MCN Blogs
Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

1,000 Monkeys: To Absent Friends

Dear Monica,

Today is April 20, which means another year has passed in which you didn’t, like me, grow another year older. You are forever 16 in my memory, while I have grown older and not particularly wiser, through marriages, divorces, pregnancies, deaths. My oldest daughter is nearly ten years older now than you were when you ended your life.

I think you, more than anyone, would have understood how completely ridiculous it is, the idea of me as the responsible adult to a houseful of children, much less with a daughter turning 26 and getting married this year. You were the one who wanted a family back then, while I dreamt of running off to Europe to write poetry or novels while shacked up with a handsome but poor musician, or some such romantic nonsense. You always believed more than I did in the idea of some kind of happily ever after, while I was the one who obsessively read Sylvia Plath for clues to her mysteries, which I guess makes it all the more odd that you left, while I stayed behind.

One of the curious after-effects of your death — or at least, how your death affected me — is that I tend to instinctively reach a hand to people who’ve gone through, or are going through, a devastating loss. Everyone grieves differently, of course, but at least someone who’s experienced losing a loved one to suicide knows better than to offer bullshit bromides by way of condolence. No one really knows what to say to make it better, because the truth is, there’s nothing they can say that will make it better.

It is what it is: this person you cared about, valued, loved, has chosen to end their life, and they didn’t consult you about it or stop to think how it would hurt you. Maybe a part of them even wanted to hurt you, get back at you in some way, and that too, makes you angry, because they will always have the last word. And I have to tell you, for a lot of years there was as much anger in me as grief at you, for making a choice that threw my own life into such turmoil. People are narcissitic that way. We can only experience pain and loss, really, through the lens of how it feels to us. We grieve selfishly for the person we lost, because what we’re really grieving is the eternal, infernal absence of that person in our lives. We grieve for the loss of the person we were before, and will never be again.

The pain and sadness that a suicidal person feels doesn’t just disappear into the ether when that person ends their own life; it just shatters into countless little shards that pierce the hearts of everyone who loved that person, and those shards, they don’t go away.

So when someone I know is dealing with losing someone they loved, I don’t tell them it gets better (it does, but usually not in the way you think), or that eventually they’ll be able to think of that person without it hurting so much (ditto). That rawness that feels like an open wound will heal, of course, but there will always be a scar there that wasn’t there before, and you might as well accept that and not try to hide from it. You’ll go along for a long time not thinking about it, just living your life, and then out of nowhere a song, or the flavor of mocha ice cream, or a character or bit of dialogue in a movie, will stir some memory. And there it is again, and yup, it still hurts.

I drank a strawberry daiquiri in Sarasota last week, and thought about your birthday, and remembered the time we made daiquiris with rum pilfered from a friend’s parents’ liquor cabinet, and we made them way too strong and got crazy drunk and stayed up all night, listening to Alice Cooper and Pink Floyd while your lava lamp threw crazy shadows around the room. I wondered the other day if I still have the VHS tape somewhere of us singing and performing that dorky skit in the talent show at church camp that last summer. We were happy and laughing and just being silly girls in that video, and then somewhere on the other side of that moment, just a few short weeks later, you plummeted down a rabbit hole and then you were gone.

The truth is, even though the missing you still hits me out of the blue sometimes, I wouldn’t really want it any other way. Because those little moments that slice the soul do, eventually, mellow until they feel bittersweet rather than too excruciating to bear. There’s still a tear somewhere inside that will never completely heal, but that pain also serves to hold a place for the person you loved and lost in your heart. And in the end, maybe the pieces of us we leave behind in the hearts of others are all we really have to show our lives had any meaning at all.

Happy birthday, my friend. Wish you were here.

One Response to “1,000 Monkeys: To Absent Friends”

  1. Jim Pearson says:

    Thank you, Kim

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“We don’t have any idea what the universe is. Wise people have always told us that this is proof you shouldn’t think, because thinking leads you nowhere. You just build over this huge construction of misunderstanding, which is culture. The history of culture is the history of the misunderstandings of great thinkers. So we always have to go back to zero and begin differently. And maybe in that way you have a chance not to understand but at least not to have further misunderstandings. Because this is the other side of this question—Am I really so brave to cancel all human culture? To stop admiring the beauty in human production? It’s very difficult to say no.”
~ László Krasznahorkai

“I have a license to carry in New York. Can you believe that? Nobody knows that, [Applause] somebody attacks, somebody attacks me, oh, they’re gonna be shot. Can you imagine? Somebody says, oh, it is Trump, he’s easy pickings what do you say? Right? Oh, boy. What was the famous movie? No. Remember, no remember where he went around and he sort of after his wife was hurt so badly and kill. What?  I — Honestly, Yeah, right, it’s true, but you have many of them. Famous movie. Somebody. You have many of them. Charles Bronson right the late great Charles Bronson name of the movie come on.  , remember that? Ah, we’re gonna cut you up, sir, we’re gonna cut you up, uh-huh.


One of the great movies. Charles Bronson, great, Charles Bronson. Great movies. Today you can’t make that movie because it’s not politically correct, right? It’s not politically correct. But could you imagine with Trump? Somebody says, oh, all these big monsters aren’t around he’s easy pickings and then shoot.”
~ Donald Trump