This time of year is always hard for me. Today marks three years since I went home to be with my best friend for the last time. She had been declining for a good stretch but we both remained hopeful. At this point in our friendship, we were talking nearly every day. Having moved to LA a few years earlier, our morning conversations had become a staple in my life. It’s funny, I had known this girl since we were children ourselves. Barely teenagers. We clashed a lot. I mean, we bickered and wasted so much time on bullshit arguments. She was an arguer and the people she loved the most, her husband, her auntie and I, fed in to the cycle of bickering with equal fervor. I decided, as a New Years resolution in fact, that I was done arguing with her. I was pregnant with my youngest son, she was battling cancer (still? Again?) and I knew that I wasn’t wasting one more second of our lives arguing. I told her, she agreed and we kept the promise. After I moved to LA our friendship became deeper than ever which was ironic since I had moved so far away. We talked so often and about everything. I knew her fears, concerns and her deepest secrets. I will forever be grateful for those conversations.
On this day three years ago, I went home. She called me the day before and said “Jenny…” there was something in her voice. “They just told me to call hospice. That’s what they tell people at the end, right?” I don’t remember my exact words but I decided to go home in that moment. I went home for a week. In that week, she gave me trinkets, she and her husband asked that I give her eulogy, we made sure we understood her wants with regard to her final services and she and I laid together a lot. Just laid. Sometimes we talked and sometimes we slept but we were together. When I returned from that visit, I knew I would never see her again. It wasn’t much more than a month later that she died. Again, I went home. Another close friend of hers and I made the bulk of the arrangements and pulled off a memorial service that would have made her very happy. We were happy to do it. Busy work distracts your mind and we were able to keep the family from having to sort through the details. We were also able to pay tribute to our friend. After the services, after the dust settles when people go along with their daily lives, the grieving are left in the wake. For the rest of their lives, her family will have a connection to her memory. People will remember her when they see them, they will remember them when they think of her.
But… what happens when you lose your friend? I knew her better than most and that includes some of her family. She knew me like no other person ever will. Our friendship was unique unto itself. This is something that I have noticed in the years since her passing, that friends are an often discarded byproduct of the grieving process. It’s not hateful or even intentional, it’s just how we compartmentailze these relationships. As if they are somehow less important due to the absence of a blood relation. In the past few months I have been privy to a few circumstances where people have lost beloved friends only to be blown off by the family that shows up after the fact. People who cared for their friend in the absence of the friend’s family. Doctors visits, making sure their friend had food, meeting the most basic of needs… then the family shows up and dismisses the dear friend. Let me be clear, I do not feel as though this happened to me. Tennille’s family was gracious and didn’t try to exclude me from the process. However, slowly, over time, their need for me has dwindled and we’ve all gone about our lives grieving her separately. That has been hard to swallow. I live far away and my new friends never knew her, in many ways, I am alone in my greif. When they celebrate holidays and milestone events, it’s likely that she will come up. They will speak beautiful words and share memories… she won’t come up at my family’s Christmas dinner. All I can say is this, her memory is alive in me. I remember her in a way that is exclusive to she and I. I will always celebrate her… even if I do so alone. I love you, beloved friend. I love you. I love you. I love you. Swearing Mom out.