Friday, May 9, 2014

Casey Falconer: A Memoir of Loss and Hope

Hey everyone, Dana here. Today is a solemn day. This blog post is completely different from everything that I have ever written so far; aside from the "23 Facts" post from last week. It’s not a review, it’s not current events, it's not my two cents on an issue that causes debates, and it’s not my musings about something controversial that happened earlier this week. This post is about life and loss. This is the story of my experience losing a close friend at the age of twenty-one, and he was nineteen; seven days short of turning twenty. His name was Casey Falconer; an aviation student at SUNY Farmingdale, and tonight marks two years that he was taken from me and our friends. What you are about to read is something that I’ve been editing since the day we said our final farewell to him on May 15th, 2012. This is a memoir of my reaction to losing him, coping with this loss, and how I came to terms with it later on in my life. There are some direct quotes and semi-direct quotes from what happened approximately two years ago. This is a tribute to my dearly beloved friend, Casey Edward Falconer.
Photo credit: Evan Kisseloff
Tell me something, my dear reader. Have you ever lived through a time where you can remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when you found out about something tragic? Older people remember where they were and what they were doing when they found out President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Me, my friends, and everyone else I know remember exactly what we were doing when we found out about 9/11. Those are national tragedies; everyone eventually gets to live through one. What about personal tragedies? What if something completely unthinkable and unfathomable happened to someone you loved very much? If you do, I do too. I understand. You're not alone.

It happened around 12:15 pm on Thursday, May 10th, 2012. Before that moment, I had trouble sleeping  because I was stressed about editing my final video project for my film production class at Queens College.  I struggled through Final Cut Pro, and my partner who worked with me didn't put any effort into “our project.” Needless to say, I was stressed, couldn't sleep, and I was dreading the presentation the following evening.

In the middle of the night, I was in one of those semi-conscious dream states where the dreams feel like reality, and at the same time you’re awake but you think you’re sleeping and dreaming. Disorienting, isn't it? But something was worse; I couldn't put my finger on it. I had a gut feeling that something horrible happened to someone I cared about. I knew it didn't happen to my parents or my brother because they were in bed, sleeping soundly. They were snoring, to be precise. I knew nothing happened to my boyfriend, Eddie, because we just got off the phone with each other a few hours before. But I felt like one of my friends was in mortal danger…however, I couldn't bring myself to call people at 4:00 in the morning just to see if they were alive. I would have been committed into an institution if I dared to do that.

You probably have never met me or heard of me before, but if you've known me for a while, you probably know that I'm extremely intuitive. I get good and bad vibes about people, ideas, and places. This “bad vibe” was the worst bad vibe I've ever had in my life. I had heart palpitations, cold sweat, and NAUSEA. I came close to throwing up because my stomach was in knots…but my body was able to fight it off. The tossing and turning finally came to an end around 6 am.

Because of the restless night, I woke up at noon. I still didn't feel refreshed and ready to get up because the anxious feeling in my stomach never truly subsided, not including the fact that I only got approximately six hours of sleep. Naturally, I showered to calm my nerves; that always did the trick. Everything around me appeared to be normal, or so I thought.

So, I got out of the shower around 12:15, getting dressed as usual…and my mom entered my room…

“Dana, go onto New York Times.com and cancel your subscription! I can’t deal with seeing those newspapers anymore!” she ordered. “All of those trees are getting killed because of it!”

“Okay Mom,” I sighed. Hasn’t anyone ever heard of knocking?

I went onto the website and cancelled the subscription. Suddenly, my phone made the “text message” notification sound. I thought it was the New York Times texting me to confirm my cancellation, but instead, I received a text message from my friend, Mike Polizzi. It said "Dana are you busy?"

Honestly, I actually was quite busy because I had to prepare what I had to edit for the final touches of my video project, along with getting my books and notebooks together for my eight hour school day. I wasn't getting out of school until 10:30 that night. However, he asked me to call him. I didn't think anything of it. I called him up and the conversation went something along the lines of this:


“Dana,” he said.


“Hey Mike…what’s going on?” I wondered.


“Can I ask you something?”


Uh oh. I gulped. 


“Uhh, yeah…what’s wrong?”


“Okay, why the fuck are people writing ‘R.I.P Casey’ on his Facebook?” He sounded angry.


My heart dropped.
What...? Rest in peace Casey? Casey Falconer. Me and Eddie’s best friend, Casey. Olivia’s boyfriend, Casey. No. Don’t even think that.


