I learned last week what it was like to lose your best friend.
To awake to the hard, cold fact that you’ll never see her again. That you’ll never hear her voice on the other end of the receiver, with her warm greeting that we share, “Hello, my friend.”
Funny, it wasn’t until today that I realized where I’d picked up that saying, as it is one of the phrases that I’ve come to be associated with in my circles.
After a devastating and sudden decline in health, she endured eight months of suffering. Though we, her friends, had held on to the hope that she would pull through, we were also preparing for the chance that she would never make it home. So many tears were shed and continuous phone calls and texts exchanged this year, all updating each other and praying for our dearest friend.
But she was a strong person. Strong, often stubborn, and determined. She was a fighter, and we knew if there was anyone who could overcome anything, it was her. And she made it home.
We were blessed with the gift of more time with her while she endured the pains of failing health. One thing after the other and she couldn’t get one win. She fought to keep her spirit, to will herself well, but she was forced to succumb.
Knowing her as intimately as I do, I know deep in my heart that her show of spirit and words of encouragement were for us—not her. I knew the woman inside that armor, the one who felt things so deeply and cared about others with an intensity that too often ignored her own needs. I knew the woman who shed bittersweet tears behind closed doors and worried so much about her daughter, her grandson, her partner, her family, and her friends. I knew the sacrifices made, the heartaches she carried, and the good deeds done in silence.
She was hard on herself, but so forgiving of others. It may not have seemed that way if you were the target of her wrath, and I’d been there over the years, but she had an amazing capacity for understanding and grace. She told it like it was and her actions spoke even louder than her words.
She taught me what it was to be a true friend, not in the sense of the word, but in what that word really means. She shared in my successes, was there for me in my darkest hours, and stood by my side through thick and thin. Trust, love, strength, and dignity were just some of her hallmarks.
She was the glue that kept our group connected, the thread to our friendships. She made sure to check up on us all, never allowing life to get in the way. She made the time. She took the time. And she gave of herself more than others may even know.
There was no better friend in this world.
And today, she’s gone. The sun isn’t shining as brightly. The morning seems to be dragging on for days. Everything’s just wrong because this isn’t how it was supposed to end, and though we say it’s someone’s time to go, it wasn’t her time. She had more plans, and we had plans for her. There were more dinners, visits, and getaways. There were more cards for no reason, texts to ask how you are, and calls just because.
I was with her in her final hour. I stood by her bed, stroked her hair, and held her hand. I said everything I wanted her to hear, wanted her to know, and wanted her to feel sure about as she departed this earth. Not only about our friendship, but about everyone I knew she loved so much so she could let go, stop the suffering, and find eternal, peaceful rest.
I left her side at 18:27. She passed at 18:32.
She taught me so much, but never how to live without her. But I do know this.
She wouldn’t want our tears, our sorrow, or our pity. She wouldn’t want us to stop living or dress in black to mourn.
She would want our strength, our humor, and our sarcasm. She would want our laughter and joy. She would want us to pour a scotch and toast to her and happiness. She would want us to live fully, make the most of every second, and always, always be kind to each other. She took no crap—none at all—and would be standing here today telling us to knock it off, pull ourselves together, and smile.
She will always be a part of me. A part of everything I do and don’t do. A part of my thoughts, my decisions, and my reasoning. A part of my life in every moment of every day. I know she will always be alive in me and her spirit will be my strength.
Rest in peace, my forever friend.