Eight years and a few days have gone by since a very good friend of mine passed away. She was my best friend, in fact, and her death was sudden, tragic and altogether untimely. A week after her eldest daughter’s 11th birthday, the same daughter had to phone emergency services in what turned out to be a vain attempt to save her mother’s life. Her spirit left before the ambulance had even reached the end of their street. Her mother called me one quiet afternoon and the news was so unbelievable that I didn’t process its weight until I had gone to visit her parents the following day when her father crumbled sobbing into my arms.
On several occasions since that day, I have been asked by others whether I have ever visited my friend`s grave. For the record, I have not. It has been a conscious choice on my part, and my answer never fails to raise the eyebrows of those asking. I have no fear of the dead, no fear nor superstitions regarding graveyards or their inhabitants. Not many people know that I paid tribute to my friend in what was to me the most important way I could imagine – telling her story as I knew it while looking at the faces of her bereaved husband, children, sister, parents, family and friends. I did not supply her eulogy because I felt there was a reparation necessary and she would not have expected anything from me either. I did it because she was my best friend, and she deserved her story be told by someone close to her, and her family deserved to know a side of her that perhaps they had never witnessed being that most of us are all different things to different people.
I told her story, as it had applied to me. The good parts and what little there was of the bad. Every friend deserves your honesty.
She was not only a daughter, a wife, and a mother, she was also my friend and therefore the Maid of Honour at my wedding. She was the only choice imaginable at the time. Who but your friend would be thrilled at the prospect of being able to make her own Maid of Honour dress? It also seemed only right that our friendship should have been borne from her being accused by a typing instructor of cheating off my typing test. (When you think on that a moment, you’ll realise that it’s impossible to cheat on a typing test, but these were the kinds of things that always seemed to happen only to her, lending an air of magic to her existence.)
So it was perhaps just that little bit more tragic that she should die at the tender age of 34, with three young daughters to raise. For quite some time afterward, people would often ask if I was all right. Of course I was all right! I wasn`t the one who died and had to leave everything and everyone I loved behind!
And it’s for that reason I have not yet visited her grave. In my mind and in my heart, my friend lives and fluorishes. She finds her way into my dreams where we continue our telephone conversations, joking and bantering as we always did. She is perpetually beautiful, whole and healthy. She continues to be my friend.
Some, but not I, would say that she lives because I remember her. That may very well be true, but it seems a rather arrogant presumption, so I will simply say that if you lose someone dear to you, never forget them. Keep them with you however much you can, whether they are alive or not. Pay tribute to them in whatever way you can imagine. Remember the silly things they did or said and hold on tight, regardless of their faults. If you’re lucky, you’ll find someone willing to do the same for you, giving us all the key to Eternity. Or at least to Happiness.