My eulogy for my best friend and forever light, Carley Rutledge.
Due to her recent engagement, I thought being apart from my sister on a holiday for the first time was going to be the hardest part of Thanksgiving.
But Thanksgiving Eve 2021 became for me, and a lot of people here, the worst night of our lives. I truly never believed I could lose Carley until it was happening. I have cried uncontrollably, I have felt my heart physically throb and ache, but until a reality I had actively and stubbornly rejected for so long became impossibly real, I had never wept and grieved with my entire body.
The shock and unbelief of her death is both a testament to how much we all never wanted to accept this loss, and to the fact that she was the strongest and bravest person I will ever know.
Carley and I met almost 20 years ago, but our friendship really formed the summer before 6th grade at Kids Who Care theatre camp. Bolstered with a new confidence I found there, proudly adorning my new apprentice t-shirt, I introduced myself to this new girl. The room was instructed to ask your new camper specific get-to-know-you questions, and we quickly found out just how much we had in common. I would later make the big move and ask her to hang out at the Colonial Country Club pool. To my dread, when we got there, the place was completely empty and little 12 year old Monica thought: “this is gonna be so awkward.” But we ended up hanging out in the shallow end of the pool for hours and never ran out of things to talk about it — the exact same way we were up until the end. We recently joked about how many methods of communication we used on a daily basis.
After this successful playdate, we became unhealthily inseparable. I still can remember vividly us misbehaving during rehearsal per usual and talking when we’d been asked to stop about a hundred times. Mallory came up to me and said, “Monica, you really gotta cool it.”
And I remember saying back: “I know, I’m sorry, I’m just really excited to have a best friend.”
I do believe in the saying that it’s always darkest before the dawn. But for us, it was often the opposite. It was more “it’s always brightest before the lights go out.”
In seasons of being on the outs with each other (we one time tried to take an active friendship break because we were too close) God always relentlessly pointed us back to each other so that we were always the closest before another tragedy would occur. Even counting the times we literally had no other friends and would call each other as soon as we got home from school, we were the closest we’ve ever been this year.
And that’s what makes this all the more devastating but beautiful still. God wanted us to live our friendship to the absolute fullest and we did — and that’s why it not only feels incomprehensibly heavy but simply unnatural to be without her.
If you knew us at all, you knew how much we loved TV shows. Well now I feel like I’ve been dropped in the middle of one, this isn’t my life, and I’m at the point in the story where upon each rewatch you want to skip ahead because you don’t feel like you can handle living through that part again.
I’m kinda mad at her — I know we loved so many of the same things but I never truly knew how intrinsically linked she was with everything I loved until she was gone. I will think of her everyday regardless, but she will come into sharpest focus when I find yet another aspect of Harry Potter I love and want to tell her about it. When I can finally bring myself to watch Friday Night Lights again. When I want to confess something weird and know she’s the only one that won’t judge it (and probably feels the same). Every time my family quotes It’s A Wonderful Life. Every time Emily and Lorelai Gilmore make me cry. Every time I hear The Shins or Death Cab for Cutie.
She pushed me and inspired me so much in life — and I’m determined that her spirit pushes me even more in death. I’ve been making a Carley list and I’ll share just a few:
- Read her favorite books: Lord of the Rings (all of them…), The Time Traveler’s Wife, Into the Wild, Little Women
- Walk? a 10k
- I might need to get a tattoo (sorry mom) — something small, something for her
- I don’t think I’ll scuba dive… but maybe I’ll go snorkeling again.
What a year we’ve had, friends. Around February I told someone: “I hope Carley and Wyatt end up together.” I had no idea what that meant then.
I read somewhere recently that “grief is love with nowhere to go.” Well, let it stay with us and bring with it what it’s meant to. And then let it spread further and deeper than before to the people in our lives.
I know I should quote the Bible to close this out, but I’m going to share a few quotes from Albus…Percival…Wulfric…Brian…Dumbledore instead.
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
“You think the dead we loved truly ever leave us? You think we don’t recall them more clearly in times of great trouble?”
“To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”