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It’s been 9 years since the last time I saw you

by Cayla Fendick

Trigger Warning: Strong emotional content and suicide method referenced. If you are in crisis, text “help” to 741-741 or call 988

Cindy Fendick and her daughter Cayla Fendick

You were sitting at the counter at the Park Diner. It was the first and only time you had ever visited me at work, and I couldn’t believe you actually did come. Earlier that morning,

I was at your apartment, like almost every other morning you had off work–drinking coffee. You literally always made the best coffee and I “stole” one of your shirts (I still have it). You said you’d come to see me and I said, “Yeah okay we’ll see.” And you did! You ordered some nasty omelet with ham, cheese & onion with Italian toast. I can remember so specifically writing it on my green server’s pad. 

And the last thing I ever said to you before you left was, “Don’t do anything stupid.” 

That night I went to the fair, and I won a stuffed animal turtle. I called to tell you because I never win anything at fair games, but there was no answer. I was playing games while you were ending your life. 

Saturday morning I went to work

I was working extra shifts that whole week, saving up for my first ever smartphone. After my shift, I stopped by my aunt’s retirement party. I still can’t believe I was making platters of cookies when you were no longer breathing. I messaged you a couple of times and there was no response, which wasn’t too abnormal. I just thought you went to “his” house for the weekend and didn’t want to tell me. 

And then came Sunday morning, I woke up bright and early. We loved our Sunday mornings. I wanted French toast, bacon, and coffee, and knew you always had all 3 for me! I called and texted, and still no answer. So I drove the 2 miles down the road to your apartment. Your rusty old purple Malibu was parked out front. Knock, knock, knock on the door- no answer. “He must have picked her up,” I thought. 

I left and drove to Dunkin’ and got my first pumpkin spice coffee of the season, and headed back home. As I was racing up to my apartment, I ran into my landlord- your old friend. He asked if I’d heard from you. He had tried to return your call from Friday, but no response. Which was strange.

So I called my gram and she said the same thing. She had called you Saturday to offer to take you shopping– an offer NEVER before refused. But no response.

And then I called you one last time. For the first time, straight to voicemail it went. And at that moment, I realized your phone had died, and I just knew. I don’t know how, but I just knew. 

This moment will forever stay ingrained in my memory

I packed a bowl and took one big hit. Let out the loudest sigh of my life. Shrugged my shoulders, shook my head, and literally said out loud, “Well, now I have to go find my mom dead.”

I knew that was going to be my last moment of “normalcy” and I soaked all of that 30 seconds in. Again, I drove the 2 miles down the road and walked right into your landlord’s house without knocking to demand she open your door. She did. And she stood outside and watched as I fell to my knees, trying to make out the numbers for 911 between burning eyes and blurred vision. 

Isn’t it strange how we literally fall to our knees in situations like these? It was a whole new sensation, and I was frozen in time. All I could do was fall to my knees and scream. 

Looking back, there were so many signs

But at the moment when you’re dealing with someone with long-term mental illness, they’re so easy to ignore. After someone threatens suicide consistently, has repetitive depressive phases, and makes so bad decisions, the loved ones tend to not take anything too seriously. The story of any person with BPD. But looking back— all the signs were there. 

You had gotten your FIRST EVER apartment on your own. You finally left your abusive partner. You had graduated with an associate’s degree just 9 months prior and were working as a paralegal. But you didn’t think you could do it. Everything seemed like it was going great. But you were actually the lowest you had ever been. 

Nine years ago, you told me the night before you were so depressed, that you peed in your chair and didn’t move to clean it. You just sat in it. 

When you moved into your apartment just one month prior and were showing it to me, you hinted, “This would be the perfect place,” referring to the closet. I told you to shut up and rolled my eyes. That was probably the tenth time that month you made a suicidal innuendo, and that was your norm. But turns out that’s how I knew where to find you. 

I’ll never know exactly what happened that night

But I know you left every light and the fan on in the house. Your “summer drink” was Limaritas and a half-drank can was in the fridge. Your half-smoked bowl was on the back of the toilet and I will NEVER FORGIVE the police for refusing to give it back to me 🙄. 

I know that 2 days prior, you asked your boss for a lousy $2 raise to bring you up to a whole $14/hr. You were so stressed about financially supporting yourself for the first time ever and you were awful with money. He responded by suggesting you’d have to “do some favors for him” for that to happen. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time one of your bosses had tried to sexually exploit you. Again, your norm. 

I know that night, you called everyone except for me– your mom, your best friend, your ex, and at least one other friend. But not me. And I only lived 2 miles down the road. 

And, I know you sent that picture you tried to erase but it was saved in a weird folder. You sent that picture with a mark around your neck to that absolute coward you hoped would come and save you. Your last cry for help. He didn’t. I hope the memory burns into his mind daily but sadly I know it doesn’t. Because he is a true psychopath. 

And in some sick and twisted way, I know you did this for me. Because I’ve always struggled, just like you, and still do. That’s the curse of us. But suicide isn’t an option for me now, it was taken off my table the day you left. It’s not an option when I’ve had to take your place. 

You deserve to have your story heard

The perfect mix of trauma, addiction, and mental illness— that’s what brought you to make this decision. People say “suicide is selfish” until they watch right in front of them, a soul that is so broken, lost, helpless, and traumatized they decide that they Just. Can’t. Take. Any. More. 

You deserve to have your story heard, so I’ll continue to tell it for you. And I’ll continue to spread my never-ending love, understanding, and support to every person I have the privilege of meeting that is struggling the way you did. It’s why I’m a psychiatric nurse practitioner. It’s why I do what I do. It’s all in honor of you, the one I couldn’t save.

But Mama, look how many souls we’ve saved by living and sharing your story.

coping strategies for grief and loss

Free eBook Coping Strategies for Grief & Loss

Short, easy-to-read strategies for managing the pain of grief by Anne Moss Rogers, Karla Helbert LPC, and contributing author Charlotte Moyler. Download Now.

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13 thoughts on “It’s been 9 years since the last time I saw you”

  1. Omg. How deeply touching. Beautifully written to show how deeply you loved and understood your mom. How proud she would be of you! Thank you Cayla for having the courage and compassion to share your stories, both of them, hers and yours.

  2. thank you for sharing your beautiful story and for sharing. I would love an ebook copy of the Copiong Strategies …. the link is not opening in the article.

    thanks much, Kris

  3. Thank you for sharing your story; it’s so tough to type the painful truths of our loved ones. I lost my oldest sister almost eight months ago. I can feel your pain; it’s an unspoken bond; I wish you peace and happiness knowing you are patching the lives you touch.

  4. Thanks for sharing your story about your momma !! Cheers to you for getting a career that helps people like your mom
    Your amazing ! Devens mom 7/7/15 ❤️

  5. Cayla, I am so sorry. I can completely relate to your story especially the part about the constant comments regarding suicide. How could we know when they cried wolf all the time but then refused help? Thank you for sharing this. Thank you for finding the strength to help others. Krissy

  6. Thank you for sharing. It is raw, well written and what people need to hear. I’m so very sorry for your pain and loss.

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