Sightless: A Tribute to Carol Layman.

Life is precious. It should never be wasted or taken for granted. Nothing, for that matter, should ever be wasted or taken for granted. Life is very much like a flower; if it isn't cared for and nurtured, and problems are ignored, it will be lost. I've learned in the past few weeks that one should always live life to the fullest. Life is what is most important to me, and this is the story of how this came to be.

A few weeks ago, I let my mind be clouded by insignificant problems, and I was caught up in myself, too blind to see what was going on around me. I was inside a shell that kept me from being aware of the turmoil my best friend was going through. Now, that friend is dead.

I was so shocked when I learned what had happened. The announcement echoed in my head. My heart stopped, and my entire body went numb.

"I'm very sorry to say that a freshman, Carol Layman, passed away last night between the hours of six and seven o'clock. Counselors will be available throughout the day for anyone who wants to come down. Let us all have a moment of silence."

I will never forget those words. A guy in my class, Eric, was staring at me because he knew she was my best friend. All I could do was sit there for a minute until I could feel again; my mouth was still hanging open. My mind was still trying to process what had happened as I stumbled up to the teacher's desk and mumbled, through approaching tears, "C-can I go..." I couldn't say anything else. He understood and sent me down to the office with my friend, Natalie. I was still somewhat numb, but I could feel all eyes on me as I staggered out of the classroom.

Natalie asked if I knew what had happened, and I told her I knew it had been suicide. At the bottom of the stairs, I saw Jessica and Tiffany - two of Carol's other closest friends. I dropped my books and ran to them, crying hysterically. We were led, blinded by tears, to a small room. I recognized everyone, save a few people. Maddie and Michelle came too, more of Carol's closest friends, Maddie looked like she'd just gotten over a hysterical fit of crying, and Michelle started one of her own when she hugged me. I tried to cheer her up a bit, but it wasn't working since I was bawling too.

We had to move to a bigger room because there were so many people there crying, weeping, sobbing for their lost friend. After awhile, I went into a small hallway to talk to Maddie, and I heard a tear-filled voice behind me saying, "Becky!" I turned, and Heather was standing there, crying. I flung my arms around her and started crying harder. She didn't know Carol very well, but she was going through a rough time and this didn't help. The three of us went back into the room, and Daniel, Carol's Homecoming date and very good friend, came down after a few minutes. Everyone was going up to him and hugging him. He came and sat by Heather and me, just staring off into nothingness; his eyes were haunted. When we were sharing memories of Carol, I started crying really hard, and he held my hand and hugged me really tight. We sat like that for a long time. Sarah, one of Carol's best and oldest friends, came in after awhile, bringing candy and terrible news. Not only was Carol dead, but she had hung herself in her basement. After we'd calmed down, she announced she had the demo CD containing one of the many songs Carol had written and recorded with her, and we all wanted to hear it. The minute her voice came on, everyone who had known her when she recorded it burst into tears. We knew all the lyrics, and we all thought the same thing: She planned it this way.

Completely

By Carol Layman

Drop my eyes and lift my glass
Turn my face away
For the first part
Then the last
And I can't breathe
I'm completely lost in the blue
Totally lost in you
Take a walk through silent sound
Leave my body underground
Never remember what I felt
Completely lost in the blue
Totally lost in you
For the first part
Then the last
And I can't breathe
And I can see you there
Sunlight behind your eyes
I'm completely lost in the blue
Totally lost in you
And I can feel life slipping away
Like the flowers by my grave
Flowers you left behind
Scattered roses on the ground
Completely lost in the blue
Totally lost in you
‘Cause it just cuts deeper every time
I don't feel your hand on mine
The metal above me gently shines
Completely lost in the blue
Totally lost in you
For the first part
Then the last
And I just stopped breathing

When the song came to, "Like the flowers by my grave," I started sobbing uncontrollably, and I fell into Daniel's arms, still holding Heather's hands. Lots of people were hysterical by the end of it. A little bit later, they played the song again because we all wanted to hear it more. I was holding hands with Sarah and Heather, and crying really hard, when Brian came up and held me and wiped my tears away. I didn't even realize it was him until Heather said his name. Carol had always said he was an "attractive jerk," but he had been the first guy to show up in the room that morning...

After that, Heather, Sarah, Daniel, Lauren, Conor, Michelle, and I went down to lunch. I got some fries and a lemonade with Michelle and Daniel, but I couldn't taste any of it so I threw it away half-finished.

When I got back from lunch, I was hit with the news that we weren't allowed to play her song anymore. We all asked- well, more like yelled- "WHY!?" Apparently it was too "emotional" for us. I was extremely angry since they had just gotten done telling us that "crying is good at a time like this." Hypocrites.

