My heart ached when I saw her for the first time in two years, she needed a walker to get around and her hair had barely grown out, but when she saw me, she opened her arms for a hug. I rushed over to embrace her; she is my best and dearest friend. I kept the tears at bay as she greeted my children too. We all loved her dearly and I wasn’t going to let sorrow to creep in and diminish our visit. We all went into the den and her daughter helped her sit down and got her a blanket; she gets cold easier now.
I sat beside her and told her of all the crazy things going on in my life. Her smiles lit up the room and her laughter was music to my ears. We didn’t talk about her illness; we just slipped into our comfortable banter, like we always have through these last forty- six years.
Our visit was like old times, except she tired faster. We left after two hours, and promised to come back next week. I let her know I’d bring her favorite stuffed cabbage rolls even though I knew she might not be able to eat them. I hugged her goodbye fearing it might be that last time. Her daughter walked us out to the car,
“It was good for Mom to see you; she had more energy than she’s shown in weeks.”
“Seeing her was good for me too, I’ll see you both next week,” I told her, with the unsaid standing between us. I embraced her again, marveling at the women, who had replaced the child, I’d known.
My daughter drove the two hour trip home as I quietly wept in the passenger seat. Her children sat in the back, unusually subdued, My mind drifted to the first time I met Tricia.
I was visiting my best friend at the time, her name was Tina. We did everything together, mostly because our mom’s were best friends. That day Tina was excited because her baby sister was coming down from New Mexico. She was an adorable, precocious child. At five years old, she had thick black hair and enormous dark brown eyes. She followed us all over that day, even crawling up into my lap to keep me from leaving. I was twelve, going on 13 and I thought she was adorable. I was the oldest in my family with two younger brothers, so I was a little envious of Tina, having a little sister.
I only got to see Trish a couple times through my teen years since she lived with her dad, but they were always fun times. She had a spirit exuded joy and brought sunshine to all around her.
Even strangers were affected by her bubbly personality. She spoke to everyone as if they were friends, leaving a trail of cheer where ever she went.
Right before my twentieth birthday, my grandfather and cousin were killed in an auto accident. I was devastated, my grandfather was the rock of our family, we were very close. My cousin had just turned 18, barely starting out in life.
Tina had come down with Trish to be with me, a couple months after the tragedy. Tina and I hadn’t seen each other in a couple of years and I hadn’t seen Tricia in probably 5 years. When they got off the bus, shock is my first thought. They both had changed drastically. Tina wasn’t the sweet innocent friend I remembered. She was a little on the wild side, I could tell by the way she dressed, and later acted. Tricia who was only 13 at the time, looked so much older than her young age. If I hadn't know her I would of taken her for 18 or 19. It wasn't just her looks, it was the way she carried herself. I teased her, because she looked and seemed more mature than I did at 20. The visit didn’t go well between Tina and I. She wanted to go out and have fun, and I wasn't up to it. I wasn't in the mood for anything then. After a couple days of us butting heads she wrote a note to her friends, back home. The whole letter was filled with complaints about my attitude and feelings. Quote ‘She doesn’t want to do anything, she is always angry, always depressed. I am so bored.’ She had left the note on my kitchen table, when she had went out with my cousins to go see a movie. And yes, I did pick it up and read it. Wrong of me, yes, but that’s what happened.
When she came back that night, I’d worked myself up into a fury. I was livid, we got into an intense fight and sorry to say it ruined our friendship forever. She left the next day for home, but Tricia stayed. She spent the next few weeks with my family. She made me realize that my anger at Tina was really just anger at my grandfather’s death, Tina was just the unlucky recipient. We got to truly become friends over those weeks. It was so natural and easy, she was so mature for her age and I guess I was immature for mine, but it worked out great. With her I finally laughed again and realized that I could survive the pain. Tricia became more than a friend, she grew into a beloved part of my family.
We only saw each other on occasion, but it was always wonderful when she was around. She always lit up any room she was in. When I met my future husband, he realized swiftly that Tricia was loved by all of us and if he wanted in, he had better follow suit. Only kidding (I think). I was happy when he grew to love Trish the same as the rest of us. She was with me at my wedding, as my Maiden of Honor. She let me know if I decided to run she had my back and would go with me anywhere. I decided to go through with it. She married a guy I went to high school with. I teased her about dating him at first because he was a jock and my age, but when he showed up at my house I understood, he was gorgeous and he'd always been a nice guy. He was very lucky to win her hand. When my brother got sick with cancer she came down and spent several days with me. She was my strength and shoulder to cry on. When he died she and her husband were both there for me. Years later when my husband died they were both there for me again.
It didn’t matter how long we’d be apart, every time we got together it was like there was no missing time. Our friendship had a continuous flow, it didn’t matter if we were apart 1 day or 365 days, it was always the same. She has always been the better part of our friendship. I don’t know if it’s because she was stronger and kept a lot of her struggles inside or if I’ve just been more obtuse. I’ve always known though that I’ve been blessed to have her as my friend. Blessed knowing she was there whenever I needed a shoulder to cry on or a laugh tio brighten my day. How cowardly and selfish am I? Now all I want to do is to pretend she isn’t as sick. I want to believe she’ll always be here for all who love her. Lying to myself won't make it real, I can’t hide behind pretense forever. More than anything I want to see her, to laugh with her and sit beside her like we don't have a care in the world.
So we go and visit and pretend every thing is fine like always and that she’ll be there the next time I come up. We don’t talk about her illness. We talked about the grandchildren, hers and mine. We talk about T.V. shows that are on and what our grown children are doing. We joke and laugh until she is too exhausted to visit more. Then I hug her goodbye and let her know I love her.
My dear friend is gone now and this world is a bleaker place, her smile is extinguished, except in our hearts. Her laughter is a distant memory, echoing down the corridors of time. I look up into the Heavens,
“Why God? Why didn’t you heal her? Why did she have to die?”
Then I notice, the stars twinkle a little brighter, the moon is positively glowing and I think I can hear her laughter on the breeze. Now I know she is with God and Heaven is a happier place.