“What the fuck are you talking about?” I yelled.


“Dana, look at Casey’s Facebook."


I was scared now.
Why would Mike say something like that...especially about Casey?! I thought. I typed Casey’s name up on the search bar and scrolled to his Facebook page. 


Two people posted things that I thought I would never see in my life. They wrote things like “Rest in peace, Casey. You were such an amazing person and you will be missed. I wish I could have gotten the chance to say goodbye,” etc. Lorenzo, Olivia’s brother, wrote something similar to that.

I still said nothing.
Why would Olivia’s little brother say something like that? That’s a really mean joke to pull on his sister…I pondered. I thought it was a fucked up prank.

Then, I started to panic. I didn't comprehend what I just read. I had to pinch my self and slap my self in the face a few times before I realized that this wasn't a dream, what they wrote wasn't fabricated, and it wasn't just a figment of my imagination. I wasn't delusional. I wasn't losing my mind…yet.


My heart was racing and my voice was shaking. “What the fuck are they talking about? Why are they saying this? Casey isn't dead. He can’t be!”


“Dana, relax. Calm down.” Mike said. “I’m gonna call Casey up right now. It’s gonna be okay. Hold on.”


Relax? Calm down? Hold on? How?


Those short few seconds felt like hours. I was able to hear my own heart beating because it was literally galloping out of my chest.



My mind was racing.


It’s a lie. It’s a joke. Casey’s just fucking with us. No wait, they’re playing a prank on him to fuck with him and all of his friends. This isn’t real. This isn’t true.

.
Mike called me back. It was too fast. I knew exactly what he was going to say to me. I knew it wasn't going to be what I wanted to hear. It was going to be the worst news I've ever heard in my whole life, and best part was, I still wasn't prepared for it.



“Mike…?” I whispered.



“Dana, it’s true. It happened.” His voice cracked as if he was on the verge of tears too.


My heart ripped into shreds. My head filled with pressure and pain. Memories of Casey flooded my mind as the tears filled my 
eyes. His smiling face and our time together with all of our friends was all I saw when I closed my eyes. Without hesitation, I screamed at the top of my lungs.


My mom found me sitting on my computer chair looking like I just got stabbed.

“I don’t believe that Casey is dead!” Mike screamed as I was attempting to process what I just heard. “How the FUCK could this have happened?!?!” He was crying too.


I wept.


“Dana, what are you doing today?” he continued. “I’m gonna come pick you up. I need to see you.”


“I can’t,” I managed to mutter out. “I have school…I have a project to present…”


Then I realized that I had to put on a brave face for eight hours straight. I cried harder.



I hung up the phone…and I sobbed uncontrollably. I was wracking my brain with all of these reasons why and how Casey died. It couldn't have been a car accident because he was one of the best drivers I knew. He didn't drink alcohol, do drugs, or do anything harmful to himself. He didn't have any health problems. The only explanation that could have caused Casey’s death was…a plane crash. 


He went flying the night before. He flew every night. He just got his pilot's licence in April. He had his pilot's licence for a whole month. It took me a few seconds to realize how unfair that was.


After crying some more, my Dad came into my room and said he knew how I felt about losing a friend at a young age…he dealt with that for many years; my mom too. They lost several friends to car accidents, cancer, drug overdoses, or any other accident that happened to them.


They asked me if there was any proof or confirmation of what happened to Casey. I typed in "Casey Falconer plane crash" into Google. Horrified by what I saw, there was a news article informing me that a small plane crashed near Spring Hill Airport in Pennsylvania. Two confirmed dead, one injured. Casey was there. His final Facebook status was “Visiting my parents for dinner” at Spring Hill Airport. It wasn't just a coincidence.


“Maybe he’s the one who lived?” Mom said after I found that article.


I appreciated that she tried to give me hope and to be optimistic, but I was far from feeling optimistic. I didn't know that the one who lived was our mutual friend, Evan Kisseloff.
I wondered how he was living with the fact that he survived a plane crash. I then began to wonder about our other friends and if they knew or no
t.


Oh my God...does Olivia know...? What about his parents...? What about Eddie...? And Allison and Chris? Oh good God…


I grabbed my phone and texted “People are saying that Casey is dead…why are they saying that?” to Eddie. I knew he was gone, but I still felt like it was a lie.


