I remember the first day I met Josh. I was in the 7th grade and had just moved to North Carolina from Georgia. I was sitting on the school bus with my friend Amelia, and a small, mildly pudgy kid with a bowl cut plops down in the seat in front of us. He was full of energy and confidence. He quickly turned around to say hello to Amelia, and introduced himself to me with a polite handshake. From that moment on, we were close friends. I looked forward to every afternoon bus ride to catch up and hear his funny stories of the day. We talked everyday on our way home until I started high school.
I missed my little friend dearly, but freshman year flew by and I was a sophomore. Josh entered high school the following year and I was floored. My short, round little guy had shot up into a tall dark and handsome young man. We enjoyed the freedom of mingling with other classes that high school brought. We even shared the same bus again. We tried dating my junior year, but decided that we were better friends. Josh confided in me a lot of his problems. He resented his mom and the choices she had made, he started to experiment with drugs, he felt trapped within himself. I tried to help him as much as a teenage girl could, and he put on a brave face.
I graduated in 2003, leaving Josh to his own senior year memories. I missed him as I started college, and began working. I married quickly out of school and stayed in our hometown, so I ran into him several times. The last time I saw him we were at the bank and I was about 8 months pregnant with my daughter. He rubbed my belly and introduced me to his fiancee. He was elated to tell me that he had a great job and had really made something of himself. It warmed my heart to see him so happy.
Around a year later at Halloween I got the horrible news that Josh had committed suicide. They found him in a closet in his home. He left a note saying that life was too hard for him. I was devastated. I racked my brain trying to think if there was any way that I could have helped him see what everyone saw in him. Maybe if I would have tried to stay in contact more during the years I could have somehow prevented this from happening. The grief was almost unbearable.
His funeral came about and I had two small children at home. My husband at the time stayed home from work and we decided that I would go to the receiving of friends and then return. It was a horrible day. He looked so peaceful in his casket. Just as handsome as I remember him. They had pictures and letters in his casket to bury with him. I could hardly choke back sobs as I said my last goodbyes to my dear friend.
Later in the week I was standing at my kitchen sink washing dishes. It was quiet in my house. I was alone in thoughts and memories. I began to cry over the loss. I then got angry and asked aloud "Why?! Did you not know how much you were loved?!" I composed myself after several minutes and carried on with my day.
That night after tucking my children in their beds/cribs I laid down and drifted off to sleep. What happened next has stayed with me as vividly as it did when I awoke from it.
I dreamed I was in our high school. I was in the commons area where we all gathered before classes to gossip and see each other. It was totally empty, except for Josh. He sat on the bench and beamed at me motioning me to come sit with him. It was deja vu, this was our morning ritual when we were classmates. I sat beside him and began to cry. He reached out and dried my tears. He put his arms around me and whispered "I'm sorry" in my ear. I looked at his face, he was beautiful. Skin like porcelain, hair shiny and perfect, he even smelled good. He placed his hand on my cheek and told me that no one could have stopped him. I sat there just looking at him for what felt like hours. Then the bell sounded for class to begin. He looked over his shoulder, turned back to me and said "I can't stay any longer, my time is up" He stood giving me one last hug. "I still love you" he said with that adorable smile he had since middle school. He started walking towards the double doors which led to the outside of the school. I stood there just watching him leave. Then it was over, and I was awake.
I sat straight up in my bed crying and covered with goosebumps. I will never forget my sweet Josh coming to me and letting me know he was ok. I will cherish this memory until I get to see him again.