“Like a Long Lost Friend, You Haven’t Seen in Awhile” By Erin Holcomb

Last night, I was using my Waze GPS to get me home from seeing a movie at the Belcourt Theatre with the hubby. When it routed me by the parking lot of the Cathedral of the Incarnation Church on 20th Avenue in Nashville. The same parking lot where I sat in my car at 2:00 a.m. on the morning of December 17, 2011. My boyfriend (now husband) was running around the building trying to find an open door and a priest – because I needed somebody to pray for me and to pray for my family. I just needed a place to kneel and a person to reassure me that we would make it through this.

Today five years ago (Friday, December 16, 2011), I texted with my cousin and best friend, Mica, for the last time. She wanted me to come visit her in South Carolina that weekend. I had a feeling that I should go, but it was a few weeks before Christmas. So I asked, “When will you be home for Christmas?” I didn’t get a response, which was normal behavior for Mica. Sometimes she responded, sometimes not. Sometimes she answered the phone. Other times she didn’t. I texted again and said, “Did you get my silly Happy Birthday song yesterday?” Nothing came back in return.

That night as I got ready for an Ugly Christmas Sweater party, I had no clue it would be one of the worst nights of my life. Around 8:00 p.m. (8 something), I got a phone call that Mica had shot herself. My thoughts were “She hated guns. What was she doing? This is just a cry for help. Maybe she shot herself in the leg, Maybe in the arm. She will survive this. Our family will survive this. It will be okay.” I went into panic and help mode. I’m the one that made the phone call to my Uncle Johnny and to my friends. To hear that cry from a strong man in your life is heart (no gut) wrenching. At this point, I didn’t know she had passed away. My Uncle Johnny only told me once I got to Clarksville.

Just Like An Long Lost Friend, You Haven't Seen in awhileThat December 16 night five years ago is when I lost my best friend and cousin. We had been really close since the age of 3 or 4. I had just helped plan/coordinate her wedding 3 months before her death. I just really didn’t understand it all. She was the one that always put me in check and always had me laughing. She and I made up dances to almost any song you can think of as kids esp. Forrester Sisters “Men” song and Shania Twain. She and I sang songs together. We were cheerleading tryout partners. We tried out cooking recipes together and shared recipes together. Her poppyseed chicken is to die for, btw! We went to the lake together as kids and as adults. We were Kenny Chesney fans all the way. If we didn’t have floor seats at his concerts, we were those annoying people that stood up during the whole concert and sang ever word. She helped me through my parents divorce and took my mind off things. I was there for her when her Dad got shot many years before. We lifted each other up when the other was down. I just couldn’t fathom it all that she was this depressed. That August she told me, “You just don’t understand.” No I didn’t understand depression. I was always the one that was so dang positive and optimistic. Mica couldn’t stand it. I just  didn’t expect losing a friend to suicide would be the way for me to understand it.

You see suicide (and depression) don’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter the race, gender, age or socioeconomic status. Suicide can happen to the weak and strong, poor or rich, optimistic or pessimistic, those surrounded by loved ones and those who aren’t. It does not care! It latches on and brings someone into the deepest darkest hole that a person cannot get out of. In truth, Mica never wanted to die; she just wanted to end her pain. I know that now. In all honesty, she really just passed that pain onto loved ones that feel her absence daily. As my uncle always quotes from C.S. Lewis.

“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”

My own depression has been a struggle for an optimistic person – one that blindsides you on random days that makes you not want to escape the bed. It has left me with a hole forever marked in my heart from losing a loved one to suicide and created a fire in me to do something to make a difference in this world. Mica would say, “This is just like Erin.”

Thus a year later after her death (now 4 years in the making) is why Team Mica Fund was created. It was my own sort of healing mechanism. My own way to memorialize her and help others in her name. It was a way to keep all our friends together from that close community where we grew up and do something in Mica’s name. But it became so much more than just being about Mica. It is about Illyssa, Chip, Gary, Charles, Brett, Rick, and so many others that lost their battles to suicide and those that continue to struggle on a daily basis with depression or suicidal thoughts.

The Team Mica Fund exists to educate others on the warning signs of suicide; how it can be prevented; and how others can help us break the stigma that bonds it. Stigma that allows suicides to continue, while turning a blind eye. According to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 42,773 Americans die by suicide each year. We refuse to accept this as the norm in our society. I refuse to stand by as another person takes their own life.

We, the Team Mica Fund Task Force, are here for you ALWAYS! You MATTER to us! You MATTER to your family! #YouAreLoved

If you or someone you love is suffering from depression or having suicidal thoughts, please reach out. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number to call 24/7 (even on holidays) is 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). Some of our Team Mica Ambassadors are mental health professionals. In West Tennessee where we primarily focus, we have resources to direct someone in need. At our events, we have licensed therapists on-site to help meet your needs. We are always here for you!

To help make a difference, we encourage you to open up about your own depression or struggle, talk about it openly with others, talk about it at the dinner table with your parents or with your pastor or counselor/teacher (someone you trust). If you don’t do it for anyone else, do it for Mica. But most importantly, do it for yourself! You are WORTH it!

So that church on 20th Avenue on that early Saturday morning may not have been open. But it did give me a gift. A gift that Mica is always with me. As I sat in my car crying that early morning in 2011, my phone had accidentally called her number without me knowing it. Her voicemail all of a sudden responded, “Hey this is Mica. Leave me a message and I’ll call ya back.” Then not even a minute later “Summertime” by Kenny Chesney came on the radio. It was one of her favorite songs. So I know she’ll always be with me. She’ll always be Team Mica’s biggest cheerleader, that redbird that flies into my yard, or that song on the radio – just “like a long lost friend, I haven’t seen in awhile.”

Always in my heart and never forgotten.

Love you Mica B!
♥ Erin

Please consider donating $34 in Honor of what would have been Mica’s 34th Birthday (Dec. 15) to our efforts to raise awareness of Suicide Prevention in Tennessee! http://www.cfmt.org/give/teammica/