I’ve had few friends in my lifetime, and the pool grows ever smaller as I age and become increasingly reclusive.
I’ve been a traveler on this planet as it has made 55 trips around the sun, and I still don’t understand the humans with whom I travel. I spend my time apart from them. I venture solo into the woods with my tent and backpack and escape the civilized world when I can. When I can’t, I’m in my home with cats and a dog.
It’s easy to understand why the number of people I can count as friends is small.
Still, there have been those who I can call friend. True, dear, friends. One of the best was from veterinary school.
Since graduation, I allowed myself to fall out of contact with her as I pulled deeper and deeper into my shell. But with autumn in the air, the eternally recurring feeling that “it’s time to go back to school” surfaced. I decided to contact my dear college pal.
The last I knew, she was an associate vet at a clinic in northern Ohio. I fully expected she owned it by now. As is the way of our times, I typed her name into a search engine and waited to retrieve the phone number.
But something went wrong. The search didn’t provide a phone number, or a clinic name. It didn’t pull up an announcement of her new ownership. It didn’t give images of a smiling veterinarian holding an adorable puppy.
The search took me to her obituary.
She died a year ago. In my self-imposed isolation from the world, I hadn’t received the news.
My friend, my best friend from the best days of my life, was gone. She was four years younger than I and should have still been saving the lives of cats and dogs. She should have been camping and mentoring Girl Scout troops. She should have been buying a clinic like she planned when we were students with our careers ahead of us.
She should still be my friend.
I have read so many articles about the high rate of suicide of veterinarians, but until this day, it hadn’t touched me personally. Now, it had.
There are so many things I want to tell my friend. I just want to have a conversation. I want to talk her out of it. I want to say I’m sorry for not being there for her. But it’s too late. I am too late. I was too busy hiding from the world.
I would like to exclaim that I have learned a great lesson and that her death is not in vain. But she didn’t need to die for me to know the value of friendship. I just wish I could have been a friend to her. She always was to me.
All that remains is for me to say, "Good bye, my friend, my classmate, my fellow doctor." You healed so many. If only the world could have healed whatever hurt you so badly. If only to have one more trip around the sun.
For information on veterinary suicides and for support, please visit: Not One More Vet, Inc. https://www.nomv.org/