On April 7th, everything changed.
6:00am: I woke up to a notification on my phone from the local news saying that three people, in my hometown, were found dead in their home. I quickly searched the address in Google Maps hoping the address didn’t lead me to a home of someone I knew. Nothing on the map looked familiar. Relief. I went on with my morning routine, showering and getting ready for just an ordinary Friday.
6:30am: Mom was up and getting ready. I showed her the news article and asked if we knew anyone in that area of town, just to make sure my lack of knowledge when looking at map didn’t give me any kind of false hope. And man, did it give me some false hope. Mom knew the area. The area where some of our family friends lived. The family friends that lived right next door to one of my best friends, Tawni.
7:03am: I text Tawni… “Hey! I just saw the news this morning. Are you alright? I wasn’t sure if it was your street or not that they found them on”. Then the waiting game began. As the minutes passed, I could feel the anxiety growing more and more. There’s no way she’s still sleeping. She should be up getting ready for work by now. Why isn’t she texting me back?
7:10am: I got a call from my best friend, Mollie. It was a three-way call with her sister. “Have you heard from Tawni?” “Did you hang out with her last night?” “Did she stay at Joe’s last night?” So many questions. So many emotions. So much anxiety. Still no answer from Tawni. The news was now showing pictures and videos of Tawni’s house. Our minds were now thinking the worst. Mollie had messaged Tawni’s boyfriend to see if he knew anything and we were anxiously waiting for a reply. Next thing, all I hear is “He’s typing! He’s replying!” and then a heart-wrenching cry of despair sounded from my phone. A sound that will forever haunt me.
It felt as if someone had punched me in the stomach and I lost all the breath in my lungs. I dropped to the floor, sobbing and trying to catch my breath. This isn’t real. This can’t be real. The whole time my mom was there trying to find the words to say to three girls who just found out their best friend was dead.
I finished getting ready and headed to work. I knew there was no way I was going to make it through the day but sitting at home by myself would be the worst thing that I could do. On the half hour drive to work, I was calling our closest friends, telling them the news. I didn’t want any of them have to hear about this from the news or Facebook.
When I got to work, I walked straight to the office with red eyes and a broken heart, looking at the ground the whole way. I sat in my desk chair, staring out the window, numb. A few minutes later, my boss walked in. I struggled to say what was going on. It’s unbelievable that I’m even saying this. “My best friend is dead.” And all the emotions came flooding to me again. She closed the door and just let me cry. I felt so weak. So vulnerable. So helpless.
I couldn’t take her up on her offer to leave for the day. I had to be at work. I had to keep my mind busy. I had to try and go on with my day like normal. But how.
As I was walking the kids to the bus, one of the girls noticed my tear-filled, red eyes and asked what was wrong. “Oh, it’s just my allergies.” I wish that were the case.
After taking the kids to school, I had time to compose myself and really get my mind into a stable place. I had the choice of being in the infant room or the 4 year old room until the next teacher came in. The infant room was the choice. At least I wouldn’t have to worry about them asking me what’s wrong.
I was sitting in the rocking chair, feeding one of the infants their morning bottle when I received another notification from the local news. They were looking for Tawni’s brother, Chase. All of the theories of what happened were beginning to come together. It was in the back of all of our minds that it happened like this. Not only did they put out a search for Chase but they had confirmed the three victims that had been murdered.
My phone started blowing up with messages and phone calls. People were sending their condolences and prayers. As much comfort as it should have been giving me, it was overwhelming. Eventually, it was too much and I put my phone on silent and back in my pocket. Next time I checked it, I was up to 30+ messages. I was going to get sick. I called into the kitchen to have someone step in for me while I ran to the bathroom. I couldn’t do it anymore. It was all too much. An hour later, I was heading home.
I met up with a friend who I hadn’t seen in almost a year. We spoke no words when we saw each other, just a long hug.. full of tears. We drove to my house and turned on the news waiting for updates. The news at noon. This was when everything turned into a reality. Pictures of Tawni and her parents showed up on the screen as the three found dead. Then video of the their home with the police and CSI vehicles in the front yard and a close up video showing Tawni’s car parked in the garage. This is something that is only supposed to happen in the movies. This isn’t supposed to be something that happens in real life. Let alone to people I know.
The rest of that day… actually, the rest of that next week all mashed together into a blur.
Saturday morning, I had a funeral for a close family friend and Saturday night, we held a candle light vigil for Tawni and her parents. Tuesday morning, I had another funeral for my cousin and that night was the visitation for Tawni, Mark, and Charla. And Wednesday was the funeral for the three. I was nothing less than exhausted. Mentally, emotionally, and physically.
In a matter of 5 days, I had attended the funerals of 5 people. FIVE.
The visitation of the Nicholsons was by far the hardest to attend though. It took so much to even enter the room where the three’s caskets sat. The caskets and the flowers that laid upon there were perfect for each of the three. When it came time to walk to Tawni’s casket, it was like my feet were glue to the floor. I couldn’t get myself to walk any closer. After several minutes of just blankly staring at her casket, I moved. Now standing in front of this white casket covered in pink flowers, I couldn’t get myself to leave. Her picture on a stand right next to it. Her perfect, glowing, beautiful smile. Gone forever.
Don’t ask me how the hell I got through SPEAKING at the funeral but I did. I don’t do public speaking but somehow I got up in front of a room full of people with my closest friends to speak about Tawni. To honor our best friend. To spread love and comfort to all those there that day.
Fast forward two and a half months and here I am. Remembering every little detail and stuck in a dark hole of unhappiness.
And that’s why I’m here. To help get these feelings out so I don’t bottle them up any longer. To put these unspoken words out there. To help find myself and find my happiness again.