On Losing a Childhood Friend

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.

Me and Laurie Laurie's wedding- November 1981

Me and Laurie
Laurie’s wedding- November 1981

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.

Gail ♥

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About Gail

I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend, veterinarian, and wanna be writer. I love nature and animals of all kinds, music, cooking, and spending time with my family.
This entry was posted in Death, Tragedy and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to On Losing a Childhood Friend

  1. ladyhawk87 says:

    Sorry to hear about your loss. She seemed to be an amazing person. 🙂

  2. Gail, my heart aches for you. I’m very sorry. If there is anything I can do,please just ask.

  3. Little things like blogging awards seem so trivial and disrespectful at times like these. So sorry for your loss. My sincere condolences.

    • Gail says:

      Marissa,

      You had no way of knowing and I did not think it was disrespectful at all. And actually, blogging friends can help in times of grief as I’ve found bloggers are some of the kindest and supportive “friends” when something like this happens. I truly appreciate the award and fully expect to respond and pay it forward soon. It may take a week or so though before I am able to get to it but I did want you to know it meant a lot. Thanks again for nominating me and thank you SO much for your condolences. It means a lot.

  4. TrishaDM says:

    Sorry to hear about your loss. She sounds like a wonderful friend and that the two of you have lots of wonderful memories together. Thanks for sharing a bit about your friendship. I will be praying for you and her family as you go through the grieving process.

    • Gail says:

      Thank you so much Trisha. As a doctor, I know you deal with this kind of thing (tragedy) more than most of us ever will, so your words and prayers mean so much. I enjoy your writing and your blog tremendously. Have you ever considered writing a post on grieving? I, for one, would sure read it!

      • TrishaDM says:

        I do see tragedy often, but as much as it is hard to see, I feel like I am still sheltered from a lot of the awfulness because I often don’t know the people involved very well beyond a few interactions. I always seem to remember them, though.
        Thanks for the compliment and suggestion. I have considered writing a post on grieving, especially where I have been dealing with a lot of grief in my own life recently. Maybe I will get around to that one of these days!

      • Gail says:

        You are such a good writer and I’m sure many would benefit from such a post.

        As a veterinarian, that was one area I felt very “weak” in when I graduated from veterinary school. Pet loss grief has always been a big area of interest to me. I even went back to school once with the intentions of becoming a pet loss grief counselor. It’s an area I am still very interested in and I feel it’s overlooked in veterinary school, especially since veterinarians deal with it on a daily basis.

      • TrishaDM says:

        Pet loss grief would be (sadly) a fascinating area to look in to. I mean, pets are a huge part of people’s lives and we, as a society, don’t acknowledge that as well as the loss of a friend or a parent, etc. On top of that, you deal with it so often! The fact that you are interested in it, shows me that you are one of the more empathetic and caring folks out there.

      • Gail says:

        I find it very interesting. The extent of our instructions on grief in veterinary school was learning the 5 stages of grief. That was about it. I wanted to get a master’s in social work and then concentrate on pet loss grief counseling. The dean of the school of social work I was wanting to get into told me point blank that there was NO place in social work for pet loss grief! I was floored. Needless to say, I didn’t pursue getting into that school after that.

      • TrishaDM says:

        Agh! That is terrible. I can’t believe they would say that.
        Also, very suboptimal instruction on dealing with grief.

  5. PJ says:

    Gail,
    Thanks for writing this. I will miss our friend, Laurie. How I long to tell her what she meant to me and to tell her I love her. It is too late for that. It will take a very long time for me to believe she is gone. I loved her like a sister.

    • Gail says:

      I agree. It’s going to take a very long time for us to process and accept that she is gone. There are going to be “griefbursts” we will experience for a while. All we can do is move towards our grief and allow ourselves to feel the multitude of emotions we will feel. I read in a book once that “Grief is a process, not an event.”

  6. Relax... says:

    I believe in the unlimitedness of the Lord — He need not bow to time or geography, and anything can be asked. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, I have asked that in the Lord, this or that one be made present to me via love. (In my mind, I pull up 3 chairs — one for me, one for loved one, and one for the Holy Spirit.) And I talk to my loved one. I say all the things I think I didn’t say when he/she was alive in this part of the journey. And I try to hear what they might say. There is, of course, no healing to speak of.. this life is broken, and there remains a hole where so-and-so used to be, and heartache. Time needs time. But I’ll pray for your dear friend’s soul, for her family, and for you. I’m so sorry for your loss, Gail.

  7. Gail says:

    Thank you for your very kind words and for your prayers. They mean a lot to me.

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