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Last Night We Said Goodbye Again

Instead of Our Friend's 35th Birthday, We Celebrated His Memory Just Over a Month After His Murder

By Megan Baker (Left Vocal in 2023)Published about a year ago 12 min read
Top Story - May 2023
Last Night We Said Goodbye Again
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

He truly didn't deserve that death. He didn't need to die...

It's been a trying year already. Let's recap 2023 so far, shall we?

I am nearly two years estranged from my family, including my younger brother with many disabilities whom I've spent basically my entire life helping to take care of.

70 sessions of therapy in (thanks to my ever-supportive boyfriend of 8 years), and my PTSD has really been acting up, likely due to trying to work through it. Also, my trigger words are common.

A month ago, my partner's best friend was murdered.

A week ago, I had another extremely bad trigger, followed by the worst bout of suicidal thoughts I've had in years.

Last night, we celebrated what would have been our friend's 35th birthday with a memorial service for him.

By Krzysztof Maksimiuk on Unsplash

And you know what? This next week doesn't look favorable either; my dad's birthday is this week, but we aren't on speaking terms, and on the 25th, it will be the 16 year anniversary of the day that led to my PTSD - the day when, at 15, an upper class-man groped me in front of ~10 of my peers on school property and was partially caught on tape - and I still saw no justice.

So yeah, how's your last few months been? Wanna trade? I know there's worse out there, but good fuck, can something just... not? Or do? I need something shitty to stop and/or something good to move. Please?

But with all that, the bitter blow yesterday was this: what I thought was our friend's memorial only turned out to be a memorial on what would have been his 35th birthday. I knew his birthday was coming up, but I personally didn't know when, as we never celebrated on the day with him in the time I knew him.

I'm not gonna lie; I didn't know him as well as I'd liked to have. I've had a very hard time getting our larger house under control since we moved in 5 years ago, largely due to my depression and PTSD - from which, I often suffer fatigue, loss of interest, and motivation...etc. Or I just have to recover from them after a bad spell - they can take a lot out of me and I often simply don't have the energy. That last major trigger, for example, felt like it "fried" everything in my head down to my ribs, and that takes a few days to relax into "usable" states. As a result of this - the house being messed up all the time - I was very embarrassed. JD never said anything, but he was my partner's best mate; I felt I never measured up to what he would want for his friend in a partner, though I always hoped one day I would finally be able to change that. You know, keep up on the house, pull my weight...ect.

I haven't seen the news reports; haven't read more than headlines that pop up when I search his name or the R.I.P. posts on his Facebook page I often only have the stomach to glance at. Despite my years of readily consuming true crime content, I can't bring myself to look yet. This isn't some old crime, decades-old, that impacted people I'll never meet. This was our friend. More my partner's, but mine too. At least, I hope he considered me among his friends, but I guess I can't really ask him now, can I?

He and my partner were watching that night's hockey match in the basement, the last time we saw him. I remember when he walked in that night I was feeling self conscious and embarrassed; for a list of reasons - particularly concerning my mental health issues I already mentioned - our house has not been maintained well. I can't recall what he was wearing, but 9 times out of 10, he would show up well-dressed, so it wouldn't surprise me terribly that he was that night as well. But who knows - maybe he had shown up in more relaxed clothing. He was coming over to our place after all; fur central. We've got a full Critter Crew of 6 fuzzballs here...

Whatever he wore that night, as our two dogs welcomed their "uncle", I sheepishly said hello from my spot by the television upstairs. I'd been working through some heavier things in my therapy sessions at the time, and despite having done little around our house for a while, I was simply too burned out from my depression and PTSD and all the chaos that goes with each. I was trying to relax, though guilt for not handling the house was ruining it. He glanced around a bit as he pet the dogs, and I felt so ashamed that every time he had come over to this house, it was always a disaster. We had done so well at the previous places...

By Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

"You know," I said slowly, "one of these days, you're gonna come over and I'm gonna have this place cleaned up and in order. Decorated and all that - it’ll be nice.”

Whether or not he believed me, I meant it. My partner and I had been making slow progress towards getting the house cleaned up and under control finally. We're still working on it. Things really piled up quickly once we moved here nearly 5 years ago, tired after moving 3 times in 3 years, and they snowballed so quickly... Add mental health issues that slow or impede my motivation, or that I have to recover from things like triggers and flashbacks... Yeah, this place is a mess. But one day it won't be.

