*Trigger warning: death, suicide, car accident
Tragedy is part of life. What can make or break a person is how they deal with the tragedy.
I live in Calais, a small town located in North East Maine. You know nearly every person, or you know of the person. If a major event happens, the entire town feels it collectively.
From car accidents, to firework incidents, to personal anguish, my hometown has dealt with a lot of heavy hits, but you can see the heart and soul that fill in the voids as we rebuild.
On August 5 of this year, a girl, K (name protected), died in a car accident. I knew her, she was a friend, but we weren't close. It still shocked me to the core. How could she be dead? Her Facebook profile is still haunting to look at, as if we're all still waiting for her to start sharing cat pictures or quotes again.
Everybody knew her and nobody had a negative thing to say about her. Her death was so unexpected that it didn't feel real, it felt like a bad dream everybody shared. Just days before, she was hanging out with friends, laughing carelessly, innocently unaware that her life would end in just a few days. Perhaps that's how it should be: having fun and living the life, not thinking about tomorrow.
Her death happened so quickly that the community was numb, unsure how to grieve with the sudden loss. People discussed fun stories and experiences they had with her, changed their profile pictures to pictures they had with the smirking, spunky girl, and donations were made to help cover funeral costs. It was a warm sight to watch a community come together...but it was still bittersweet, as it couldn't bring K back.
On September 11, barely a month after the tragic passing of K, Calais was hit with another unexpected blow. Another young person had died. C.I. (name protected). His death was completely shocking and sad: he took his own life. I didn't know C.I., but I knew who he was. Just 19 years old, and his young life ended.
A small community left reeling and grasping for answers. Suicide? Depression? Even though I did not know C.I., I felt immense sympathy for him: how much pain was he in? What were his final thoughts as he slipped away? Even though I didn't know him, I wish I would've helped him somehow.
While the community is still trying to make sense of the fresh tragedy, C.I.'s legacy lives on. A young firefighter, red and black balloons are hung all over Calais in C.I.'s memory: telephone poles, store windows, store registers, and profile pictures of a firefighter badge in C.I.'s name grace Facebook.
While death is a part of life, when it happens in your tight-knit hometown, it almost feels like aftershocks: you feel the effect after it's already occurred. You begin to question your own mortality, wondering if you're next, how would the town react to your passing, how would you die. But you can't live life wondering your fate, as it defeats the purpose of living.
Even though I have a hate/love relationship with my town, in times of pain and sorrow, I see and feel the love from nearly every resident, my heart feels a little lighter, like things are going to be okay again. I hate when tragedy strikes, but the unity serves as a good medicine.
I wish our community could feel more united without tragedy. Even when I eventually move on from Calais, I know I'll always have a sixth sense of grief if something were to happen here again. I love my town, and my town knows how to give love back.
Rest easy K, C.I., and other young Calais souls that died tragically <3
National Suicide Prevention Hotline:
(available 24 hours a day)