For Macy: Freedom in the night
I found out on Facebook.
A rest-in-peace status concerning someone who had just passed. The name mentioned looked so familiar, and it took only seconds for my heart to sink.
For all purposes of remaining anonymous, we will call her Macy.
I hadn’t seen or spoken with Macy in more than six years. Suddenly, I read that she had passed away from a longstanding fight with lung cancer. Within seconds, I became disoriented by my own grief. I felt guilty, shedding tears over someone that that I long ago lost contact with.
I cried in my room as an RA in a university residence hall. I remember feeling like I didn’t have the right to mourn. It was a deceitfully untrue thought, but it was what was exactly what was plaguing my mind at the time. Despite invalidating my own feelings, years of counselling taught me the importance of asking for help when I needed it. I messaged Melissa, one of my closest friends who had also recently gone through a similar loss. She came to my room, and she sat with me while I told her the story of Macy and tried so desperately to process what I was feeling and why I was feeling it.
I had just finished eighth grade. To this day, a dark cloud hangs over the memory of that year in particular. I was struggling with severe depression and anxiety far before I was diagnosed. I had been attending a welcoming youth group where I found myself on my knees during each service, sobbing to God and begging Him to take the pain away. Despite my cries, the pain returned. No one around me knew what to do, and I didn’t either. I was desperate.
Something in me found hope in attending a church youth camp as a last resort, which was an incredibly out of character desire for me to have at the time. At first, my family couldn’t afford the registration fee to send me and my sister, but an unexpected refund in the mail allowed us to go. I was terrified, I was nervous, and I was doubting myself every step of the way. I remember the distress I felt the moment I stepped foot off the bus with a hopeless weight on my shoulders. The moment I entered the cabin I would be staying in with several other girls, I felt painfully out of place.
That was the day I met Macy.
Despite my hesitance, Macy immediately took me under her wing.
I couldn’t tell you exactly what we did during that week, but I remember her so vividly in my mind. I remember her standing by my side; I remember her contagious laugh and vivacious smile. I remember the freckles on her cheeks and her bright eyes. I remember when she laughed with me. I remember the light as it began to shine through the prevalent darkness in my world; the weight of loneliness and insecurity lifted off my chest. We were silly, we were free, and we swam and breathed and talked endlessly. I spent all of my free time with Macy and another girl in our cabin that week, and together, they loved me and showed me that I was worth being loved.
Macy lived passionately. She wore her heart on her sleeve, and she was so incredibly open with me that it encouraged me to take the step out of the darkness and share my own story.
It was at that camp that I had the courage to allow myself to ask for help. During the last night there, I pushed myself to take the plunge into vulnerability and tell my cabin leader, through tears, “I really don’t like myself at all.” She embraced me without hesitance, and soon, she began crying with me. I remember her sharing that she had gone through all of my emotions and later found hope in faith and community. That moment lasted for just a few minutes, but the memory has carried with me just as strongly for almost ten years. She bravely walked into my pain as she held me, sharing her understanding, expressing her love for me and reaffirming my worth.
After that moment, I felt free. I danced along with Macy and our friend as we went to our next activity for the night.
Without Macy showing me I was worth something, I would have never spoken up.
I left camp and returned home, feeling happy. My mother spoke of the difference she could see in my life. Alicia came back. She still struggled, but she came back. As for Macy, she didn’t let our friendship go to waste. I remember having sleepovers at her house where we stayed up late giggling with my sister and our friend. I remember greeting her with hugs at youth group. When I had issues fitting in at school, Macy showed me what true community meant. We laughed, we cried, we had fun together. She taught me the beauty of moments, of lying in a field staring at the open night sky full of stars.
When I moved to Arizona, we unintentionally lost contact due to distance.
It was in telling Melissa that I realised why Macy meant so much to me and why I was crying. Macy is the reason I am still here today, and she was my beacon of hope in a world of darkness. Macy’s life was tragically shortened, and it pains me that I will never be able to tell her just how much her love lifted me out of the darkness.
If I can tell you, it is the next best thing I can do to honor her memory. I can pass it on to you. Talking it over with Melissa and sharing my memory of Macy with others reminds me of one thing I know for certain: kindness, love, and acceptance last long into the night, and that is why Macy’s legacy lasts long past the end of her life. Most importantly, Macy led me to let people into my world. Life is beautiful when shared together: the moments, the memories, the joy, and even the pain. Never underestimate your potential in someone else’s life. With Macy, I learned that every life, every second, is worth fighting for; that there is beauty waiting to rescue you from the darkness. Sometimes, help seems far away. Sometimes you may label yourself as a lost cause. You are not a lost cause. You are a miracle. There is freedom in the night. Hope is looking for you, even if it feels so out of reach. I know because it found me.
In the form of Macy.