Losing a Friend to Suicide
August 18th, 2018
I remember arriving to work on this very day, I believe my shift started at 8-9 usually when I worked at Marination Ma Kai down by Alki Beach. I was dropped off, as I was heading in, I realized Jonathan—now by far one of my closest friends I seen him crying hysterically. I kind of assumed it was because of you; we didn’t hear from you the day before (Friday, August 17th). At first, I didn’t think much of it. Knowing you, you were always safe even when you were doing your thing. What made me more upset was the last thing I said to you.
Everyone tried their best to reach out to you, and I thought you were just pushing everyone away. You were best at hiding how much pain you were experiencing. I notice that most about you the time getting to know you and knowing you. I guess that’s what made me more drawn to get to know you better when I first started working with you. You were training me my first day or two. You always made sure I had everything in stock. It was just weird to me that you never really talked to anyone. My second day working there, you were training me but you had to leave before your shift was over because of a family emergency. This was all before you told me the things you were dealing with at home. My first impression of you was even though I constantly called you “shy guy” because you mostly kept to yourself, I could tell how caring you were. About everyone.
You didn’t say much or were good at expressing how you feel about anything or anyone. After getting to know you, I realized how much you were just like me but still very different. You told me certain things on our car rides home every time I needed a ride because parking on Alki was a pain in the ass. I’ve grown to get used to you, whenever there was work BBQs. You would always magically appear, leave then come back. You enjoyed the life given to you so seamlessly. I don’t know how to really express how you were beside how you were, humble and full of life even though you did not get a chance at living the rest of your existence with us.
In that small amount of time, I came to know the most genuine and yet intelligent person I've ever come in contact with. Whether it was work-related or not. You were always there for everyone, from family to friends, coworkers and your personal relationship. You never once complained about how much people were taking your kindness for granted. I spent basically most of Spring-Summer with you. We had at least 3-4 shifts together, even when we didn’t, you’d just show up and cover for someone’s shift. I remember calling out once so we can all go to Oregon together. Jonathan, you and I, plus some others but it never happened.
The next day you brought it up and texted me. You thought it was the most hilarious thing ever that we barely all knew each other and I was just down to go on a whim with everyone. Truth is, I kinda knew that only a handful of you was going to have my back while I worked there. I miss you so much, man. I still do and I try so hard to not think about it. It’s been more than a year since you left us.
Going back to that, I went into work that Saturday because Jonathan didn’t say a word about what had happened. No one texted or call me the day before as soon as they found out. I went into work and I saw the rest of our crew, everyone was sobbing and drowning in tears. Still, no one told me what happened. I continued to bring out all the prep work. I was still lost and not sure about anything. I didn’t want to think of any worse case scenarios. I’m not sure if I wanted to be hopeful and think positively or knew something awful happen and wanted to be in denial of it all. I was tired of being in the unknown so I spoke up and asked “what happened, why is everyone crying. Where is Miguel?” A couple of our coworkers finally told me, in those 2 minutes of our conversation.
My mind went blank, I couldn’t process the words properly. I zoned out for a bit because I was in shock. I was so shocked that I froze in time. Usually, in these tense situations, I would have lost my shit and went crazy and had a mental breakdown. But I was calm, more than usual. They told me “the cops found Miguel’s car down by the beach, they found a body covered in blood. They haven’t confirmed if it's Miguel or not but it was a young male in his late teens.”
At that point, I was still trying to think “no, that body isn’t Miguel. He’s not in the car, maybe it’s someone who has the same car as him. Or may have borrowed his car.” Even after seeing the images on the West Seattle blog... I remember that day so clearly. I still get chills thinking about it, or in this case, talking about it. I have all my memories stored as files in my brain, writing about this. I can just tune everything else out and just think about this specific tragedy. I continued to go on with work and the day, as everyone else was crying. I was trying to think about the whole situation. I kept convincing myself that it can’t be true, just as every person would if they found out that their friends' car was found with a dead body in it.