I decided that I would try to go to one class... Chemistry. It was a bad mistake on my part. That day our class was doing a lab that required concentration - something I did not have. Sravya and Shivani were understanding and let Kali and I copy their work for the lab. However, as I was cleaning out some test tubes (one of the very few things I was actually able to do to help), I overheard some of my classmates talking. Jesse, a guy who I never liked that much anyway, asked the question. "So what happened with that girl?" he said. I winced at the fact that he didn't even use her name. Drew said something that I couldn't hear, then Vince did what will make me hate him forever and always: "Oh really? Well I was there!" He started laughing. He thought that my best friend's death was amusing. I turned on my heel to face him, and glared at him straight in the eye. "That is SO not funny!!!" I screamed, on the verge of tears. I ran back to my seat and buried my head in my arms. I couldn't take it anymore. As soon as the bell rang, I went back to the office.

I spent the rest of the day in a smaller room with Tiffany, Heather, Conor, and some others writing notes to Carol. Heather and I left ten minutes before the bell rang and went to my locker then to hers. As we came down the stairs, Frankie, a friend of mine who was pregnant at the time, was standing by the doors. We stood by her, and Heather said she just couldn't believe it.

"I know what can help make you feel better!" Frankie stepped closer to us and put Heather's hand on her stomach. "Babies!" I shouted, laughing. I put my hand on her stomach as well, felt a kick, and took my hand away, smiling a little. The bell rang and Heather and I went out to the bus together and sat down in the back. I took out my iPod and started playing Carol's song.

Garrett, a friend of ours who goes to the junior high but rides the bus with us, said something I couldn't hear, then Heather snapped, "I'm not in the mood! My friend died yesterday! She killed herself!" I looked up, and his face was in total shock. "It was Carol," I added softly. He came back and sat next to us. We all held hands and I let them both listen to her song. I started crying again and buried my face in Heather's backpack.

When I got home, the house was empty. I threw down my backpack and staggered around my house screaming and crying hysterically.

"Why, Carol!?! How could you do this!?! How could I let you!?! WHY!?!" I couldn't get control and I fell down on my couch sobbing uncontrollably. Fleetingly, I wondered if I was going insane. I calmed myself down, knowing my mom would be home any minute and that I had to be able to talk and tell her what had happened. I heaved myself up from the couch and drunkenly stumbled toward the front door. Mom's car was in the driveway, and I ran outside.

"Mom!" I said still crying, "Carol's dead. She hung herself. She's dead."

"What!?!" My mom's mouth dropped and her eyes widened. She slammed the car door and helped me inside. I didn't want to be with her, I didn't want to explain anything. She hadn't liked Carol and she didn't deserve to know. Finally, the more rational side of me gained control and I told Mom what had happened. She called Daddy, who was still at work, and told him - a lot less bluntly than I told her- what was going on. Then she called Shannon, my sister's baby-sitter, and told her that she needed her to watch my sister and why. I calmed down and went into the computer room and started up AIM because I needed to talk to my friends. I started crying and eventually went up to my room. The rest of the day was a blur... All I really remember is crying, not eating, and a restless sleep full of nightmares.

That day was by far one of the three worst days of my life, the other two were the viewing and the funeral.

The viewing was two days later, Thursday, November 4, 2004. I went with Kali, and when we walked in, Brooke was standing there with Caitlin. they weren't incredibly close to Carol, but their lives had been touched by her death. They saw me come in and both said, "Becky!" and hugged me - they were both crying hard.

I told them I had to go see her and that I'd be back. I stepped up to the casket and saw her body. Immediately the tears came. She looked so unhappy. Some people later said she looked peaceful, but I disagree. She looked as I had expected her to look, completely hopeless. There was a mark on her neck, which was covered in make-up in a pitiful attempt to hide it. My tears fell on her arm, and I got up the courage to touch her. I reached out and held her hand. It was as cold and hard as ice. She was wearing her black sweater with the little holes in it, and her gorgeous cross necklace hung around her fragile neck. It wasn't her... it couldn't be my best friend laying there so cold and unhappy. The body was someone else. I knew it had been Carol, but now it wasn't. It was just a body. She looked so different... not even her hair was the same; it looked thin and wiry - usually it was full and thick. Everyone was crying and hugging. I lost it and had to sit down. Jon, her brother, and Julie, his recent wife, came over when I was hysterical and were trying to comfort me, but I only cried harder because I knew Jon had been her favorite family member. They sat there for awhile and I just cried. Eventually, they got up and went away telling me things would get better.

