The image I've posted above will mean different things to different people: to some, it is a symbol of the ongoing struggle against child neglect and abuse, while to others it signifies solidarity in the fight against a particular strain of cancer. To me, it will always remind me of two friends of mine.
Many of you will already be aware that today marks the five-year anniversary of the car accident that killed them. In the aftermath we banded together and it was decided that a purple ribbon would be our token of daily remembrance; a visual reminder that we were never alone in our grieving (purple because it was one of their favourite colours). Our close-knit group wore the ribbons faithfully each day for more than a year. It wasn't until after graduation, when we had all moved away and begun new chapters in our lives, that we gradually stopped relying on the ribbons so much. The sense of community was lost due to our stratification, and we knew we would never forget our dear friends. We are still close today, these friends and I.
Time has continued to pass, in the relentless way it always does. These landmark days are so effective at reminding us of its progression. Occasionally I catch myself thinking (or dreaming, recently) of my lost friends. I wonder to myself if I'll ever forget their voices, their mannerisms, exactly what it was that made them so special. It seems hard to imagine now - impossible even - but memories are so fickle that way: one day you're telling yourself you'll never forget how happy you are, and a few years down the road that moment has been eclipsed by the sheer volume of living and feeling crammed into each day.
One of the hardest things to deal with in the year after their deaths were the double-takes. Especially at school, where I had seen them every day for years, I would frequently think I saw one of them. It would be someone with similar hair, or a familiar way of dressing or moving that would spark brief recognition. There would be that moment, quickly followed by an onslaught of memories and the cruel reminder of reality. The sightings became fewer as soon as I removed myself from our old stomping grounds, but strangely enough I recently saw a doppelganger. There's a song that perfectly encapsulates the sentiment of these moments. It is Billie Holiday's I'll Be Seeing You, which I'm sure most of you will recognize from The Notebook. I've been watching a lot of Mad Men recently, which makes me want to listen to jazz, and consequently I'll Be Seeing You has been stuck in my head for the last week or so. Interestingly it took until tonight for me to make the connection between my friends and the song though.
Despite the half-decade between their loss and the present my thought process hasn't seemed to have changed. It's as though the series of thoughts have formed little paths through my brain, well-worn over time, channels that my mind easily traverses at the smallest inducement. I wonder what they would be doing now, though it's hardly any mystery that they'd be doing fantastically. It seems so stereotypical, but you would be hard-pressed to find any other girls so broadly liked and so endlessly talented. And I swear, I say that without the rose-tinted glasses that people sometimes wear when remembering the dead. They really were wonderful people.
None of us ever learns the really big answers to life; I suspect because there aren't any. I suppose the biggest lesson I learned five years ago today was that life is arbitrary, and you just have to make what you can of it. That's not to say that there aren't meaningful relationships and actions and moments, I just can't believe in any kind of overall plan.
My friends, both alive and dead, will continue to be an inspiration to me. A reminder of the durability of - if not life - then love and respect.