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.

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

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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…

  4. 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.

  5. 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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