“We didn’t realize we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun.” ~ A.A. Milne
Two little girls stand together for the annual class photo.
Their hair was freshly washed and shining for the occasion, and their innocent, still babyfaces were smiling sweetly into the camera.
That was the beginning of a lifelong friendship that will bring laughter and joy, tears and heartbreak, and separation and reunion. Boyfriends, children, dogs, and a bond that will never be broken—soul sisters.
I cannot imagine a life without her, and I’ve never had to. She has always been part of my life.
She is so intrinsically woven into the fabric of my existence that I cannot remember a time that she has not been in my life.
There have been a few periods in our lives when we have lived in different areas—different countries even—but have still always there for each other. No question.
No one else knows me the way she does. I know I can tell her anything at all, and she will not judge me. She will still love me, and she will have my back even when I am wrong, and even when I’m outrageous. Even if I have totally f*cked up, and I have f*cked up a lot.
She is the first person I think of (or want to be with) when things get messy, and over the years, things have been messy more times than I care to remember. She is always right there cleaning me up.
She is also the first person I want to tell when things go right. She is so happy to see my success, like a proud mum watching me shine in my achievement because she knows. She knows how hard I have worked to get there.
She was always the calm, sensible, responsible one to my slightly unhinged, erratic, and disorganized offering.
Where she gave me stability, I gave her excitement. I liked to think we balanced each other out; and I am fairly sure her parents did not see it that way.
That said, they must have seen the good in me and took me in as family, and in doing so showed me how a family should be.
I will be forever grateful for this surrogate family that showed me the skills to be the best parent I could be when the time came to raise my own child.
What I love most about my best friend is this:
There is no vanity, no expectation: she is just effortlessly herself and people love her. I have never met anyone yet who does not love her or, at the very least, like her a lot.
People love to be around her because she has a presence.
She is calm, accepting, and laid back—she is everything that most people aspire to.
She has also accomplished every challenge she has set out to do both academically and in her career. I have always looked up to her; she set the bar for me and my own aspirations—she makes me a better person.
I planned on growing old with my best friend.
Crazy dog ladies: that was going to be us. Our love for dogs, each other, and the fact that we were the only people we could spend long periods of time with (without wanting to kill the other). This predisposed us to the possibility that we might not have to be lonely in our old age.
So, who the f*ck invited cancer to the party? The speed at which this ugly disease torpedoed into her life and the prognosis—so devastating—left us all shattered.
We scrambled around to pick up the fractured pieces in an attempt to repair our own heartbreak, so we were strong enough to support, encourage, and sustain her through grueling treatment that would give her the best chance of a longer life expectancy.
I now must face the fact that I am going to grow old without the only person who knows me better than I know myself, and I cannot breathe.
The knowledge suffocates me, so I can only think about it for brief moments of time before stuffing it back into the too much-to-handle box—to be opened only when alone and with a massive box of tissues. The thought of being without her not only terrifies me, but it also overwhelms me with grief so strong I can feel it crushing my chest.
The fact that this clever, funny, and most precious woman is going to be lost to us before her time is as tragic and unfair as any situation could be.
And it is unthinkable to me that she will no longer be able to answer another message, pick up the phone, or giggle with me over something absurd or immature that one of us has said or done. The loss will be more than my heart and soul can bear.
Then I think of how she feels, and the agony doubles because I want to absorb her pain and frustration so she does not have to go through it.
The pain of leaving behind her children, her family, her life. The frustration she feels at not being the person she was, the inability to remember the things she could or do the things she was once capable of doing. And I know that she, like me, can only face it for brief moments, or she also becomes overwhelmed by the gravity of it.
That is not to say we do not have open and honest conversations about it—we do. She needs to be able to talk and get things out into the open, and I unquestionably welcome that—it is good for both of us. We then go back to normal chat about normal things in a desperate attempt to normalize her anything but a normal life.
It is what we do, and it’s how we cope until the next honest conversation. We search for things that contradict the hospital prognosis—anything that will give us hope or possibly buy more time.
This awesome woman continues to set the bar for me in the inspirational way she is dealing with the worst possible hand life could have dealt. So we stay positive, and we will not allow negativity to steal the time that we have. We continue to make memories.
Two laughing women relaxing and having fun, lines etched around their joy-filled eyes. The merriment and delight are evident on their middle-aged faces.
A lifelong friendship that has brought laughter and joy, tears and heartbreak, and separation and reunion.