The “Dear …” community column intends to provide the university an outlet to share a life struggle, dilemma and/or hardship and how the St. Bonaventure University community has helped them through it.
To the friends I now know I have …
For a bright and lazy July day, death seems somewhat morbid as a topic of conversation. Regardless, a few of my fellow orientation leaders and I found ourselves sitting on the Shay-Loughlen porch chattering away on the subject.
“I’m so lucky I’ve never lost a friend,” I remember saying in passing.
Three hours later, however, I received a phone call that would prompt me to take back those words.
Rich and I were friends through high school. When we were 16, he was a familiar face when I nervously started my first shift at McDonald’s. His annoyingly happy personality made flipping burgers tolerable. Almost.
Rich always laughed and joked around, which often caused groans and eye rolls. Honestly though, it was impossible to hate him.
Later that July afternoon, we were again sitting on the porch at Shay-Lo when my brother called me and told me the news I least expected.
After fighting with his girlfriend, Rich decided to drive his car off the side of a treacherously winding mountain road outside of our hometown. Before he was ejected through the windshield, his car hit a tree from about eight feet off the ground.
Naturally, my first reaction was one of shock. From shock, it went to grief; from grief, to white-hot anger.
Finally, I felt loneliness.
I was on campus for the month, away from family, away from anyone that knew him, away from people I could share this personal distress with. This emotional isolation crushed me even more.
Being the first time I can ever remember feeling I had nowhere to go, I just started walking.
But what was I walking away from? Little did I realize strong friendships formed with my co-workers over the weeks of orientation. Some of these friends came after me and just sat with me, not speaking, patiently waiting for me to be ready to function.
These accepting, non-judgmental people focused on keeping the environment as normal as possible for me. Aside from that, I had orientation to focus on to keep me busy and allow me to be sad on my own time.
Nothing about Rich’s death is a good thing. For my own sake, though, it came at the right time. Nobody else knew him, but the support seemed like my co-workers and I experienced the same thing. Even better, it made me fully realize the depth of my newfound friendships.
I will never understand why he did what he did — probably why suicide is more difficult to accept than accidents. I will never come to terms with his logic, but I can come to terms with my emotions and try to forgive him.
While I’m not yet all the way there, I’m much further along than I would be if I hadn’t had those people to help me during the hardest, initial part. Looking back, I would never have coped the same in a different setting.
I also realize how foolish I was for thinking I was alone.
They say that time heals all. What I’ve learned is that friends — friends you didn’t even know you had — can help in the meantime.
Andy Liuzzo, Class of 2014
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