How I forgave myself for not taking Charles’ last call

by Tiffani Borello

Trigger warning: Strong Emotional Content.  

I have so many memories of Charles and 99.9% of them are amazing and most of the memories are of him just trying his best to put a smile on my face and get a little giggle out of me, which he would never fail to do. He was so special and he was my best friend and I loved Charles.

But there is one memory that sticks in my mind and bothers me a lot. I’m slowly learning how to deal with the emotions that come up when I talk about this subject so bear with me.

In June 2015, I just moved to Brooklyn, NY and Charles was still living in Virginia. I thought he was doing better because he told me he was going to rehab. Charles said he was tired of that type of life. I was so happy. I didn’t think he was in a bad place or in a depressed state of mind.

I missed the red flags.

But there was a lot of distance between me and Charles. We would usually FaceTime, text, and have phone calls that lasted hours.

It was early June and had gone to a little get together with my friends. We were all having fun and I got a phone call. I looked down at my phone and Charles was calling me. It was around 11pm or 12am June 4, 2015. He killed himself June 5, 2015. I didn’t ignore his call but I watched it ring and ring and ring until it went to voicemail. I figured I’d just give him a call in the morning.

No big deal. People do that all the time. It was loud and crowded and I would be able to hear him in the morning.

Little did I know was he was severely depressed and withdrawing from drugs. I woke up that morning with a text from Savannah telling me that Charles would want me to be one of the first people to know that he was dead.

I thought it was a sick joke. And my heart felt crushed.

I called his phone over and over and he didn’t answer. He had died by suicide and that was the reality.

And I missed his call.

Guilt for so long ate away at me. I know Charles loved me a lot. If only I had answered, I could’ve talked him down. But it was too late and I watched him call me, probably needing to vent about how he was feeling, and I ignored him.

It took a long time to understand that even if I picked up the phone there was only so much I could’ve done and not to blame myself. I had to tell myself that over and over in the course of the past couple of years because I still have my days when I think, “What if I just answered?” “Could I have saved his life?”

I found out this exact thing happened to my aunt and her best friend who died by suicide. The best friend called my aunt before her suicide. Then when I was talking to another good friend, she told me that happened to her. We all have guilt about it. We all think, “What if.” It’s crazy it’s not talked about more.

After Charles died, I used to ask him to send me signs and would pick up feathers off the ground he put there for me because he knows I love feathers and I have a feather tattoo. I wonder what my life would be like if Charles was still in it. I miss my best friend. But what I learned over time is Charles didn’t kill himself because he would want me or his family to be hurt. It was his inner demons that were torturing him along with having the monster of addiction on his back.

Latin for, “She flies with her own wings.”

And I understand exactly how he felt because I have also felt like I lost everything, was sick from drugs, and wanted to kill myself to end the pain. I heard Charles whisper in my ear that it was not my time and to stay strong because it would pass.

Charles would want me to be happy and smiling and laughing.

I still mourn him, some days worse than others, but I remind myself how happy it would make him when I smile and do right. I want Charles to look down on me and his family and be proud. Charles’ mom is amazing and she raised an amazing son that I was blessed to meet and know even though our time was cut short.

My message to Charles. I love you and I know you’re looking down as my guardian angel. One day we will meet again, and I’ll never have to worry about missing your phone call again.

9 thoughts on “How I forgave myself for not taking Charles’ last call”

  1. I’m going through the same thing right now my friend killed her self last Tuesday she rang me 7,05 and was found dead at 7.45 her family have said she didn’t call anyone else other them me. Which is surprising as she had 4 kids 19 16 15 and 13 . Her mum who’s amazing and loves two minutes from her I live about 20 minutes in a car. I see the call went to pick it up but it ended and I kept thinking call her back but the truth was she called me 5 times a day I had just put the kids to bed and was having a glass of wine or two and just simply forgot to call back. Now I’m devestated. I missed the signed three weeks before she asked me to go to her house with my kids she said u don’t have to get out just stay on the car I just want to see ur face I hadn’t seen her for two months but spoke to her daily. I hadn’t
    Seen her due to busy life pulse her drinking and drug use I don’t have it around my children. She even rang two days before asking if a mutual friend of ours was ready to talk to her I now no she wanted to say bye to her in her own way. She must have been planning it for around a month if I look back at the conversations. I had helped her all my life like she had me. She was 8 years older then me so firstly met her through living next to
    My mum when I had just lost my dad from him alao milking himself he hung himself in my. Birthday and she was there for me growing up we become party friends life long friends I stood by her with all 4 of her children her divorce then she started taking herion and crack I stood by her with rehabs then she was striaght for 10 year and relapsed I stood by her coz I loved her. She told me she needed help I had her stay with me for two weeks got her clean of the crack and noticed she was addicted to drink and prescription pills so got her of spirits and in contact with a rehabs place we was waiting for her placement. This was in may I ended up having to tell her to leave when I found out she had smoked cokecain while walking my dogs and my children were home but still remain close with her just not around my kids. And then I didn’t really hear from her from June till September then it was all the time I didn’t even notice the warning signs. And I basically ignored her calls sometimes as it was just to much now I feel awful but I have three children under 5 I know her children are safe with her mum . I alway told her I loved her and would be here for her but I want that nite 35 minute later she was found she hung herself. I could have saved her

    1. Michelle-My gosh you have been an amazing friend. Above and beyond. I do want you to know that I would be almost certain she wasn’t calling to ask for help. But to talk to you one last time. I feel sure you would not have recognized that she was calling for the last time. I am so very sorry. You will wrestle with the coulda woulda shouldas for a bit. It’s part of the process of a loss by suicide. I went through it, the author of this post went through it. But eventually we forgave ourselves because we can’t control another human being. You can’t have a person smoking crack around your children. That’s a boundary you have to keep. I know she knew you loved her. If you reply I will reply back. I know it hurts. I can feel it in your comment I have been there. And I can’t fix your hurt but I will answer.

    2. Michelle- I am so so sorry you are going through this it’s definitely heart breaking and devastating when something like this happens and there is so many what if’s and buts that still bother me to this day .. i pray for your strength and im sending you lots of love your way it helps to talk about it with others again my condolences to you 🙁 lots of love

  2. Tiffani, You have a beautiful heart. Charles is fortunate to have your love. May he smile down on you always. Thanks for sharing.
    Suzie

  3. Beautiful thoughts and commentary, Tiffany. Very sweet to remember him this way. I, too, have had friends I have lost and have often thought: “What if I had done something different?”

    Those thoughts can torture us. I imagine they torture us even more the more we loved them. I could feel your love for Charles, and you have my deepest sympathies. We honor our lost friends by the way love, live and show respect for those important connections. Blessings and Godspeed for this new year and beyond.

  4. I think you are so right – this happens a lot. Here’s what I told my son’s estranged boyfriend when he took his life – it’s all of our fault and it’s no one’s fault, all at once. Yes we could have been more attentive and maybe done more things properly (although who knows exactly what the right things were?) But even if we had the outcome could have been the same, or just been postponed.
    My regret is that the last time he left our house alive, my husband took him to the train very early in the morning, and I didn’t get out of bed and give him a hug. I texted him with a wink. Heck, he was coming home in 2 weeks for Christmas and I would see him then…

  5. Taming the ‘self-talk’ and questioning can be such a challenge. I have tried not to walk down that path. What if ????? We can never know, so we are left to accept what ‘is’. I’m glad you have made peace.

  6. Tiffani, I love how you’ve gifted us with sharing your words, your heart. Please keep writing for emotionally naked. We want to hear more from you!

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