I walked out into the front hall, and picked up a pad with paper to write memories and sat down with Laura, Katie, Courtney, and Heather. I was still sobbing and Laura looked at me and I asked if I was okay. I shook my head and began writing about my beloved friend. I walked around, hugging people and getting hugs. I saw Sarah talking to Garrett, and I ran up and hugged her tight. There was a sitting room, and Sarah, Kali, Kia, Garrett, Heather, Daniel, Conor, and I went in and sat down. I sat next to Sarah and held her hand she had a tissue in it that looked like it had been through a war. She sniffled and said, "We should probably stick together, Becky." I nodded and stayed silent.

We laughed a little when Daniel had a little kid kick Conor in the shin, harder when Daniel whispered to the boy to kick Conor where it hurts. Kia moved Conor's arm from his leg so it was sitting across his lap, blocking the way of the kid. Conor, who was unaware of what Daniel had said to the boy, looked very surprised and said, "Oh dear!" We all laughed.

I tired to talk to Carol's dad, but he was talking to Lauren. I hugged her mom instead and told her if she ever needed anything, she could call me. My mom told me that Stephani, my college friend who had known Carol through church, had gotten there, so I went and hugged her and cried even more.

Eventually, I had to go. Lauren, one of Carol's best friends, and I walked up to the casket, and first she kissed Carol's forehead, then I did the same. "Bye, sweetie... I love you and I'll miss you. Goodbye." I kissed her again, and a fresh flood of tears came pouring. We left and took Kali home. Her mom was in a fuzzy, white robe and gave me a big hug when we dropped her off. After that, my mom took me to McDonald's where I got a Happy Meal. I got home and I ate for the first time since the fries on Tuesday. The toy that came with it was a little, blue, fairy doll. Carol had been a fairy for Halloween.

The next day was her funeral. I decided to go to school before it, and Kali, Heather, and I were going to go together. I got to school, and sort of sat in first period staring off into space the whole time. When I got to second period Theatre, Mrs. Lawson said, "You're guys aren't going to be able to focus anyway... just take a day off." I stood up and asked who wanted to hear her song on my iPod. Some kids who were closer to her came over, and I maxed the volume and sat it on a table. As her song played, people started coming over. Pretty soon, the whole class, even Mrs. Lawson, was standing in total silence, listening to Carol. I had the song on repeat and it played over and over again. Melanie started crying, and I gave her a hug that lasted about two songs. Then, I sat by Nikki and put my arm around her because she was crying too. I don't know how I managed, but I didn't end up crying.

After a few more times through, Mrs. Lawson said, "Why don't we all write a few sentences about Carol." I left the song playing and we all went back to our seats. After all of them were done and collected together, Nikki gave them to me and asked if I wanted to read them. I nodded and started reading. Everyone mentioned that she was always smiling. I got to the one I recognized as Nick's. Nick is the class clown, he can never be serious, but his sentences were so beautiful. All I can remember is that he compared things about Carol to the sun and moon and stars. I wish I could remember more.

The bell rang and I stumbled off to Spanish, where I stared off into space the whole time. Maddie, Ashley, and I left together, and Heather met us in the hallway. I walked with her to my locker then to hers. We ran into Kali at some point and went up to the front of the school where my mom was waiting for us. We arrived at the church and were parked near the very front of the procession. I saw the hearse that would be carrying my beloved friend, and I started weeping again. When we got inside what is my old church, all the memories of my times with Carol there came rushing at me almost literally, and I started to fall over. I caught my balance and was thankful that no one had noticed. I hung up my coat, and Heather, Kali, and I went into the sanctuary where the sound of piano music was floating toward us. We went up to the stage and saw among others Jessica, Sarah, and Lauren. My mom came over and told Kali and I to get down because it was disrespectful.

I went out to the casket where Carol's parents were sitting, watching their beautiful daughter. I sat down beside her mom and held her hand, unable to think of anything to say. I remembered my promise to Carol when she asked what I would do if she died. Even though it was just meant as a joke then, "I'd be sure to keep your mom from jumping off the roof." Carol had told me how fragile her mother was and how easily she got extremely depressed. Sitting there, holding her mom's hand, I saw this for the first time. She looked so delicate and helpless, like a crystal glass sitting on the very edge of a high shelf that could tip over any minute. I squeezed her hand and said something along the lines of, "Things will get better," and sat there for awhile longer. I decided I should let family come and talk to her, so I let go and gave her a hug. The music from inside the sanctuary had stopped, and I went in with Kali and my mom. The usher said, "We'll get you a seat right up front by the family." So, we sat down in the second row, and I noticed that Adam, a guy Carol had met in seventh grade and dated at least six times, was sitting by himself over on the end. Until Carol died, we had hated each other with a burning hatred because he is a Catholic who wants to purify the world and I'm a Wiccan. However, death is rather bittersweet. It brings people together, and it gives people a reality check. I realized that our fighting was stupid, and it wasn't fair for him to sit alone at his friend's funeral. I stood up and told Kali I'd be right back, and I walked over and asked if he wanted to sit with us. He smiled, got up, and walked back over with me. When I realized that Carol hadn't exaggerated when she told me he was obsessed with history I started laughing. He started telling me all these cities and towns that should be marked on a map in the Bible he was looking at. I started thinking about the long-running joke Carol and I had going on about the fact that he wanted to rule the world. I started laughing, but I couldn't tell him why, so I said I'd tell him later.