For most of the rest of that visit, he sat downstairs with my partner watching the hockey game. But during a break, he came up the stairs.

He wanted some water; the most basic of requests. Though he had been in our house a few times, it had been a while and he never struck me as the sort to look through our cabinets for a glass when he could just ask someone. I got up and pulled a drinking glass out of the cupboard for him. I felt another wave of shame as he looked over our fridge; the water filter was long overdue for a change, its red light glaring accusingly at me. But the shame wasn't done yet. He pressed the button for the ice, but nothing came out.

"Yeah, I don't mess much with the inner fridge stuff," I started to explain, and that is true - usually my partner handles the machines in the house, since he's far more tech-savvy than me, "I don't think that thing has had ice in three years... I don't usually use ice myself."

By Lanju Fotografie on Unsplash

"Oh, okay. So what are options for water?" he asked.

I indicated the fridge, the room-temperature zero-water container on the counter next to the fridge, and the sink, explaining: "Cold, but using an old filter from the fridge, filtered but room-temperature water from the zero-water, or cold and drinkable - but not as well-filtered - from the tap." He opted for the fridge water.

And that, besides a brief, but friendly goodbye, was the last time I ever saw or spoke to him.

When I mentioned the exchange around the fridge a few days later, my partner revealed that his best friend liked to chew on ice, and I made a mental note that next time I knew he was coming over well enough in advance, I would freeze up some ice for him.

I guess I thought about him a fair amount; he was my partner's best friend after all - the only person outside of my boyfriend's family that he invited over or went somewhere with. I've since learned that many claimed JD was their best friend, but he was the only person my boyfriend really spent any time with, so that made him extra-special in that regard. And to me - I was always trying to get my boyfriend to see his friend a little more often since it was the only in-person friendship my boyfriend fostered (sometimes).

When first introduced all those 8 years ago, JD and I had bonded slightly over being raised listening to country music, and I'd often wonder if he liked certain songs when they showed up on shuffle since. Too far between to recall to ask when he popped over, and I always backed out of reaching out on Facebook. Honestly? I don't really know many folks that try to reach out that way and I find it weird in most cases.

There was also that need for me to "earn" his approval; he was my partner's best mate, after all, and I wanted to "do right" by him. Show him I was worth the effort, money, and therapy my partner invested in me. But for a long time, I hadn't been. At least, not in my opinion. Though my partner likes to point out that my opinion of myself is rather skewed.

April 19th, 2023, I was getting ready to log off the computer for the day to clean up the kitchen table; my own friend was coming over for tea the next day. But I decided on just one more peek on Facebook first.

There was a post from someone I didn't know, but JD was tagged. Bemused, I wondered what craziness he was up to this time. Except it didn't pan out like that, did it?

It was one of the first - if not the first - R.I.P. post(s). I reread it a few times, hoping maybe they were mistaken or it was a bad joke. Eventually, I realized I had to tell my partner what I'd seen. At first, I nearly typed it into a game chat we often use to chat throughout the day instead of running up and down stairs all day, just out of habit. Sorry to say, but it's usually how I tell him when I'm feeling like I really don't want to exist, so it's not uncommon for me to use it to communicate dark, sad news.

But I caught myself before sending and swallowed hard before making my way downstairs to tell my partner in person.

"I've got some bad news," I started, pausing before breaking it to him.

I know he thought it was my usual hemming and hawing that I do nervously about minor anxieties, as he began rolling his hands at me to get me to spit it out. I took a breath.

"I just saw an R.I.P. post for John..." I said. I continued on about how I hoped it was false, but my partner had already turned to check the Facebook page for himself.

By Philippe Oursel on Unsplash

"Well, looks like I won't get to take him out in the new car after all..." he said, and it was the first time I'd heard his voice warble over a human. Animals, he will grieve. Me? We aren't sure, and I know that and accept that. It was a hard thing to hear, though.

We didn't know how at first. He was 34, nearly 35. While we knew homicide wasn't off the table in Denver, it seemed very unlikely; we figured maybe a health issue arose, an accident, or at worst, maybe he had taken his own life, as we knew he too struggled with similar things to me. And worse things, honestly. Especially given that he too had lost someone he was close to recently.

