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It’s the nineties. It’s a crisp autumn day, pale sunshine breaking through the wisps of cirrus clouds as we make our way along the road. I resist the urge to kick one of the freshly swept piles of orange and russet leaves into the air just to see them swirl and flutter on the breeze.  We’re all dressed impeccably, these good-looking skinny kids and me; we look like we’re in a band or some stylish cult, on our way to a photo shoot or a goth flash mob.
We’re not, though. We’re all wearing black because we’re going to our friend’s funeral, because a week ago he jumped off a bridge to his messy, violent death.

He had a huge, beautiful smile that could light up a room, light up your day. The clown of the group, but gentle, without malice. And he could be a terrible pain in the arse, because he was a teenager, and teenagers tend to be. I think he would have been a lovely man, had he grown up. I remember dancing with him once, a joke waltz; we were too cool to dance in couples, then, and I can still remember the warmth of him, the life. He tried to kiss me and made a joke about it. I wish I’d let him. I would give him a million kisses to have him back. He was happiest making other people laugh. The world needs people like that.
My heart aches to think of his mother missing him, missing those incredible bearhugs, missing nagging him about his revolting smelly bedroom.
It still makes me sad, even though it was many years ago and I’ve lost several people to suicide since, but he was the first, and the youngest, and there is still, even now, that voice that haunts me, because I never knew he was in such pain, and I never asked him if he was ok. It’s the not knowing, thinking of him walking around with all this pain and keeping it inside, hidden. I can only assume, and I’ll never know, that he must have had howling torment in his soul for some time before he took that last step. How many chances did I have to try to let him know that he wasn’t alone, that I cared?
I didn’t know that he wasn’t ok because I never asked.
I was young too, and self-obsessed as young people are, and I thought all the misery of the world was only on my shoulders until I got that phone call. I’ll never know if there was anything I could have done, if one single question would have changed the course of events. I don’t know whether it would have changed anything, really, but I’ll always regret not reaching out.

I’m writing this post for RU OK? Day. On the 7th of October, ask someone you care about if they’re ok. Reach out. You never know what difference that simple gesture might make.

Find out about getting your workplace involved and other ways of taking part in RU OK? Day here.

8 thoughts on “are you ok?

  1. Thank you – so much – for this achingly beautiful and touching post. Sometimes the widest smile can be the most brittle and the loudest laugh laugh the hollowest. As Kate says, reaching out it so important.

  2. Wow Cathie – a very moving piece, thank you for sharing. It really highlights the importance of campaigns that bring awareness to mental health issues. I feel like we’ve come along way on the journey to banish the stigmas that surround suicide and depression but there is still a long way to go.

  3. Pingback: R U Ok Day? A simple proposition | justanotherprblog.com

  4. Pingback: are you ok? (via a cat in a tree) « Making Hay

  5. Thanks for sharing this story. Like the others here, I was deeply moved by your story. I agree that asking a person “are you okay?” can possibly make a big difference. Reaching out is something beautiful because it shows other people that they are valued and appreciated. I wish more and more people would learn this importance….

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