I continued to prep all the food and tried my best to continue staying calm. I mean I just saw Miguel earlier that week and worked a shift with him. And spoke to him not that long ago. Reminiscing on his behavior before it all happened. I questioned myself, did we miss all the hints and clues? The last time I saw him when we both worked a shift with Jonathan… as we were closing, Jonathan gave me a peck on the forehead. We just have a different kind of friendship with each other since I started working there since April of 2017. As I walked back to the line where Miguel was, he told me to come up to him and side hugged me and he also gave me a peck on the forehead. I thought nothing of it. He had a goofy personality and found odd things amusingly funny. I just had thought he was mocking Jonathan. Adding to that, an hour or so passed by, one of our coworkers who jogs around Alki came into work on her day or shift off if I can remember correctly, she told us what she knew so we had more waiting to do until my general manager comes in. We waited and waited. At this point, most of my prep was done. Me being the person I am, I kept trying to find other things to do at work to distract myself from everyone's worries and their crying. It was starting to upset me solely because we haven’t even really found out or got confirmation that it was Miguel.
Another 20-30 minutes passed, our general manager came in, she was in tears, her face was red. She just nodded her head and said: “it is Miguel.” At this point, the crying got louder and more intense. Everyone was hugging each other while I was standing there watching. Our other manager, the owner of Ma Kai seen me started crying, too. I remember the teardrops, I remember my exact thoughts in this exact moment. I remember how it felt, my chest felt heavy and my stomach felt nauseous. I couldn't help but started crying too. I tried to hold back the tears and tried not to feel anything, I mean how could I? Everyone had done lost it and I wanted to be strong, I wanted to be okay because no one else was. And I already have poor expressions of emotions as is. I wasn't worried about looking soft, more or so trying to be strong for everyone else.
This point moving forward—I was excused to go cry if I needed to. I was just so confused. I was so confused but so angry that he didn’t reach out to me before doing something like that. I guess it makes me a hypocrite. I was always suicidal and always have been. I was selfish. I thought “why didn’t Miguel talk to me” not really implying that suicidal people, sometimes, almost a lot of the time never reach out to anyone when they are dealing with these thoughts. Not because “they’re selfish” as some peoples point of view feels about this topic. Sometimes suicidal people don't express their suicidal thoughts because they don't want to worry anyone or feel like a burden. Not because they actually want to do it a majority of the time.
I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum. I’ve been suicidal for as long as I can remember but I’ve dealt with people who are as well, not just Miguel. The only difference between all of us is that some people are unfortunate enough to actually succeed at it. That day, we all talked about him because we weren't able to psychically go see him yet. We stayed at work and cried for hours deciding whether or not we should close the restaurant that day. Eventually, we did, everyone stayed there. A lot of people that worked there, our other coworkers, some didn't even show up or even answered their phones. Grieving works differently for everyone. This wasn't the first death I had experienced. This was the first suicide one. I didn't want to stay there while everyone talked about how great Miguel was. That's an understatement.
We all knew Miguel, but we all knew him differently. I didn't say much while everyone was talking, I wanted to grieve alone. I was texting my boyfriend at the time to come pick me up because we were closing early. And possibly the next day. On the way back home, we were in the car with his cousin. He kept asking if I was okay, I went to his house but that day, that time being, I wanted to just be alone. So I asked to get dropped off at home. I had so much coffee that day... what's new but I was so mentally and emotionally exhausted that I wanted to sleep. I wasn't tired psychically. I just napped till it became sleep. Your friends and family held a candlelight for you the next couple of days. Jonathan and the crew helped your sister with it. I couldn't even bear the thoughts of going, that would mean that I was beginning to accept the fact that you're gone forever. I wasn't ready for that yet. I was stuck in a haze for a very long time so I didn't go. I kind of regret it but if I did, maybe it would've helped me grieve even better than I did.