Eddie replied back saying “It happened……My dad woke me up with the news……"


We briefly spoke on the phone, but it was so short because neither of us could find words to talk about the horrific nightmare we were living in. At the same time, I posted a status on Facebook. 


Words cannot describe.....the feelings I have right now......I never ever imagined this would happen in a million years.....RIP Casey.....you were one of the best friends I ever had........</3 ='["


 Within seconds, people responded.



“Hey is that status real?!” My friend Brian messaged me.


“I would never…ever make a joke about something like that…” I wept.


“Holy shit! What happened?!” he exclaimed.


“His plane crashed…….he went to SUNY Farmingdale to be a pilot….I can’t do this…….” I couldn't even comprehend what I was saying. None of my sentences made any logical sense.


“Where did you hear that Casey passed?” Brian asked me.


“Mike Polizzi, Eddie’s dad….everyone in NHP, there’s even an article…about a plane crash…two dead, one injured…it matches the description of what happened to Casey….”




Even though I couldn’t see through the computer screen, I knew Brian was just as upset as I was. He didn’t know Casey that well, but they met at Eddie’s prom and talked to each other whenever we all hung out at Eddie’s throughout the years. This was someone he knew of and spoke to. After all, they were both die hard Steelers fans.



“I’m so sorry, Dana," Brian said with deep sympathy. "This is horrific…please…be strong and keep me posted ok?”


“Okay….I’ll try and be as strong as possible….” I cried more.


“How’s Ed holding up?”


Of course he thought of Eddie. He knew how close they were.
 



“Horrible…he knew Casey since they were kids….they grew up together…Jim woke him at 9 am this morning with what happened to him…everyone in NHP is gathered together…I can’t even imagine….how Olivia is taking all of this….I can’t even imagine…how his parents are dealing with this…I never lost anyone so close to me before…who wasn’t blood related…”


“It happened to me with Jesse…it’s horrific and I can’t imagine how they’re feeling right now…”


Jesse...that’s right...he lost a close friend who died young too...at least Brian understands...no wonder we connect so well...


After the brief conversation with Brian, I picked up my phone. I scrolled to Olivia’s name, but when the phone rang once, I hung up. I couldn't do it. I couldn't face the truth that something so unthinkable just rocked our entire lives. 

My shift supervisor from CVS saw my status and informed me that she told my store manager that I won’t be coming in for a while. It was really great that my shift supervisor was somewhat of a friend of mine, so she knew how to take care of me. I didn't go back to work until roughly two weeks later. I was greeted with open arms when I returned.

I didn't eat anything or drink anything the whole day; I had no appetite. I didn't come out of my room until it was time to go to school. My parents couldn't find any words to make me feel better, so…they kept their distance…sort of.

I cried during the whole drive to Queens College. Miraculously I was able to drive safely and properly despite the water fountain of tears emanating from my eyes. Nothing in the world could have possibly made me smile that day.

I walked into my Middle Eastern Film class and barely said two words to anyone. I looked like hell. My eyes were red and swollen, my voice was softened to a whisper, and my hair wasn't brushed or straightened. My professor immediately took note of that. At the end of class, he asked me if I was okay. Naturally, I told the truth and told him what happened to Casey. That was the last time I saw him, or talked to him.

I walked outside of Kiley Hall, sat on the bench and sobbed for a good twenty minutes. Nobody comforted me. Nobody stopped to help me. Nobody cared. I felt more alone than I ever did in my life because I didn't really have any friends there that were on campus on Thursday nights. 
I then realized that my video project was not quite complete. I marched over to the I-Building and continued to edit the video until my partner came in with MP3 files to play over the video. I managed to be strong and not cry for a while. If anything, I felt numb; nothing more. 


A girl from my class had issues with her project as well, but when she saw my eyes and noticed I looked like I got hit by a bus, she asked me if I was okay.


“My friend was killed in a plane crash last night…”


She didn't say a word. Instead, she hugged me tightly. It was the nicest thing anyone has done for me all day.



 “If you want, I can tell the professor about what happened…you should be with everyone.”


As much as I wanted to ditch out and drive to New Hyde Park, I had to present my project. Our professor was a real bitch and I assumed that she wasn’t going to give a shit that Casey died.

The rest of the evening felt like a blur…I barely remembered half of it…except for my random moments of sadness and covered my face when I silently let the tears run from my eyes. All of the video projects were presented, and people seemed to like my project. Even the professor liked it.

