By Kelsey Butler
Published: May 5, 2010
When May 22 rolls around and I am putting on my cap and gown, I can honestly say it will be one of the proudest moments of my life. Unlike many of my fellow seniors, though, I won’t really be thinking of all the hard hours I’ve put in studying (there weren’t too many) or the amazing philosophy classes that I took at Fordham (there weren’t any). Instead, I’ll be thinking of the mere fact that I was able to brush my teeth everyday, throw on a pair of sweatpants every morning and make it through my entire senior year, a year that just last August I didn’t think would happen, as I fully planned on not coming back to Fordham.
See, last summer, I got the news that changed my life. My best friend and roommate at Fordham, Casey Feldman, was hit by a van and killed in July.
In the week following her accident, my roommates and I convened at my suitemate Janine’s house, in what we both sarcastically and affectionately refer to as “Camp Casey.” In a complete state of shock, we did everything from calling everyone at Fordham who knew Casey to give them the news of her death to making a poster board with dozens of pictures of her making “that face” she always made in pictures for the wake. Five days later, we all stood together as I watched them put my best friend into her grave.
When it came down to it, after all that happened, the last thing that I could think about was coming back to school and finishing my senior year without Casey there. Instead, I just wanted to sit in Janine’s house with our other suitemates Cassie, Christina and Callie and eat ice cream cake from Carvel. (I’m convinced that the first thing that one should send after an untimely death is ice cream cake and Charms blow pops. It helps, I swear).
And yet, after lots of prodding from my parents, I came back to Fordham in August. In addition to classes and schoolwork, I had to listen to an endless amount of people who didn’t really know what they were talking about give me advice on how to deal with my loss. The problem was that most of these people knew Casey as a journalist, as a student or as the face of a cause (fighting distracted driving), but I knew her as a friend. The one word that all these well-intending people threw around was “closure.” Most believed that the memorial service held for Casey at Fordham two months after her passing would offer the “closure” that us girls, my suitemates and I, so badly “needed.” I couldn’t think of a less fitting word for the situation.
There was nothing “closed” about the situation. There is no feeling that leaves you more open and raw, completely exposed to hate, anger, resentment and depression than the loss of someone important to you.
The only thing that had closed was the opportunity for me to share my senior year with Casey. She should have been here senior year to gossip with me about boys, play pranks on our McMahon neighbors and be my date for the Observer dinner. In sharing a 30×30 room with Casey for two years, I felt more like we were sisters than roommates, so the loss made it hard to make it through some hours, let alone whole days.
Slowly, though, it got a little bit easier; I began to count the small victories and come to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t ever really feel a sense of closure. Every day, there is an aching that has become a major part of my life at not having Casey there, both for this past senior year and for the future.
I finally began to feel more like myself when I started ignoring everyone’s advice and doing what was right for me. I kept traditions alive that Casey and I had, like buying Magnolia cupcakes and celebrating the “birthday” of our pet fish, Flavor Flav, with the pastries, even when other people said I should just get over it. When Fordham administrators and deans suggested going to the counseling center, I visited McCoys, the preferred bar of my suitemates and me, and listened to Patsy Kline in the booth that has all of our names, including Casey’s, written on the wall. When I really thought I couldn’t survive another production Tuesday night at the Observer, I did it because it was something that Casey and I loved to do together and had done for years.
I did all the things that we should have done this senior year together, even if there were times that I felt like crying when I heard one of Casey’s favorite songs playing in public and remembered she wasn’t there.
I think about Casey often, and can’t believe that she won’t be there on graduation day, but now there are definitely many more times that I smile while thinking of her than cry. I know that she will in some way be there on that day, and just having that knowledge does make it a little bit easier.
So when May 22 comes around, it will be a very proud day for me, but not for the reasons that it might be for many of my peers. I don’t have a glamorous job waiting for me after college. I didn’t graduate magna cum laude. I didn’t do amazing charity work throughout college that saved African orphans, but I did do something pretty damn spectacular: I survived, and I owe a lot of that to what I learned from my amazing roommate, colleague, sister and friend, Casey.