with the feeling of being okay.
I’m not saying it affects my whole life, but it’s just that 10% of my year that my thoughts are filled with “why him?” or something to that effect. For now, I know that my day will be good. I know I have hope for the day all because of that song, and I’m okay with that.