The day of your viewing, I took a few shots of Jameson before arrival. The viewing, I couldn't go sober. Plus we already know how I get with alcohol. I couldn't imagine being there sober or feeling sober. I was running yet again, I didn't want to face the truth. I didn't want to come to the agreement and understanding that you were taken away from us. I couldn't bear having a broken heart. I couldn't deal with any of it. I was scared to. At the viewing, I don't think many of us were sober anyways. Everyone cried while seeing you there. Lifeless and not even looking like yourself. I had another look at it. I waited patiently until it was my turn to go up there to see you one of the last times. I couldn't recognize you, you didn't look the way you once did. Even though it was painful for me to get a close look, I did it anyway. I looked closer and closer because losing you did not make any sense to me. Of course, me having the mindset I do, I questioned everything, I was paying attention to any small detail and imperfection, I tried to look for the wounds of where and how. I wanted it nothing more for it to make sense. It didn't. I wanted to touch your hand, I wanted to hold it but I was trying to be respectful to the others who were there as well. So I didn't.
After your viewing, there was a service for you. It lasted about 2 hours. Jonathan got a rosary for a few of us in honor of your life being shared with us on this Earth. I remember clearly him saying "I know you're not religious but please put this on for Miguel." We sat there for 2 hours. I was so claustrophobic, I couldn't breathe properly or even feel what I didn't know I felt. I couldn't understand anything that was going on during the ceremony because it was in Spanish. I tried to listen to certain things that I've heard before so after the service, I had Jonathan translated everything to me. After your memorial, we left to go eat and everyone, including myself, started our drinking again. We didn't say anything when we left. We just drank and tried to focus on that and small talk here and there. This is how I knew we had some weird trauma from the day we found out you committed suicide. Even saying that now, is still hard to come to face the facts. It just sounds so deep, so real.
Later that evening was your actual funeral, this was the final goodbye, for good. We all went to do our errands and tried to find the right outfit to say our goodbyes. I think I was just at home napping again. When you passed away, I spent most of my time working, getting drunk, sleeping a whole lot or not at all. I woke up to my alarm reminding me what the right time to leave, so I'd actually arrive on time. No surprise I was stuck in traffic on my way to your funeral. I made it work. I drove fast, I was being reckless but still mindful of other peoples lives. I just wanted to be there on time. I wanted to be there. When I did arrive, I wanted to turn around and leave again. To be quite honest, I was thinking about just fleeing the scene and not show up. I was running, scared all over again.
Those feelings never went away since you did. There were times where I wanted to call or text you to come to hang out with us. Times when I wanted to call you and rant to you about how I felt about this situation and all the losses I already had to face growing up but in this story, you were the victim. Not my go-to phone call or text. At my arrival, Jonathan kept telling me to be there for him, not just you. I think out of all of us, he took it the hardest. More than me. I'm good with feelings the majority of the time—I'm just not very good at expressing it. I know how to neutralize a lot of things I feel or experienced because I became accustomed to feeling alone even when there are other people around me. I became numb to the pain. To everything; almost. When I walked into the funeral home, then the room where you were held in your casket, the first thing I noticed was how poorly it reeked like alcohol. Morally whiskey than maybe some cheap vodka. I still apologize for that, we don't know how to act when things are serious and we're all alcoholics. I sat by Jonathan, he had roses, lots of them then asked me to place one on you. I was indecisive about doing it, I was scared. I didn't want to be my last, the last goodbye to being just a rose.
Everything has meaning or meaning behind it. Every little thing, I went up there and put the rose on top of your body as it was decaying and fading away. I tried my best not to cry. I tried my hardest to not cry but I couldn't help it. I sat back down as we all did while everyone else showed up. In front of me was our other friends. One of them got up and he tried to keep his serenity but couldn't. As he was tumbling and almost falling over the chair's place, another friend followed him to make sure he was okay.
At this moment, I was getting overwhelmed by the harsh smell of rubbing alcohol and drunk drinking alcohol. I got up and left too. It was a room full of emotions and everyone's energy and it was too much for me to find peace of mind in. Everyone went back further to the back of the funeral home where Jonathan parked. We pulled out the alcohol bottles, the ones you usually bought or drank. We passed it around, we poured a few for you. We still didn't know how to act. We were playing loud music and just drinking telling stories about you as the other guests were leaving and entering. Our dear friend returned from his mental breakdown.
