A good friend of mine died. A year ago. And I just found out about it. And if it weren’t for a string of coincidental events, it would have taken me years to find out.
The last time I saw her was fifteen months ago. She called me from her bed, just having gotten into a car accident, she wanted company. I brought chicken and dumpling soup, jokes and prayers. The kind of prayers you give a dear friend when you see they are clearly going through something. We spent several hours, me at the foot of her bed cackling like school girls about getting our lives together, travelling and promised to have margaritas when she felt better. I kissed her face and told her I loved her. She was a friend that had quickly turned into a sisterfriend. I walked out the door and promised to check on her soon. Then life got in the way.
I got a new job, one that put me in her neighborhood a few weeks later. I sent her a text and go no response. A week or so later, I called and got her voice mail. Around the same time there was drama. A lot of drama, in her life and mine. I thought it was the timing of things and I figured she just needed some space. I took her silence for a petition that she was going through something and just needed me to understand. Weeks turned into months, maybe I called again, maybe I didn’t. I don’t remember.
And then I was watching the news one day and saw a story about her company downsizing. I thought, “I need to call her, I miss her.” The very next day, a parent of mine came into my office wearing a T-shirt with her company’s logo on it. She was a supervisor, like my friend. I wondered if she knew her. She did. Right then and there something in me melted.
My friend had died and I hadn’t heard. Weeks after I’d left her bedside, her sorrow and struggles had become too much. She’d warned me, I guess. I told her it would be okay and that God loved her. I prayed a prayer that was not my own words that day. And yet, in my office that day, she might as well have died the night before.
I had been a terrible friend to want to reach out but didn’t. I wanted to stop by, but didn’t. I found myself crying in the bathroom, grieving for a friendship and a life cut short, but mostly feeling guilty.
And before I knew what happened, I realized that I had been blessed with an opportunity that probably most of closest friends would’ve died for. I had gotten my chance to kiss her goodbye, to say that I loved her and to remind her that God loved her. I had never had such a profound moment with anyone, especially not someone who would be dead two weeks later. I had gotten my chance to tell her about the book that I was writing and the teaching job I was hoping to take.
Fifteen months later, just thinking of her beautiful smile and spirit make my heart heavy. But it is reminding me that not a single day or thing in my life is promised. I have a tendency to get lazy, and exhausted, taking for granted that I have dreams and goals that may never come to fruition if I don’t push, fight and bleed for them to happen.
Today I’m not writing about me struggling to find time to write and finish Good Mourning. The spirit of my beautiful friend is reminding me mourning her today is good.
She only got thirty four years.