The service started, and Lauren opened it by playing Amazing Grace on her violin. It was beautiful... the whole service was beautiful. Michelle read two poems she had written, then Sarah and Kia sang a song. After that, Carol's other brother, Dan's, band sang a song as well that they had dedicated to her. Some very nice things were said about her, and it was emphasized that there was no blame. At the end, a group of three boys and three girls got up and sang "Think of Me" from Phantom of the Opera. I started sobbing quietly in my seat. The service ended and Carol's casket was rolled away, along with a part of my heart.

We left the sanctuary and walked out to the lobby. I saw Kristina and Ugonna there and ran into Kristina's arms. They both go to Central, the other high school in our town, and I hadn't seen either of them in ages. The church officials called those of us who were going to the burial out to our cars, so I had to leave with Kali and Mom. We got into the car and started off. First, I looked at the huge trail of cars behind us, then I looked at the hearse just a few cars in front of us. It was incredibly powerful. We finally reached the cemetery and got out. Kali and I met up with Daniel and Ashley and stood on a hill overlooking her grave, then we walked down to it. Pastor Jim said a few things that I didn't hear as I was looking at the metal cage that would hold my best friend's body for eternity. After he was done, I put a rose on top of the casket with some others. People began to leave, but her closest, oldest friends stayed. We all huddled up into a circle with her three closest friends, Sarah, Lauren, and I in the center. For a few minutes we stood in silence, then Lauren's voice broke through her tears:

"Drop my eyes and," she paused and sniffled, "lift my glass," Sarah joined in, "turn my face away," Conor and I sang out, "for the first part and the last," soon everyone was singing, "and I can't breathe." We sang the whole song through, beautifully for Carol. Then, we sang "My Immortal," by Evanescence and "Lullaby," another song of Carol's. Those moments were by far the most beautiful moments of my life.

After we went home and dropped Kali off, we went to Carol's house, and I was sent up to her room by her mom. Sarah, Jessica, Lauren, and Michelle were there, with others. Jon and Julie were there telling people whether or not they could take things. We looked throughout her room and took things that were important to us. Kia had her zipper necklace and her Evanescence piano book. Sarah got all of her songs and one of her sketchbooks. Others took various other things that had belonged to her. I took a lot of little things. Her Rock Docs pin (which I later gave to Daniel), her Good Charlotte and Simple Plan CDs, a purple guitar pick, one of her favorite books, 'Speak', two drawings of echidnas that she'd attempted, and her pink chain purse. However, the two most important things I was able to get were one of the poems she showed me once, 'And Then Forever Ended', and the song she had written for me, 'Rebecca'. I knew she'd written it, but I'd never heard it.

Rebecca
By Carol Layman

You say you looked up to me
But I think you saw right through...

Chorus
Rebecca
Children don't do this
You're not a little girl
Or a victim of the world
You're just
Rebecca...

Feel it fading fast
The whisper of redemption on my breath
You know that I was always second best
But somehow you forget that I
Was always the only one there in the dark

Chorus

And I watched as you healed
Felt everything you'll never try to feel
But my words never made it to your heart
And now you say you're angry
That I had to say, "Goodbye,"
But I need some time to be what I am
Rebecca X2

Chorus

After that, I went to Conor's house where we made a scrapbook for Carol's parents. I also heard the tape of her songs that Lauren had recorded one day at her house. We ate some orange sorbet, and talked awhile. After that, I went home, and cried myself to sleep. Again.

Losing Carol was by far the worst thing that has ever happened to me. She was my best friend - no - she was my sister for three years of my life, and I will never be able to forget her. If I hadn't been silent about some of the things she told me, she might still be here today. However, I try not to dwell on that. I remember the happy memories of our time together. I try to live by one of her favorite quotes: "Don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened."

The lesson to be learned from this tale is that one should never take things for granted. Also, if something is going on with a friend, one should never, ever stay quiet or be too afraid to act. In the wise words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:

"You can never do an act of kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late."