There Is Nothing like a Childhood Friend

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The safe harbor of a childhood friend, words cannot describe the value of such a place. To have the sanctuary of a true friend is a gift, a place you can go, to hide, to cry to laugh and sometimes to die. A rare few achieve such a place, I was lucky or cursed I am not sure which, because it is gone now and I am alone in the ocean drowning with no safe harbor waiting for me. For forty-two years we charted our courses together, my internal compass unable to go it alone.

Each day I try and fail wondering what she would think of me now as I slowly unravel as I slowly slip under the current which has become my life. Disappointment with myself settles in. Always being one to land on my feet I am unable this time to hit my mark, she was my mark there is no landing in sight just free falling, spiraling into the cold ocean that awaits.

I have tried repeatedly to pull myself out of the quagmire of grief, but it is impossible. She is everywhere I turn, unable to avoid her she dwells in my recipe box, my photo albums, my walls, my memory, my heart, my soul. Our lives were entwined together like sisters and though we did not share DNA our bond goes back to my earliest memories. There is nothing we did not do as young girls. We were inseparable, sharing our secrets and lives together. We went through all the normal childhood experiences picnics, boys, sleepovers, spending endless hours together laughing and sometimes crying. My parents divorce and fathers alcoholism combined with her father’s death seemed to cement us permanently together. As we grew up, as time passed our lives ran parallel to each other. Weddings, children, careers were the things we continued to share, being God parent to each other’s children and reliving our own childhood experiences with our children. She was there for it all, a front row seat to my life and the lives of my children.

It is the vacant front row seat that I now struggle with. She is no longer there, in its place a weighted absence that tugs at you not letting you forget it can never be filled. I remember her young and beautiful, I remember her teaching me to dance, I remember her always smiling even when you knew she didn’t mean it, I remember her holding her babies with an expression of love splashed across her face that could only come from a mother. I remember Leukemia.

The word leukemia had an ominous sound to me even as a child. It conjures up images of balding sick children and young mothers ravaged by chemo. What I have learned about Leukemia is that it is a cold blooded killer more deadly than any cancer or poisonous venom. Leukemia, although it only strikes one person at time, slowly kills those whose lives it touches, one piece at a time.

Nothing could have prepared for the day when she stood in front of me fighting to make herself say the works, “I have leukemia” I can still hear her quivering voice and see the fear in her eyes. Of course that was only the beginning, finding a stem cell donor, spending time with her four precious ones, and preparing for a battle that none of us saw coming. She found a donor and soon the preparation for transplant began. Weeks of fatigue, vomiting, hair loss and isolation were required if she stood any chance against the biggest enemy she had ever faced. Her isolated pod at hospital became the balance between kicking cancer and cancer kicking her.

The transplant was a success and by a small miracle she was cancer free. Life had been given back to us all, along with a new found appreciation for time. We went back to relative normality for a while, but as time went on the effects of the transplant began to reclaim her. Her decline seemed sudden and shocking beyond reality.

She fought long and hard a decade of pain and suffering that no person should ever have to know. She succumbed bravely and gracefully, knowing the end was near and making sure all those she loved would be taken care of. She believed she would become an angel looking out for those of us left behind, not realizing she had already achieved angel status to all that knew her. She was kind hearted with an unrelentless compassion for people and animals. She was loved as deeply as she loved and missed more than the mind can comprehend.

Her absence is difficult to bear, I find myself adrift at times distracted by the haunting thoughts of all she went through and all that she will miss. She will never be the mother of the bride, she will never be a grandmother, she will never see her children graduate, she will not be there to catch them when they fall.

Helplessness has become my new best-friend. I am helpless without her, helpless to her children, her siblings to anyone who suffers the same pain as me. All of the things she taught me, all of the things this ten year experience taught me did not prepare me for life without her, but I try to carry on, it is what she would want. I keep in touch with her siblings as well as her children and hope that the day will come that it will be enough. I am hoping a day will come that I will be a peace with her passing, at peace with what life is trying to teach me and at peace that no one will ever replace her.


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