The Raines + The Whitmans: Backyard Neighbors + Best Friends

Dear Shelby,

This letter is long overdue but I didn't really see how deeply I was wounded until you began talking about Chad's suicide. I'm so proud of you for having the strength to share your stories. I didn't realize I never told anyone mine until after Chad died. I shut down during the summer of 2017. Several other things were happening in my life here in Los Angeles that left me in a trance for a few months. I even came back to Ohio and drove around our neighborhood to look at our house, and there yours was. The last time I drove by Chad was watering the front yard while Chloé was riding her scooter. I can still remember the look on his face when I got out of the car and his voice saying "Hey Annie, what are you doing back?"

Shelby, I have so much to share with you. Things I've never told anyone in Twenty One years. Well, I started telling a few close friends after Chad died and I noticed how everyone freaked out about the fact that it was suicide while I kept thinking, don't you know anyone who has committed suicide? I know we're trying to stop using that term and we're trying to just get people to start talking. I never did and I don't even know where to begin. I have 8 Characters to discuss, so we are going to have a lot to talk about.

Let's start with the story of how we all became friends. It was June 2002 and our houses were both finished. Scott and I were working out in the backyard and Chad was outside too. When weren't we outside watering the lawn? Ugh, seriously I'm getting sick thinking about Sammy running over there to say hi to Chad and the girls. Scott and I were getting married in a month and you two were newlyweds. We were looking so forward to having friends and starting our life together. We'd lived together at Fox & Hounds after Stephanie moved out because we were fighting so much from all of her suicide threats and attempts. You and Chad lived at Governor's Square across the street and we realized that Chad and my best friend since 4th grade, Molly McHollister, worked together at Lazarus on Henderson Road when we were in college. Molly and I still had another year at Columbus College of Art & Design when we all moved in the house.

Oh, funny story before the sad stuff starts. Did you know we set Stephanie and our neighbor Jay up on a date? He had just come back from Iraq...oh, no, I just remembered how his girlfriend shot herself when they got into a fight and Jay had to hold her neck to keep her from bleeding out. If he wasn't a medic she wouldn't have lived. Ok, that story just turned sad really fast.

Scott and I got married on July 13, 2002. We'd been dating for, how do I explain this? Five years I guess. Depends on when the secret got out. What happened in Bluestone, stayed in Bluestone. I don't even remember what happened that summer except for the emails and journals I saved. Scott was engaged to Shannon Anderson, his girlfriend of 5 years, and I was dating a guy named Chad Lyons from Cleveland for a year, but he went to college in North Carolina so I only saw him every break that he could drive back. When we met your Chad a few weeks before the wedding, I thought, this is going to be a nice little reminder of our past lives. Well your Chad became one of our best friends for the next decade so I forgot about my Chad. Then one day your Chad was just gone and the world stopped.

I've spent the past 14 years building Modern Material to help connect people to the music and people who can relate with the same walks of life. I felt so alone most of my life, searching for another soul who could understand what I lived through. I never found them without a broken heart involved but music and message boards seemed to give me a way of finding people in other states or countries who could relate to a lyric or television show like LOST, and I could stay up late at night talking to these people I never met or even saw a picture of their face. It was so much better than laying alone in my bedroom as a grounded 16 year old without a friend to talk to. My friends never understood me anyways.

Why God had to give me you for this reason I'll never know. I've been needing another friend who understands what I've been through with being a suicide distress call operator for a very long time. I wish I could just open up the sliding door and walk across our backyards so I could give you, Allie and Chloé a hug and just cry. Now we are on complete opposite ends of the country but Modern Material is ready for you now Shelby.