I guess he was so hurt and full of anger that he probably portrayed your passing differently but as I mentioned, people all face grieve differently and go through the different stages however they please to. Jonathan started hugging a few of us and started crying, cussing, shouting "what the f*** Miguel." We were all worried about him that night, we knew he was drinking and didn't want him to be alone or drive drunk and a few stayed back. Then, it was my turn... Jonathan hugged me and began to shout "what the f*** Miguel" once more then "what the f*** Tina." I allowed him to feel what he felt because it was validated. We were so lost. Even when we were there experiencing and going through this with you, we all felt lost and clueless as to why we couldn't do more in our power and knowledge to save you.
We could've done more, we COULD HAVE save you. And maybe for the rest of our lives, we'll feel guilty not being able to. You were dealing with things and demons we weren't fully aware of. And still, we knew you differently than the friends you had outside of work. We saw you 5 days out of the week. We all worked with you and learned how to love and accept you for how you were. I remember working one shift with you and as we were on the line, you threw coleslaw for the tacos in my eye. And it was stuck there, you kept on thinking I was lying then flaw it flow through my pupil. There's always more, there's always gonna be more for me to say now. And things I would've said to you then.
I spend months searching for answers, a lot of the time when I wanted to unravel the truth or what had really happened, I was always highly intoxicated. Still this day it upsets me that some people talk about your passing and how much they cared about you but it doesn't show. They all say things like being there for your family or making sure they're "solid" one of the terms you used all the time... Not many of them did. Jonathan constantly still talks about you, we visited you almost all the time when you first passed, I still do till this day. I still think about you and occasionally still write about you in private. We visit your parents when we can, it's usually Jonathan who calls to check up on your sister and mom. I wish there wasn't much of a language barrier so I can visit more, so I can talk to them more. The last time I saw your parents was on your birthday. Jonathan asked me if I wanted to tag along and go visit them before we head out on our lunch date at Marination.
I remember seeing your dad opening the door for us, he didn't look the same. I mean looks, sure. But your family, they looked empty when we saw them. I was a little buzzed of course, took a few shots for you. I saw your mom and she hugged us both, your dad got us water to drink. This was the first time me being in your home. I did not know how to react or what I was supposed to say without sounding or looking insensitive. We lost you but your parents, they lost their only son and your sister lost her only brother. That's a different pain that I won't and hope to never feel or ever experience. This was the first time I saw them since your funeral. Your mom lost so much weight, this was the first time I saw your ashes. This was the first time for almost everything but it wasn't. Jonathan and she talked for a while. I couldn't understand verbally but I can understand the facial expressions and body language. I couldn't control the tears that almost started streaming from my eyes.
You went away a little time after your 20th birthday. You didn't even get to experience your first true love. I believe that we all experience our "first love" in life may be the real first love or fourth. You weren't able to experience your first child. Your first big accomplishment and many more accomplishments. It's so unfair and so unfortunate that you won't be experiencing this whole life thing with us anymore. I'd do anything just to have you back, life is like a game, a sick one. Once you're gone, time can't be replaced. The nights I was actually able to sleep, I had dreams about you, they all started out great but it always ended poorly. You were always hurt at the end, I think that's why I spent most of my time being drunk and staying or awake because dreams suddenly turned into nightmares then I'm awake and it's a reality I have to come to terms with.
The only nights I was actually able to sleep without having these dreams of you were when I would be blackout drunk so I don't dream or sleep longer. Or just sleeping with the lights on, even then, I'd sometimes still have those dark dreams about you. I spend so much time thinking about you. I spent so much time being afraid that you weren't at peace because we were holding on so deeply to your memories because that's all we really have left of you. I'll always remember you, and I'll always have this empty hole in my heart. I don't think I'll ever be at peace with you being gone, I don't think I genuinely will. I have trouble with attachment and abandonment issues to everyone I come in to contact with. Your contact just has more impact, more scarring. It's as if the wounds never healed now that I'm talking about this again. Whatever happens after life, all I want is for you to be happy and be at peace. That's all I'll ever want for you. I hope wherever that place may be, you still laugh as you did. It hurts as if it just happened and I just received the news all over again. I still visit you when I can. Now it's more of a relieving feeling knowing inside my soul, knowingly you're at peace because I don't have those dreams anymore.
I'll always have the love for you and I'll always cherish you. I will live, finally, for you.