This week I cannot write. This week I can only think and think desperately, pondering how to help my friend. My oldest and closest girlfriend who has given me the gift of a glimmer of insight as to what it might have been like to have a sister’s heart is broken into a thousand pieces as her father has suddenly died.
We grew up in two houses standing next to each other in a modest suburban neighborhood. Hers was yellow and mine was blue. She moved in when we were nine, and my life gained new light. We immediately became inseparable. When we eventually moved to a neighboring town five years later, Mary and I never lost touch, and she continues to be my best friend thirty-three years later. Right now, my bubbly, supportive, loyal, always full of faith friend is in so much pain she is only capable of texting me periodic, sporadic texts full of twisting agony and loss.
I could write vignettes about our childhood and explain why her parents were so important to me, creating a safe haven from my own home, but I can’t. As her heart is broken, my heart is broken along with hers. I just don’t think I could do her family the justice they deserve in writing. I would need to sit each and every one of you down individually and verbally explain how extraordinary they all were and how very much they all meant and continue to mean to me. How I dreamt as a child of being a part of what they seemingly had as a family with ease and took every opportunity to be in the home Mary’s parents created.
The Grief of Children
When we were ten, a car in front of her yellow house hit Patches, a family cat that Mary adored. Her parents buried Patches in the woods that ran behind our homes with a cross to mark her grave. Mary was bereft. It was an overwhelming loss for a ten year old, and she became withdrawn. She spoke few words. She wandered from the house, to the grave and then back around to the house. Then she would repeat the well-worn path. I was desperate to help my friend. I was also ten and had no words to offer even if she had spoken. So, I decided to follow her… closely. I followed behind her, stepping in each of her footprints in the grass as she made her journey from her house to the grave, sat at her side silently as she stared soulfully at the cross, and then followed her back to the house. I was her silently reliable, ever present shadow. I repeated this behavior every day when I wasn’t in school until one day, slowly, softly she began to speak again. If she hadn’t, I might still be there following her around her parents’ property waiting for her grief to subside. I loved her so much.
The Authentic Shadow I Was at Ten Returns….
Now the loss is so profound. Just as when we were children, she is unable to speak. We have not spoken in the three days since he passed away, so I am following her again. I am her shadow from three thousand miles away. From California to Pennsylvania, I send a text when I wake up that I am here, and I love her. I remind her to take care of herself. I do the same before I go to sleep. Every day. Sometimes she answers. Sometimes she does not. I am quietly following her throughout her days so that she knows I am here when she is ready to slowly, softly begin to speak again. It is all I know to do. I will not miss a text, not if it takes years for her to call. I love her so much.
So this week, I don’t write. I shadow.
Mary’s family is Christian and very religious. I know her father is safe in the arms and love of Jesus Christ and has found everlasting life and reward in his presence.
My heart, love and prayers go out to all of the family, extended family and friends.
May they find some peace and comfort in the sad, passing of a very good man who brought a smile to so many.