After the class ended, I called Eddie to let him know I was coming over. Everyone was gathered at Eddie’s house…Olivia, Amy, Gabby, Austin, Matt, Jordan, Mike Polizzi, Allison, her boyfriend…all there for each other. I parked my car and managed to hold everything together until I walked across the street and fell into Eddie’s arms. I literally lost everything after that. I never cried like that in my life. We cried with each other…Casey meant everything to us…he completed us. I hugged each and every person who was there in addition to crying on each other’s shoulders. It broke my heart seeing everyone cry; Jim in particular. He watched Casey grow up since he and Eddie were inseparable when they were little.


“I feel like I lost a son…” Jim finally said with tears in his eyes. “His mother is probably a basket case right now…”


With that being said, it made me wonder...



How can someone cope with this? How does one cope with losing a child? If you lose a spouse...you're a widow or a widower...If you're a child and you lose your parents, you're an orphan...But you know what...? What's the word to describe a parent who loses a child...? There is none. That's just too horrible and unthinkable to even have a name...



That night we had the fire pit going. Inside, all of Casey’s favorite food and drinks were on the kitchen table. There were cans of Mountain Dew everywhere, Eddie made "epic" nachos, and played music that Casey loved was playing on Eddie’s iPod: The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Skyrim songs, etc. We tried our best to make each other smile, but needless to say, we were heartbroken. None of us knew how were going to get through this.

The next day, Olivia invited everyone to come over for a get-together. Everyone was crying and trying to hold everything together. I cried with Olivia, I cried on Chris’s shoulder because that was the first time I saw him since Christmas break. Olivia’s parents, brother, and sisters were all there with their friends, also trying to hold everything together. When Eddie finally came back from work, we all gathered at Casey’s house to visit his parents.

On Saturday, May 12th, it was our first night of half off appetizers at Applebee’s without Casey. The entire staff at Applebee’s knew exactly who we were and who Casey was, and they all expressed their deepest condolences. All fifteen of us ordered Mountain Dew with our appetizers in honor of Casey. Even Olivia; who thought Mountain Dew looked like “alien pee” or the liquid you put in glow sticks.

Sunday, May 13th was hard. Sunday was Mother’s Day. I thought about Casey’s mom literally all day and all night. I could not fathom how she was feeling that day. Even when I went out to dinner with my parents, I couldn't feel any relief. I couldn’t cry anymore. I didn’t know how I was going to handle the rest of the week. It was going to be a long one, for sure.

On Monday, May 14th, funeral arrangements were made. Since I had school during the afternoon, I decided to go to the 7:00 wake. I managed to hold everything together during school, despite the fact I had to skip my 6:30pm class to say good-bye to one of my closest friends that I saw every single weekend for the past year and a half.

After meeting at Eddie’s, we parked the car a few blocks away from the funeral home. To our surprise, there was a line out the door because every person in line was waiting to pay their respects to Casey. No, they were lined up around the block. At that moment, a thought crossed my mind: Is it going to be an open casket? 

I already had trouble looking at people who were lying in open caskets no matter how old they were or how long I knew them. I didn't even look at my grandmother at her wake. But looking at someone who was YOUNGER than me would have been too much for me to handle.

I was somewhat relieved when I was told it was a closed-casket wake. At the same time, I realized that no mortician would have been able to restore Casey to what he looked like…so it really was as horrific as I thought. From what I heard, the way that they identified Casey was by his dental records. My stomach churned.

The line finally moved as I entered the viewing room. My heart was racing because as soon as I turned to the left, I saw the casket. I saw his parents. I've been to many wakes and funerals before, but all of the people who passed away were either really old or really sick, so they weren't suffering anymore. This was completely different. This was an accident. This wasn't supposed to happen.

After hugging Casey’s parents, it was my turn to walk up to the casket. Eddie followed suit.

Beside the wooden casket was his boy scout uniform with all of the badges he earned during his years of being in boy scouts, his Russian hat, his headset from the plane, his  pilot's notebook with his perfect handwriting, and his senior portrait with that beautiful smile Casey always had. I choked up a bit. 

I kneeled down to say a prayer, but my mind drew a blank. I looked up and saw a flower arrangement hanging over the wooden casket: flowers that were shaped like a plane with an attached label that said “Captain Falcon,” along with his boy scout troop number 298 attached to it. My breathing became heavy and tears fell from my eyes. I realized that whatever that was left of Casey was inside that casket. He was gone, and it finally hit me really hard.

