After Death the Love Really Does Remain
I need a big glass of wine for this piece. I mean..I still can’t even believe I am writing it.
I want to tell you about my best friend from high school, Remy. During some of my most formative years, Remy was partner in crime, my sounding board, my secret keeper, my instigator, my friend. Remy was my person. She was part of my village before I even knew I needed to build a village.
You see Remy got me at a point in life when you truly believe no one gets you – your teenage years. Together we drove our respective sets of parents crazy, whether it was the incessant chatter among the two of us, or the requests to drive us to this person’s house or to go see that movie. I never hesitated to invite myself over her house to spend the night, and she felt perfectly fine inviting herself to come on vacation with me and my family (and then totally blow our plan to meet up at our predetermined meeting place so as not to get caught chasing the boys that we had crushed on).
We stressed over college applications together…me more so than she…she was the first of many, many, many people to tell me to chill out, to stop stressing, to enjoy the ride a little more. We met at Dunkin Donuts in the morning before classes, relishing the newfound freedom of having a driver’s license. We somehow always had plans with each other without the ability to text. We fell in love and passed notes in class about our feelings, we fell out of love and passed notes in class about our feelings. We got each other. We loved each other.
Remy was one of my first friends to not only appreciate the uncensored version of myself, but to encourage it. And she never, ever, ever held back her own thoughts. I never had to worry about telling Remy how much I liked someone, or how much something they did drove me nuts. She got it. She never judged. She had my back. Always.
When we went on our high school retreat (Catholic all girls high school people, so this was a thing) we exchanged letters with one another, and in mine, I told her how much I loved her, and gave her some parting words of wisdom – which is fascinating because at the ripe old age of 18, I am not sure who the hell I thought I was dolling out any advice to anyone.
Nonetheless, Remy got it. We went away to college and drifted apart, as people do, but the love remained. We saw each other at a classmates funeral, our high school reunion and at a lunch to support a common friend who was battling breast cancer. We reconnected over Facebook when that became a thing, and Remy told me how proud she was of me that I was “kicking ass at single motherhood”. And like any great friendship, our conversations picked right back up where they left off – this time we passed our notes electronically. Somewhere in there she came across that letter I gave to her at that Senior Retreat and she quoted some of the things I wrote, scanned it, and emailed it to me in the event it would make good material for a blog post someday.
This past Spring we realized we were both dating guys we had dated in high school. I mean the material for conversation in there was really endless. When those rekindled relationships fell apart at around the same time, well then we really had some conversation material.
And around that time, I moved from New York City to Connecticut and told her to come spend the night amongst the boxes and disarray so we could do what we do best, make each other feel better using high quality conversation and cheap beer.
She slept on an air mattress on my floor in my new home, and when I woke up and saw her at the foot of my bed, I felt comforted by the familiarity..
We packed our bags and headed to the beach for the day, taking my daughter Ellie along with us. It was one of the most perfect days I had had in a while. She taught Ellie how to fly a kite and entertained her while I dozed off in the sun, having conversations with her like, “So what do Mommies do Ellie?” with Ellie responding, “Mommies go to work and have lots of friends.”
We hugged and said our goodbyes as the sun started to make it’s way down in the sky, and in the weeks and months that followed, we kept one another abreast of our breakups.
And a few weeks before Christmas, on December 8th, 2014, Remy died.
I now know what it is like to think of someone every single day, but have no real outlet for those thoughts. I now know what it is like to go through the crazy stages of grief, where you think that someone is going to call you and tell you this is all some crazy joke, where you get really damn angry, where you can’t stop crying for days and days straight – like your eyeballs are just leaking. And I now know what it is like to worry that you never said I love you enough, that you never expressed your gratitude in a profound enough way, that you never told that person, your person, how much they mattered to you.
I said it to anyone who called to express their sympathies, “I just worry that she didn’t know how much I loved her…I’m worried she never knew how much she was loved.”
And then, in the midst of painful grief, I recalled the letter I wrote to her on our senior class retreat and how Remy (who seemed to misplace pretty much anything she touched) found it 15 years later.
I combed through my “Keepers” folder in my email and I found the scanned copy of the long, handwritten letter I gave to Remy in April 1998.
And in it, I was able to find relative comfort in knowing that I did, in fact, tell her how much she meant to me, saying in part:
I can’t thank you enough – honestly I don’t know what I’ll do without you holding my hand when I cry or reading my mind when I can’t express my fears…
You’ve always given me so much powerful advice and insight and time. So take my following words with you for the rest of your life…
- Follow your instincts, that includes your heart. Reasoning can’t always be trusted. It’s influenced by too much. Love can overpower all.
- Don’t regret. Just don’t. Ever.
- Keep that bounce in your step, that smile on your face. The world is a brighter place because of you.
- Tell your children about us – you and me. What a wonderful supportive friend were. Children learn from example. Tell them that friendships are the best thing in the world and that it took Cara four years to say, “There is nothing in this world I wouldn’t trade for our friendship.”
- When I make it on TV, and you see my face, know that you had so much to do with it. Thank you. I can’t believe the end of this wild ride is drawing near. I am scared. But we will always only be a phone call away. And promise that we will always notify one another of a change of address…
…Carry my love in your back pocket, because yours will always be in mine.
My heart still aches. I slept with the sweatshirt she left at my house over the summer for about a week after she died. There are nights I lay in bed and talk to her. There are still times I feel that her death is really just a very bad dream. And I am not entirely sure any of that will ever really stop. But what I do know without a doubt – the love does remain. It is there. I can feel it. It does not die.
I am still carrying and will always carry Remy’s love in my back pocket, and wherever she is, I know she is doing the same.
Friends – Write the letter. Always write the letter. Never miss a chance to say how much you love someone.