Anniversaries are traditionally special days where we celebrate important events. When the anniversary represents a painful event it sings a much different tune. Regardless, anniversaries make us nostalgic, reflective and in this case sad. But like John Green said, “It hurts because it matters.”
The amount of emotion the wells up in my chest, my heart, my conscious and subconscious brain around this time of year speaks volumes for how incredibly deep of an impact Corey had on the world and everyone who knew her. The amount of people who knew her should be remaining the same, but it seems as if the numbers grow.
The years creep past and suddenly, we have arrived at the ten year anniversary of her death. Ten years. That statement is surreal to me. I swear that I can still hear her cackling laugh and I can still picture her mannerisms. I can chose what song she would play or which boy she would think was the cutest. Ten years. A decade without her sweet, beautiful, quirky self in this world.
When I look back at one of the first pieces I wrote and shared publicly, Four Walls, I feel so much pure pain and emotion in my words- it always brings me to tears. I return to it now because sometimes I simply can’t say it better than myself.
“We are all surrounded by a new set of four walls. The walls are all different textures and colors. The wind whipping against the window pane smells different. The walls have different stories, and the rooms have different souls. Across the world, the country, through the state lines and the highways and the driveways, we still stare at our set of four walls.
No matter where we are, that insatiable pain is still there. We wrestle with the same thoughts. We breathe the same deep breaths. The breath you breathe so deep and so long just to know that you are alive. You’re still here.
Apart, we are solid colors, red, blue, white and green. We are strong and vivacious. We make an impact, cause a laugh, contribute to the team and shock others with our brilliance. That’s what we look like up close. We are separate entities that are just fine on their own. But much like the pixels of a television screen, when you look at us from a far…we are one. We come together to make a grander and even more powerful picture.”
I wrote this 8 years ago to describe the feelings of growing up and apart from the people who knew and loved her but now I see this picture is still expanding. Despite the distance and time that has passed anyone who had the pleasure of having Corey as a part of their life is eternally different. I often wonder how it could be so long since she’s been here but it still feels as if I saw her last week. That my friends, is the power of the human spirit. We read I carry your heart at her funeral ten years ago and ten years later it’s no different.
It feels like it hasn’t been that long because she lives in each person she touched. When you look up from your phone and smile at that stranger, even when you are in a rush, stressed or pretty sad yourself, that is Corey’s heart. When you go out of your way to help a student, a patient, a coworker or an old friend who seemed troubled or alone, that is Corey’s heart. When you feel this strange urge to belt ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU at the top of your lungs regardless of the time of year, that is Corey’s heart. When you finally find love and just know how right it is, that is Corey’s heart (and approval). When you can’t explain the accident you survived, the bullet you dodged, or the strange twist of fate in your favor, that is Corey’s heart.
Now that I am half way across the world and I meet new people every day, I find myself telling her story. She is never far away because I carry her heart with me consciously and subconsciously. Today, I urge you to consider this young girl, who had countless friends, was extremely intelligent, a very talented cheerleader and an exceptional friend to anyone, especially those who seemed lonely- I urge you to consider her as a friend that you have met in passing. Her heart and her spirit lives in me and I am determined to make the world a better place in honor of her. I am here to show you that suicide is not a decision that affects only you, it affects everyone around you. Mental illness is not something that can be detected by the way someone looks, the persona they present in public or the pictures you see of them. Mental illness does not discriminate. It is ruthless and isolating. It is destructive and consuming.
But out of the darkness, I choose to keep the light. I choose to make the brightest part of Corey’s heart continue to shine and impact people for years and years to come.
I truly believe that she led me down to the Sunrise Bender for yoga so that I could be introduced to One Wave, Fluro and all of the ridiculously genuine human beings I have found there. They have inspired me and encouraged me to not just live my life in a manner that honors her and her spirit but to help others do the same. I learned to cherish everyday. I learned to value my relationships. But thanks to One Wave I have learned that sharing her story and my own story is how we make a true difference. I will not share it once. I will share it again and again. I will lead with her part of my heart when I befriend the lonely and ask the difficult questions to make people feel like they can open up.
Suicide and mental health affects EVERYONE and the more we can talk, the more people will start to listen. I originally wrote my piece on Four Walls about all of the people who knew and loved Corey.
The coolest part is….I just made you a part of us.
The insatiable pain of losing your best friend to suicide especially at such a young age is a life altering pain. That pain is one I hope never to experience again but it has molded me into the kind of person I am. It has taught me how to feel and to never be ashamed of having feelings… and lots of them.
But that pain has pushed me to want to do world altering things. Not through any fancy medicine or special inventions but simply by sharing my heart and carrying hers along too. The pixels of the screen are beautiful on their own, but I am realizing that this screen is much larger than I first imagined it. Not only is this the people who went to Ludden or were a part of our community in Syracuse, this is for anyone around the world who has lost someone because of mental health or suicide. This is for anyone who they themselves are suffering.
The more I share, the more I realize, her life and legacy is not something that we remember once a while, on her birthday, the anniversary or holidays. Her life and legacy is something that we carry along with us wherever we go. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I would not be the human being I am without the influence of both her life and her death.
I choose to keep her light. I choose to keep her heart. I choose to pass on a piece of that to you. When you look at your four walls, when you experience pain that seems too harsh to bare, remember you are a pixel in our screen, we want you to be as vibrant and brilliant as you can be and together we continue make a conscientious, compassionate, life changing picture. And, when you look closely, you’ll see Corey’s heart.
In loving memory of Corinne Marie Craig 12/24/89-10/30/06