As I got up to let others kneel in front of the casket, I whispered “I love you, Casey” and put my hand on top of the casket and kissed it. Eddie walked me to the other side of the room so I could cry on his shoulder.

The rest of the night, I was talking to people I haven’t seen in a long time. Although it was a devastatingly sad occasion, it was wonderful to see people and talk to people who have not been around lately. I even told some of the ex-boy scouts about how me and Eddie met. That was a great distraction.

When 10:00 came around, it was time for us to leave the funeral home. I went up to the casket to say good night to Casey; suddenly Eddie, and our friends Mike, Kathy, Olivia, Allison, Gabby, Amy, Matt, Austin, Chris, and everyone who was friends with Casey surrounded me and we all put our hands on the casket. After saying good night to everyone, I put Casey’s prayer card next to my guardian angel pin on the passenger car visor and drove home.

After I got off the phone with Eddie that night, I couldn't sleep. I kept tossing and turning in my bed and getting frustrated because I knew I had to wake up early for the funeral the following morning. I scanned my iPod to put on some classical music that usually made me fall asleep, but it didn't work. I had one last resort: Pink Floyd. I fell asleep instantly after listening to “Comfortably Numb.”

The next morning I woke up at 8 am to get ready for the funeral. I put on the same black dress I wore to my grandmother’s funeral, and since my feet had blisters from wearing ballet flats the night before, I had no choice but to wear my Doc Martens. It was going to rain anyway.

Casey would approve.

After I got into my car, I put on my iPod and put on all of my Pink Floyd songs because that was his absolute favorite band. I put on other songs that Casey liked too. I parked my car across the street from Eddie’s house and walked inside. Jim and Linda were inside looking their best. Eddie was upstairs trying to find something to wear. I helped him find his best collared shirt and dress pants so he could look as handsome as he did. It was gonna be hard that day so we did our best to hold it together.

The four of us got into the car and parked down the block from the funeral home. We walked inside and the room was packed with people sitting in chairs. 



Is the funeral happening now? I wondered.


Instead, the funeral director informed us that we were all leaving for Pinelawn Memorial Park in Farmingdale, and instructed us to put on our hazards and bright headlights to show that we were part of the funeral procession. He then told us to line up to pay our final respects to Casey by coming up to the casket to say good bye.

My eyes teared up as I approached the casket, 
but I managed to hold it together because it wasn't the final good bye—not yet. We walked outside of the funeral home to wait for everyone else to get into their cars. I looked to my left and saw Evan Kisseloff: the survivor of the plane crash; Casey’s closest friend next to Eddie. We made eye contact and I embraced him. No words were said, but that hug said thousands of words.

We finally got into our cars and waited for the hearse to lead the way. First, we passed by New Hyde Park Memorial High School where the funeral director put a candle on the front step. We continued on to drive down New Hyde Park Road and made a right onto Hillside Ave. After that, we turned right onto Denton Ave: to pass by Casey’s house.

We stopped in front of Casey’s because the funeral director put the second candle onto Casey’s mailbox. After the funeral director turned away, the candle fell down. Me and Eddie giggled because we felt Casey would have “trolled him” by making the candle fall down. From there, we took the longest drive to Pinelawn.

When we finally reached Pinelawn, we all got out of our cars and walked towards Casey’s final resting place; in the pouring rain. The funeral director asked people to come up and say loving words about Casey. First, Casey’s cousin Jen said beautiful things about Casey; memories of their childhood.

 After a few others said a few touching words, Mike Polizzi, with tears in his eyes, wrote a speech. Seeing Mike cry got me choked up. Before that day, Mike never cried. He was going to be a marine, where emotions weren’t allowed to be visible.

After that, Eddie came up with his bagpipes and spoke about Casey from the bottom of his heart. He didn’t need to write anything down; Casey was his best friend for 17 years. He spoke of memories of when they were little, times in high school, as many words as he could say before he was overcome with grief.  When Eddie cried, I cried too.


He then said “When I first got these bagpipes, I posted a status about it on Facebook. Seconds later, Casey commented and said ‘my window is open. Serenade me.”


Some people began to chuckle and smile because that really was something Casey would say.


“I’m glad I can serenade you now, Casey…” Eddie managed to mutter out.


He began to play Amazing Grace, the traditional song that is typically played at funerals. Everyone was crying now.

