When I was fifteen, I met another teenager who would change my life forever. We were both a bit different from the rest of our classmates, and we often felt isolated. We were always there for each other, she would drive me to school when I had a suspended license, and I would drive her to school when she got her car keys taken away. Between the two of us, we were always having some adventure and finding ourselves in all kinds of trouble. We were pushing all the boundaries as teenagers do.
After high school we remained close and emotionally connected. We saw each other or spoke to each other every single day. Then in my late twenties, I decided that I was going to move to New York to work on my Masters Degree. We had never lived so far apart from each other and we were both heart broken. I didn’t know what I was going to do without her. She cried and said, “What am I supposed to do without my best friend?” I felt horrible but I knew that I had to go. We spent the night cuddling with her dog and agreeing that we would be friends forever and one day we would retire together and take care of each other.
That August I left for New York. She called me every night and we laughed until one of us fell asleep. That Christmas I went back to Utah to see her and my family. She came over to my parent’s house and she was laughing and joking with my family about all of the trouble her and I used to get into as teenagers. I was surprised that she was giving away so much information. The next day, I went over to her parent’s house and she did the same thing, almost like she was confessing. She had lost a lot of weight, and she was much skinnier than I had ever seen her. I was worried about her, but I didn’t know what too do about it.
After Christmas, I went back to New York. Two weeks later, I received a phone call from my dad. He told me that my friend had died in a horrible accident. I screamed, hung up the phone and dropped to my knees. I was so shocked, I couldn’t stop crying.
I got on the first plane home and fell asleep on the plane almost instantly from exhaustion. When I woke up, the man sitting next to me was telling me that he was excited to go to Utah to ski. I told him why I was going, and from that point on he made sure that I had a whisky in my hand. I was so appreciative of the kindness of this stranger, it was something that she would have done for me. Whenever I was upset, she would say let’s feed you and give you a drink. She always knew when I was hungry because I would get grumpy.
Over the course of the next week, I stayed at her parent’s home. I began to lose my voice and I had a hard time sleeping. Though her parents were grieving, they took good care of me. They made sure that I was eating and drinking enough water. We would sit around and tell stories of her, laughing and crying. One night, while I was sleeping in her old bed, in her old room, I felt her holding me. I felt overwhelmingly peaceful. I had the most beautiful dream of the universe. There were so many stars and I wondered if she had sent me that dream.
Her funeral was beautiful and calm. I was relieved that she didn’t have any pain when she passed away. I was besides myself with grief, I felt like I had abandoned her. Why did I make it and she didn’t? I went back to New York a complete mess. I had a hard time focusing in school and I became physically ill. For years I had a difficult time letting anyone get to close to me. I was scared that if I let people in I would get hurt again because I would lose them too. I began hugging my friends and telling them that I loved them whenever I saw them.
The more that I worked through my loss, the more I appreciated life and those in my life. It was the most tragic thing I had ever been through. The beautiful part was that people began to step up and take care of me. This led me to appreciate the little things in life, the things that money can’t buy. Little things like a friend calling to say hi out of the blue, or making me dinner, I started to notice when strangers smiled at me and when children waved to me. I began to feel lucky to be alive and I appreciated each day. Ten years later, I still miss her like crazy. I remember the unconditional love that she showed me and I have tried to give it to myself and others.