I feel like my brain is disconnected from my body. I didn’t sleep last night. Or much the four nights before that. I feel lost. Like I don’t know where to go or what to do or even what to think.
Five days ago, on Monday, July 1st, I lost a dear childhood friend. A friend I’ve had since I was a small child. A friend I’ve had for over 50 years. A friend I played dolls with. A friend I was in Brownies and Girl Scouts with. And went to school with. A friend I caught lightning bugs with and built snowmen with. And went sled riding with. A friend I flew kites with and climbed trees with. And played in the mud with and rode bikes with. And we scraped our knees together. We swam together during the summer months. We had lemonade and Kool-Aid stands together. We went door to door together and collected money for the Cerebral Palsy Telethon. And we couldn’t even pronounce cerebral palsy and didn’t quite understand exactly what it was but we knew we were doing a good thing. The right thing. We went to Opryland together. We walked to the library together and we checked out stacks of books almost as tall as we were. We went to the state fair together. And one night we slept out under the stars together. We used to camp out in my backyard and throw a blanket over a tree limb for our own makeshift tent. And we’d be up all night because we were afraid of bugs and noises. But then two weeks later, we couldn’t wait to camp out again. We had fun. Oh so much fun together.
She was a friend I had many sleepovers with (sometimes at my house and sometimes at her house) where we would stay up all night talking about boys and the things young girls talk about. We wrote in our diaries together and sometimes we shared what we wrote. A friend I have had so many good times with and who I have laughed and cried with. We took trips together. We went on double dates together. A friend who honored me when she asked me to be a bridesmaid at her wedding in 1981. Four years later, I asked her to be a bridesmaid at my wedding. A friend who, like me, couldn’t wait to start a family and become a mother. We were trying to get pregnant at the same time. We read pregnancy books together. And we both had trouble conceiving which made us sad. So we read fertility books together. We both had miscarriages and were devastated. But we were there for each other. And we bought childcare books together and we read them and we dreamed and we learned. Together.
She was a friend who had her first son 8 months before I had my first son. We celebrated our sons’ first birthdays together. And four years later one morning we met for breakfast and cried together right after we had just dropped those five-year old first-born sons off at school for their first day of Kindergarten. Our babies. And then we laughed at how silly we were. We took those sons to ride ponies together. We took them to playgrounds together. And parks to ride swings. And birthday parties. We learned all about motherhood together. I went on to have a second son. And then she had a second son.
I received a call this past Monday night from another childhood friend who had received a call from a mutual friend who had read about our friend’s death on Facebook. YES. ON. FACEBOOK. I’m no longer on Facebook, but had I been and had I learned about my friend’s death in this way, it would have been even more terrible. I’m sorry but I don’t think social media is the place you should have to learn about a close friend dying, especially when the death is tragic and totally unexpected. It’s hard enough hearing it and processing it from someone you know and love. I know people do it and “it’s how things are done” in this day and age, but I don’t agree with it and I don’t like it. Maybe I’m old-fashioned but I just don’t think social media should be used for this purpose.
My friend’s husband called me early the next morning to tell me what had happened. He was in shock and disbelief. And understandably distraught. He was still trying to process it all himself. My friend’s death was tragic. She was only 54. She ran off the road and hit a tree. She had diabetes and other health problems and he was told that her blood sugar may have played a part. Only God knows. She left a husband and two sons who loved her dearly. At first I asked myself WHY? And HOW? But it doesn’t really matter now because my friend is gone and she’s not coming back. I can’t explain the sadness that looms over me. I don’t think in all my life, I’ve ever felt this sad. I can’t call her. I can’t tell her I loved her. I didn’t get to say goodbye to her. I cry and I can’t stop.
I lost another good friend 3 years ago in the same way. I hadn’t known him near as long, but he was a good friend. He also hit a tree. He was also life-flighted to Vanderbilt where he died a few days later. I didn’t even know about it for almost a week. Most of his family was gone and he died alone. That bothered me and still does. Three years later, I still long to call him and talk to him. But he’s not there.
So the grieving process begins. Again. Sometimes it seems that life is just one big continual loss. I’ll grieve my friend. I’ll mourn. But I’ll never get over her death. I know that. Over time, I hope to only think about the happy times with her. Her smile. Her wonderful wit and unique sense of humor. How she used to make me laugh until my sides hurt. How she could make me laugh like no other person could. My husband used to say he could always tell when I was talking to her on the phone because he would hear my roars of laughter coming from a distant room. I’ll miss those talks. I’ll miss her.
We’re all blessed by good friendships. And some of us are blessed by long time friendships from our childhood that continue well into our adult years. Friendships that never end. Until death rears its ugly head. But sometimes we take those friendships for granted and we don’t realize how blessed our lives are by knowing that person– that friend– until they are gone. And sometimes it hits us hard that we never told the person how much they blessed us just by being in our life or how much we loved them. And that’s sad. It’s sad and tragic. It shouldn’t happen. Ever. And we live with that regret for the rest of our life.