After that, Jordan Buff began to speak and said very touching words that we will all remember forever. He reminisced about boy scout camp: where Casey recited the Robin Williams golf skit. Everyone was laughing now.

After others said their words, the funeral director instructed us to take a rose and place it beside the casket. He then asked Eddie to play the bagpipes again. Each of us had a rose in our hands and lined up to place it beside the casket. I kneeled down and placed it right next to it.



“Good bye, Casey…" I whispered. "I love you…”


Those were the last words I ever said in his presence before he was lowered into the ground a few hours later.


As I wept, Eddie stopped playing immediately; he went to my side so I can cry on his shoulder—again. 

We left Pinelawn and dropped Austin off at NCC because he had a final exam to take. When we arrived at the catering hall for the luncheon, the table with our friends was filled up so we unfortunately couldn't sit with them. However, I looked across the room and saw Evan walk in; looking lost like us.


“Evan,” I called out.


He made eye contact with me and Eddie.


 I smiled and waved to him. “Come sit with us,” with a warm and welcoming smile.


Obligingly, he sat next to me and from that point on, we talked for hours and got to know each other more. Although we lost our best friend, this horrific tragedy brought us together. We knew each other for just a few months but after that day, it’s as if we knew each other for years. Evan hangs out with me, Eddie, and my best friend, Brendan for "bro-night," and acknowledge that Casey would have been with us too.


That night, I had to take my Journalism final exam at Queens College. I received the final exam, and my blind drew a blank. I held the prayer card in my lap and held it the whole time. Somehow, I heard Casey’s voice telling me that I was going to be okay. I aced that final.


 The next day was what would have been Casey’s 20th birthday at Olivia’s house. Originally, the people who were going to show up were me, Eddie, obviously Casey, Evan, Chris, Allison, Joe, Paulette, and maybe a few others. Instead, there were thirty of us in Olivia’s backyard. Instead of feeling sad, we were happy and having a wonderful time celebrating Casey’s life. We drew pictures and names on the ground with sidewalk chalk, we sang some of Casey’s favorite songs, Eddie helped conduct a tiny amount of the Chamber Singers to sing some of Casey’s favorite chorus songs. We told "Casey" stories to each other; how we met, something funny he did, something that managed to make us smile somehow. We all felt Casey’s spirit there. Allison made a special DVD that she made for Casey and made copies for all of us.


When the party ended, some of us went back to Eddie’s house to watch the DVD. First, there were clips of the “Mass Media Movie” that Allison made with Eddie, Casey, Chris, Olivia, Christine, and others that helped contribute to the project. All of the “outtakes” and “deleted scenes” involved Casey talking, laughing, and being funny. Casey, Eddie and Chris were sitting on Eddie’s couch where Casey proclaimed “ALL THESE BITCHES!” with a big smile on his face. Other clips included his and Olivia’s parody of “16 and Pregnant” where Olivia was the mean-spirited father and Casey was the pregnant mother. Later, there were clips of Eddie and Casey’s parody to We Three Kings, dancing to the “Fast Food Song,” fight scenes, and the ICC video of Eddie, Casey, Allison and Chris performing Michael Jackson’s Thriller. That was the first time I legitimately laughed in days.


But suddenly, the laughter came to an end as a montage of Casey’s pictures filled the screen with the song "Fields of Gold" by Sting fading in. Within seconds, I cried. That song always made me cry in the past, but because "Fields of Gold" was one of Casey’s favorite songs and that was their high school graduation song, I couldn’t hold back the tears any more. While looking at the photo montage, my memories of Casey continued to flood my mind: when we first met at the 2008 Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, Junior Prom, ICC night, multiple chorus concerts, Senior Prom, the street fair, our triple dates with Eddie, Olivia, Chris and Allison, going to Chipotle, the bowling alley, watching The Room, Chris and Allison's joint surprise birthday party, Casey’s 19th birthday the year before, Allison’s graduation party, playing Rock Band in Olivia’s basement, seeing Joan Jett & The Blackhearts in Coney Island, Splish Splash, eating Halal food on the side of the road, half off appetizers at Applebee’s, hanging out at Eddie’s house until 1:30 in the morning, chilling out in Allison’s basement, watching movies at Chris’s house,  all of our random conversations on Facebook, and finally, my 21st birthday party: the last time I saw him, hugged him, and told him that I loved him. I cried until there were no more tears to produce.