We both kept tabs open on his Facebook profile, waiting for someone to post, well, anything. I was curious about all the things I didn't know about him and never would outside of what I could hear or read from those who did know him well. But no one had said how.

April 20, 2023, we learned that his death was on the 18th. My partner also saw a post from police asking for information into JD's murder - about 10 minutes before my friend was to arrive for tea. I was torn between hosting this get-together and not after that.

On one hand, it's very rare for me and my friend to get together (though we have been more consistent in recent years) and we'd had the day planned for weeks - and she was literally about to arrive. On the other hand... my boyfriend's best friend was now not only passed away, but killed in a robbery just outside his home. But my partner would have none of it, I knew; it never bothered him and he always seeks to have me do things I want to do, and for my comfort, yeah, I wanted to see my friend. I wanted to give her a hug - and a safety alarm. He dismissed my apology for so afterwards, but I didn't ask him first for once and entertained my friend for the afternoon, sometimes talking about JD. I had hoped that, if he wanted to, my partner might come up and join us, but he mourns his own way and went about his day as best he could.

By Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

It was after my friend left that he came upstairs and told me police had a suspect in custody. He also mentioned that the weapon seemed to have been a pipe or something along those lines. I flinched at that. If he'd been killed by a gunshot, that would've been bad enough. Done right, though, and one shot can be fatal, and quick, and sometimes not as messy. This is why I can't stomach the reports yet; I don't know if I want to know how many times he was struck. Once in the back of the head? A longer, drawn-out beating? Eventually, I might see an answer to that, but I haven't wanted to see that...

We debated going to things hosted by other friends of JD's, but my partner and I are a pair of hermits practically and neither of us knew anyone else, so we didn't go. My partner mentioned he was going to wait and see what JD's sister planned. In the meantime, my partner donated to the Gofundme for funeral expenses - in as close a number as he could get to a number JD used in a lot of gaming tags; another hint at how this loss might be hitting harder.

We learned the date that JD's sister was holding the memorial: May 20th. I was initially dismayed; of all nights, it had to be the one I had already agreed to dog, cat, and house-sit for my friend. Thankfully, my friend understood and was very supportive of me leaving for the memorial and then coming back to house-sit. As it turned out, it was also the day the new car arrived - the very one my partner had looked so forward to showing off to JD. They'd both been excited about it.

I had no idea it was also what would have been JD's 35th birthday. In getting the new car picked up and packing and heading to my friend's to get the house tour before they left, I hadn't had time for the computer, but in the hour between the time my friend left and my boyfriend picked me up, I had a moment to pop on Facebook. And there I saw the notification that it was JD's birthday...

We didn't stay too long at the memorial; maybe an hour or so. Long enough to check out the slideshow and hear the often funny stories everyone had of JD. It was held at his former place of work - a bar.

Unanimously, he was everyone's favorite asshole: someone who had a hard life by all accounts, but used crude humor to cope. He was a loving uncle and brother, and a loyal - sometimes grumbling - friend, ready to help out any way he could. But he was getting Taco Bell and Baja Blast after.

I couldn't handle the slideshow again, but there were some slides late into it that had named a few songs JD really liked or recommended to others, and massive playlists are my kinda thing. My partner was kind enough to go watch the slideshow most of the way through again in order to take a screenshot of the songs for me...

Towards the end, we wrote down that we each wanted a shot-glass made with JD's ashes and grabbed a sketch of him one of his artistic friends drew.

By Timothy Dykes on Unsplash

I wish I could say we had some of the birthday cake, or that we joined in the bar crawl after, but with no other connections and a house of animals I had to get back to sooner than later, we headed out.

There's more I could probably say. I certainly miss him and am sorry I didn't get to know him better. It always seemed like we would have more time...

We wanted to show the new car to JD. I wanted him to see what this house could really be. There was never a future event at the house with friends that he wouldn't have been included in; he was always going to be a part of our future.

He didn't have to die like that...


About the Creator

Megan Baker (Left Vocal in 2023)

A fun spin on her last name, Baker enjoyed creating "Baker's Dozen" lists for various topics! She also wrote candidly about her mental health & a LOT of fiction. Discontinued writing on Vocal in 2023 as Vocal is a fruitless venture.

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