Former California State University, Monterey Bay student Lily Lyman was an artist, poet, lover of fashion, and a friend who left an imprint on her campus community. She died by suicide in March after returning home to Sacramento.
Jay Funaro, Will Brooke and Grace Sjöberg, all second-year students, spoke about who Lyman was and how her death impacted them.
“You would never guess. She was always smiling,” said Funaro, a close friend of Lyman’s. “Lily called me a week before she did it and texted me the day before. None of it would have led me to believe that she was about to commit (suicide) because she wasn’t going to have anyone stop her.”
Brooke reminisced about something that he remembered bringing joy and an outlet of creativity and expression to Lyman, which was her sense of style.
“Every time Lily went to the Starbucks in the [Otter Student Union], whatever (she) would order would match (her) outfit. And (she) always had a set of playing cards that also matched (her) outfit.”
Lyman’s poetry had celestial spiritual themes “about becoming the Earth, being a child of the moon, and becoming the soil,” according to Funaro.
Sjöberg nodded in agreement and added, “Death brings life. Knowing that Lily is no longer in pain brings me peace.”
Lyman was a part of the LGBTQ community and Brooke found a way to honor her by sharing skateboarding clips on his Instagram story to raise funds for the Sacramento LGBT Center.
“I’m LGBT and even before I knew that when I was younger, I had lots of friends who were and I felt for them when they would experience stuff,” Brooke said. “Later on I figured out I was queer and started experiencing homophobia.”
Skating has been an outlet for Brooke in his grieving process. “It was nice to feel like I was doing something and it helps keep my mind off everything. I was pretty depressed at the time, so having some skate clips to edit and watching the number on the donation go up made me feel like I was doing something.”
The fundraiser closed with $130 donated by Brooke’s followers.
Funaro said grief comes at them in waves. “There’s shock, processing it yourself and then the depression phase where you lose function.”
Sjöberg is figuring out how to bear the weight of her close friend’s death on top of schoolwork and life in general. “I got an email from one of my professors saying that I’m failing a class and I was just like, ‘OK.’ And that’s not me. Grieving is not really caring about anything.”
Funaro said, “I thought that apathy is the worst depression that there is,” but grieving changed their perspective.
When Funaro struggles with depressive thoughts, they allow themselves to feel them and find someone who they feel will know what to say. “When it hits me I text a couple of my other friends. People have been really good because you’re sad about things and they remind you that what you’re going through isn’t normal and it’s OK that you can’t handle your life.”
The three of them agree that supporting each other has helped them through this loss.
“It’s nice to have a bunch of friends on campus who are going through the same thing so we can all be there for each other,” said Brooke.
The CSUMB community should know “Lily was kind, never took sides and rarely held grudges,” Funaro said, adding with a chuckle “And Lily was a narcissist.”
According to Brooks, “She would carry around a little makeup mirror and stare at herself when we would hang out.” They shared another laugh and Funaro added, “I would steal it from her and she would just take out another one.”
Lyman told Funaro that she wanted to go to the zoo for her 20th birthday, which just passed on April 13. The three friends went to the Oakland Zoo with her family and others who were close to her to celebrate her life.
If you or someone you know is struggling and needs mental health resources, reach out to the Personal Growth and Counseling Center, or call the 24/7 Crisis Intervention line at 831-582-3969 in the case of an emergency. Lyman’s friends want anyone who struggles with suicidal thoughts to know that even if it seems like no one will understand what they’re going through, there are people who care and are willing to listen.