My best friend of 4+ years Yuri Reid took his own life on 17th August 2021. He was 25 years old. I wrote this letter to him as I grieved.
I am sorry buddy. I lost touch with you. I thought about texting you on Sunday but then I got distracted. I didn’t know what you were going through and if I had texted you, I might have known about it. I might have been a little help.
Umang called me the evening of 18th August evening. Auckland was in lockdown so I was home. He made sure I was okay before he told me you have taken your own life. I didn’t believe him. I couldn’t believe him. My voice was already breaking as I asked him again and again if he knows this is true. He sent me a screenshot of Reagen’s post, telling the world about your death and I still didn’t believe it. I wanted to dial your number, pull you in a conference call and prove that you were still alive. Umang was level headed and asked me to wait, as he confirms with other friends. He asked me to wait for five mins but I called him back in 2.
‘Its true’ Umang said.
I broke down & I sobbed into the phone. I kept saying I should have texted you, about how I was thinking of texting you. Even Umang’s voice broke. Umang & I tried to make sure we are alright before we hung up. We weren’t. We told each other to call if we need to talk as we cried but we couldn’t really have talked if we wanted to.
18th August might have been the worst night of my life. I felt pain inside me as if my emotional pain had manifested itself into a chest pain. I wished this was some elaborate & stupid prank that I can be mad for but relieved that you are okay and still with us. All I wanted was to send you another text to see if you are okay, to call you and hear your voice say something stupid once more.
Instead all I did was cry. All I felt was pain and guilt.
I had the resolve to stop myself from finding out how you had taken your life. I didn’t want to find out the physical pain you must have endured in your last moments. I don’t think I will ever want to find out how you did it.
That night, I lay in bed looking at our texts. I saw the last time I had texted you was in May 2021. 3 months ago. I had pretty much forgotten you as my life kept getting busier; I had abandoned you with time. What kind of friend was I that I hadn’t reached to you in over three months? Should I even call you my friend let alone my best friend? What kind of person I was who sobbed in grief but also felt responsible.
I found pictures of us. The earliest from Feb 2017. We had celebrated Holi together. And we did it again in 2018 & 2019. It had become a ritual of ours to go each year, only to be broken by the pandemic in 2020 and negligence this year. I remember how much fun we had in the three years. I remember how eagerly you said ‘Let’s do it’ in 2017 when I explained what Holi is. You were always like that: always eager to try new things.
I scrolled through our texts and found instances which made me cry even more.
I saw all those texts when one of us would text the other: ‘Alive?’ and the other would say ‘Barely’.
I saw the part where I told you that I have been using you as my emergency contact all this time. You joked about how that is a lot of responsibility on you. I gave you my brother Navin’s number so that you can contact him if something ever happened to me. I never asked you who should I contact if something happened to you.
I should have asked you.
I recalled your voice and have been playing in loop in my head. I can look at your photos and read your texts but I know the first thing I will forget is your voice. I will forget how you laughed, how you moved your hands when you spoke and how you always sounded eager when we spoke.
We had made a thousand plans together. South Island, restaurants, photography, programming, cycling, driving and so much more that I don’t remember because we spoke about them in real life and I have no way to recover those conversations. I wish I had recorded all of our conversations.
I wish I had recorded our conversations so that I can listen to them in repeat as a podcast because we never had a dull moment between us. We would go from talking about economics and the American politics to talking about what drinks are the best to have before a party starts.
I wish I could hear you recommend me ‘This American Life’ & ‘Planet Money’ podcasts one more time. I would record you and you would probably say ‘That’s fine’ & wave your hand.
I don’t remember most of 18th or 19th of August morning. I know that it is entirely possible that your funeral would take place during the lockdown and I won’t be allowed to attend. I don’t know what are the plans for your funeral, whether there will be a grave that I can visit after the lockdown is over.
I wish in between our million conversations we had squeezed in a conversation about death. About what you would want if you died and what would you want for your friends after you had gone.
You were an amazing person & had a great relationship with pretty much everyone. I don’t remember even one person saying something bad about you. I remember in 2017 after our Holi, you got invited to a party and you took me along. I was tired and had no energy to talk and not once did you tell me to try. In fact after we left, you apologized for bringing me here: you said you should have hung around me more.
I never asked Umang why did you do it? I know why you did it. You are a 25 year old graduate, you have a 5 year old daughter. You have had terrible relationships & you have lost your job multiple times because of pandemic. You moved an hour north of Auckland to live by yourself. You were back in Uni because you were trying to find yourself once more.
I know you were depressed. We have spoken about it a bunch of times. You knew about my bad days, we know about Umang’s depression. We knew each other’s issues. I never thought about the end of the road we were walking on.
I am worried about Umang. I don’t know how many calls he had to make before he called me. I don’t know how many times he had to cry. I know he was your friend at least 2 years before we met. I know how much he mentioned you and how much you talked about him. You both were close friends. I remember how you and Umang joked and made a deal to get married if both of you were 40 and single. I was rooting for you both.
I am hoping to see him after the lockdown is over. I am hoping to hear stories about you from him, all of the stories that I have heard before and not heard before. I know I will cry again.
I realized that if I have to attend your funeral I would have to figure where do I get funeral clothes from. I picked up my phone to text you to ask about it and then stopped.
What do I do now? I have cried in grief and guilt & my body is now numb. What do I do now? Am I forgetting about you if I pick up a book to read? Am I insulting your memory if I go back to work? Am I a bad friend if I watch a TV show to distract myself?
The only person who I can ask these questions was you Yuri. And I was a terrible friend to you in your last days.
A friend who didn’t text you for months, a friend who should have texted you the minute lockdown was announced. Maybe it would have been too late or maybe you were still alive back then.
I wish I can have a do over of your last week buddy. I will text you and call you, even if you don’t like to pick up calls. We would make stupid jokes & then talk about what is bothering you.
I wish I can talk to you one more time Yuri. I wish I can hear you again, meet you again.
I miss you buddy.