Here’s a secret: I’m a bad person.
On June 5th I found out my friend Kacie died of a Heroin overdose. She was 23 years old. On June 6th, she would have been 24.
Why does this make me a bad person?
When we were in elementary school, Kacie and I were best friends. We had friendship bracelets and everything. We went to each other’s birthday parties. We played together during recess. My Mom recently told me a story about Kacie being scared when her mother was taken to the hospital, and how Kacie called late on a Saturday to ask me to come spend the night at her house so she wouldn’t be alone. At first my Mom said no, but then Kacie’s grandmother called to beg my Mom to let me come, that Kacie needed me. I went. I do not remember this event.
I do remember, vividly, exploring the woods behind Kacie’s house armed with steak knives with the intention of chopping down trees to build a fort (we knew butter knives would be too dull, but we weren’t strong enough to make the steak knives work either, so we didn’t get very far in the fort-building process).
Kacie was a girl I had essentially grown up with. I remember chatting with her about Sailor Moon and boys in 6th grade, arguing about electricity in 5th grade, doing the talent show together in 4th grade (Spice Girls, anyone?), drawing with gel pens on black paper in 3rd grade.
You know something really terrible? I can’t picture Kacie at all in 7th grade. I have a very blurry memory of her at the 8th grade dance. I see her sitting across from me at Poetry Club in 9th grade. Actually, my only memories of Kacie after 9th grade involve poetry club, reading the verses and prose she wrote, sometimes seeing her.
I’ve barely thought about Kacie for ten years. The girl I once shared “Best Friend” bracelets with. On June 5th I found out she died, but her father found her kneeling before her bed—in a pose I cannot help but associate with prayer—her lips blue and her spirit elsewhere on March 12th. I missed her death by over two months. When I learned about Kacie’s death, I posted on my Facebook page a notice of her death (in case other Facebook friends had missed her passing) and the declaration: “I am a bad person,” the Facebook/secular equivalent of “I am a sinner. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.”
Now don’t get me wrong, people grow up and grow apart and that’s a part of life. Children might be able to maintain 100 good friendships but adults are lucky if they have five. The sin I publicly confessed was that of Ezekiel 33:7-9:
“You, son of man,” (God is speaking to the prophet Ezekiel, who stands in for all Jews/Christians/believers), “I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me. If I tell the wicked man that he shall surely die, and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked man from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death.”
You see, Kacie and I didn’t just grow apart. I chose not to be her friend. In High School, I saw her getting dangerously thin, dying her hair unnatural colors and wearing makeup in a way that clearly said: “I am emo” which was sort of a counter-cultural fashion/music statement but much more a declaration of joining the “wrong sort” of crowd…the people who supported her in addiction and skipping class and treating life like something that should be rebelled against rather than honestly enjoyed. I saw, I knew, but I did nothing to “dissuade Kacie from her way,” I simply turned my back and ignored her. That means God will hold me responsible for her death. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
In truth there are no “wrong sorts” of people, no irrevocably wicked men or women, to borrow Ezekiel’s word. There are sinners. We are all sinners, and when we see someone else sinning*, someone else in trouble, and do nothing, their sin becomes our own.
After I declared “I am a bad person” on Facebook, I got some replies from people worried that I was depressed or mentally unstable, but I assure you I am too little effected by Kacie’s death. Kacie was a friend, someone I knew to be in trouble, and I did nothing. Even fake-black haired with eyeliner tears drawn on her cheek, she was sweet and kind and wrote beautiful poetry. She was a worthy of dignity, a “beautiful Daughter of the King” as one of my holier-than-me friends says.
Usually I don’t like to share–or read–such personal confessions online, but I think God intends my sudden experience of an old sin as a “teachable moment.” When we see others suffering as a result of their own sin, it is our responsibility as Christians to try to dissuade our fellow fallen human beings from their way. If we do not, we too are guilty. Now Kacie’s parents are promoting awareness of drug abuse, trying to change the world for the better in Kacie’s name (http://www.kaciescause.com/) and I am left doing the only thing a failed Christian , a failed daughter of man can do: pray.
Kacie, I will pray for you and with you every day for the rest of my life. Hopefully God will allow me to atone for my sin of ignoring your pain.