Friendship, Forever Interrupted
– By Nicola Graham –
“Yes no drinks on a school night, schools finishing up soon though” – And that was the last thing she said to us as we made plans for our next girls’ night.
6 days later, I drove to the worst girls’ night imaginable. I turned off the main road and began the drive up the path towards her parents’ house, meeting the sea of people that had come to pay their respects. I still didn’t quite believe it. Two men, neighbours or family friends – I don’t know, they directed me to park across the way in a field.
There were so many cars; it reminded me of parking at one of those summer concerts in Marley Park. And I remember thinking how ironic that my brain had chosen that comparison because she loved going to outdoor concerts. As we queued to see her one last time, I heard her dad say “things will never be the same again” and he was right, things have never been the same.
Suicide robbed me of my friend and it continues to rob me every day. Like a stealthy thief, everyday it invades my thoughts, creeping silently through my mind, robbing me of time thinking about my friend, of time better spent on anything else. It chokes my memories and clouds my feelings, taunting and relentless until I give in to its cold blackness. 14 years of friendship, forever interrupted.
It’s not often in life you meet someone, and have that instant connection. From the day we met, it felt like we’d always been friends. Maybe it was because we had the same name, I was Nicola G. and she was Nicola C.; the same star sign; we almost had the same birthdate, but I was one day older. Often, people look up to their elders but honestly, I looked up to her. I was a little in awe of her and admired her strong spirit and thankful that she was in my corner. But if you got on her bad side, she had a mean side glare, it was so loud, and you could feel it on the other side of the room.
She was fierce, a force to be reckoned with. Sincere, strong, supportive with a sharp sarcastic tongue and a dry witty humour that had us in stitches on more than one occasion and when you were her friend, you were her friend for life. I just didn’t think life, her life would be so short.
We met through work in November 2005, both of us, just 21. And as you know, you spend more time with the people you work with than you do at home with your family. 5 days a week, 8 hours a day sharing in each other’s lives; tea-breaks, lunch breaks, nights out – the highs and lows of our early twenties and the post-weekend de-briefs that start with statements like “you’ll never guess what she’s done now….”
All that time together, makes you think you know a person. They’re there when you need them most. I can’t say she’d give me her shoulder to cry on because she wasn’t that into hugs and sometimes I’d just hug her to see her unamused face looking at me like I’d just lost my mind. But over time, she got better at hugs, so much so that the last time we were out, I was thinking to myself, she’s getting the hang of this now. If I’d known then that that would be our last goodbye, I might have stayed a little longer and held on a little tighter.
The joy of flexible working hours combined with the nonchalance of youth meant that one week out of four, I had some pretty long hours to work back and I’m not a morning person! Every day of that week, she would ring me on her commute and talk me awake so I could get in to work early and make up my time. For the office Kris Kindle, she drew out my name and her gift to me was a giant pink, old school alarm clock with two big bells covered in pink fluff. When the alarm goes off, I’m pretty sure they can feel it in Australia! The batteries have since been removed, the fluff is a bit dishevelled and it may be missing one leg, but the clock sits proudly in my bedroom and when I look at it, it reminds me of all those morning wake up calls and all those carefree conversations and it reminds me of the amazing friend I had and the future conversations that are lost to us forever.
In August 2009 she told the office she was leaving, moving to a new job, I went home and cried. I was delighted for her of course, but I was going to miss her and I was afraid we’d lose touch, as can happen sometimes. It seems so ridiculous now when I think about my younger self crying, thinking I’d miss her from the office; now I really know what it’s like to miss her.
Planning nights out was like a regression to our teenage selves, messages back forth about what to wear. She loved shoes, the higher the better and it wasn’t like she needed them, she was tall and slim. What time would we meet? Where? And how late would I be… I was always late. When I’d finally arrive, there was the customary discussion of how I’d arrived in a completely different outfit to the one I’d talked about earlier. No matter how long it had been since we last met, our reunions had a way of making that time melt away and it was like there had been no gap, no distance between us, not like the chasm between us now.
The first two things she would ask about were my granny and my son, because she knew how important both were to me. My favourite photo of her is not one from one of our many nights out even though they were great nights too. The photo was taken when I brought my son to the office for the first time; he was a couple of months old and just about sitting up by himself.
He’s sitting on the floor and you’re on your hunkers on the floor beside him, talking to him, pointing out this month’s fashion trends. To me, that picture captures the essence of you, kind and sincere, no witty words or scary side glare, just you!
I can remember taking that photograph and innocently teasing you about needing proof of you interacting with a child and your shocked face when I threw him into your arms while I ran down to get something from the car. It was so funny. I think you were afraid you might drop him but I knew I could trust you, I knew I could count on you. I trusted you with all my secrets, the good and the bad, I knew I could count on you and I’m sorry that I didn’t get the chance to return the favour.
I’ve looked at that photo a lot since you’ve been gone; to be honest I tore the house apart to find it. I remembered taking the shot and had a desperate need to find the image. After a lot of tears, an upended wardrobe and a clothes storm that would make movie makers proud, I realised, I hadn’t printed it, was on my computer!
In the background of the photo, there’s a small whiteboard behind your desk and it has written on it “We all love Nicola” and “She is my sunshine, my only sunshine, she makes me happy, when I am sad”. I’d never noticed that before, but the words are so true, we do all love you Nicola and you helped me be happy when I was sad. I wish I could have been there for you, like you were there for me. I miss you every day; you were one in a million. #NeverForgotten #AlwaysMissed
It’s two years since suicide robbed me of my friend and it continues to rob me every day. Things will never be the same again, but I think I’m getting stronger. And I hope that as I get stronger, suicide will loosen its grip and the dark cloud on our memories will lift and just let me think of my friend and happier times.
– Friendship, forever interrupted –