The next day, was Casey’s candlelight vigil at New Hyde Park Memorial High School. There must have been at least a hundred people there. Some of them were crying, some of them were holding hands, some of them were content. Many people went up to the podium to say a few words about Casey—again. Some of the people who spoke at his funeral read their speech again. This time, I had the courage to speak about Casey. Not everyone really knew who I was, so I had to introduce myself to the crowd.


“Hi everyone. I’m Dana…Eddie Boroslawski’s girlfriend. The first time I ever met Casey was in December 2008, the day of the Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. Eddie introduced me to Casey and I said ‘Hi, I’m Dana!’ Casey responded with ‘So Dana, how much money is Eddie paying you to go out with him?’”


 EVERYONE burst out into laughter.


“I absolutely hated him for that, but looking back, that was Casey’s sense of humor. His sense of humor, his smile, and everything about him was so amazing in every way. Whenever my band played a show and I thought we sucked, he always managed to make me feel better and take my mind off of whatever was bothering me. He will always be one of my best friends and I’ll miss him forever. I love you, Casey.”


More people approached the podium and beautiful things about Casey.  Eddie played his bagpipes again and everyone gave him a great round of applause. However, I never felt so much anger towards someone when a person, who shall remain anonymous, decided to bring his guitar up to the podium.


“Hi. I didn't know Casey, but I wrote a song about him.”


I laughed at first because I personally knew this particular guitar player. I used to be in a band with him and he was terrible, so I started to giggle when he started playing these dissonant chords.


But the smirk was wiped off my face when I closely listened to the lyrics. He poorly sang about HOW Casey died and what happened that very night... In front of Casey’s parents. My blood was boiling. I couldn’t believe someone could be so disrespectful to someone who JUST DIED a week ago. I was ready to kill him. But then I realized that me and Eddie were going to write a song about Casey—the good times, the happy times. 


After that “performance,” our friend Paulette approached the podium and sang an a cappella version of “Hallelujah” from the Shrek movie. She killed it. That song always made me feel emotional, but Paulette’s version was far more powerful.

On Sunday, May 27th, I decided to visit Casey at Pinelawn Memorial Park for the first time since we buried him. I finally found his plot where I sank to my knees and “told him” about everything I was feeling. Even though I was by myself that day, I felt like someone was there with me; consoling me, soothing me, making me feel better. I didn’t feel alone in the cemetery. I felt like someone put a hand on my shoulder when I was sitting there. I felt like Casey’s spirit with me.


When I looked up at the sky, a single plane flew directly overhead. It wasn’t one of those commercial airplanes that fly out of JFK or LaGuardia; it was a plane that Casey flew. From that moment on, I realized that although I wasn’t able to physically see Casey, his presence will forever remain in my life. His spirit will always be alive in my heart and soul.


Every now and then, I look at Casey's Facebook page and re-read some of his old statuses. Whether they were about political issues, demotivational picture memes, current events, something witty, sarcastic, or a song that we liked, we always had something to talk about. Everything he ever wrote managed to make me smile from ear to ear, and he still continues to make me smile even though he isn't physically here.


Some days it gets easier, and I smile when I hear songs that remind me of him, or when I see something that Casey would have liked. When I hear songs by Pink Floyd, or if I hear “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister or “Mr. Blue Sky,” by ELO, I smile like a dork. But if I hear “Fields of Gold,” by Sting or “Gone Away” by The Offspring, I cry instantly. There are some days or nights where I just think about all of the fun times we all had and how I wish they could have lasted longer.


If you read this whole thing, please listen to me when I say that it’s okay to cry. Please don’t ever think that you’re weak for showing emotions. Letting out your emotions is the most therapeutic thing you could do. Trust me; you’ll feel a lot better when everything is let out.


My final thoughts about this?  Writing this memoir really helped me cope with this loss. Also, I just want to thank you for reading my story about losing a loved one. If someone dear to you lost his/her life, it really helps when you write down your thoughts and feelings. It really is the best thing you can do. It is going to get better. It may not heal instantly and you may not truly feel whole again, but the pain subsides over time. I’m not going to lie, it can take years, maybe even a lifetime. But please remember that you are not alone, and talk to someone who truly understands what you're going through. And to all of my friends who loved Casey as much as I did, thank you for reading this. Thank you all for being a part of my life and helping me live life to the fullest; just like what Casey did.