I want to tell you about a friend of mine. She wasn't perfect... who is. She was real. She was honest. She was funny. She could laugh at herself, laugh with you, laugh at you if you made the mistake of taking yourself too seriously. She suffered a great deal of hurt in her life yet forgave readily if the situation allowed. Her smile was infectious and she would have walk across a battleground if she had a friend on each side that she wanted to chat with.
She was a braider like me, and though she was younger than I am, had been doing it much longer. She was excited about her upcoming wedding, scheduled for this October in Colorado. She was determined to lose weight, get in shape, and take back her life and health, in spite of a recent setback due to a broken ankle. She called me to tell me of her recent steps in this endeavor a little over a week ago. It wasn't about the dress. She already knew she looked beautiful in it. It was about feeling good and living well.
The first time I met her was in December of 2007. She talked to me like I was family within five minutes. She instantly befriended me and never wavered in that. I had no idea that I was meeting what would be one of my closest friends in the braiding world and one of the only people I could ever fully trust. She also was to become one of my staunchest supporters in, well, pretty much everything.
We became friends. She had this great laugh and it was there for everyone. Do something funny and she'd laugh at you until you were laughing too. I recall a time that that I looked over at her and she was having an intense conversation with a basket of flowers. I got really confused and asked her sheepishly if she was talking to the flowers. When the laughing finally subsided I found out it was a person out of my line of sight but hey, we are braiders. A conversation with a basket of flowers is never entirely outside the range of possibility.
When I started to lose weight and train hard, she thought it was great, cool, fantastic. She never made me feel like I was improving myself though. That would be impossible because the previous incarnation was a perfect as this new one. That was the thing, you were perfect just the way you were.... here... now... just like this. Wanna make a change? Cool. That version would be perfect too. Her world view was one that would make any Buddhist proud and yet it came without meditation or effort. It was just her. Just the way she was. And to me, that seems pretty perfect.
Last Tuesday, this young woman in her 30's started her day like anyone else. I'm sure she woke up. She may have tossed a shoe at the alarm clock. There was probably some breakfast in there somewhere. She went about her day doing the mundane things that we all do. The things we don't even consider as they tumble from the roster of habits each and every day. Something mundane went wrong. Probably something that has happened to us all but she drew those long odds that it could be bad. Then the even longer odds that it could be a worse case scenario. Then those exponentially longer odds that it could be a worst case in the worst place. She beat all those odds. This day she experienced a set of circumstances more rare than a lightning bolt, more rare than the powerball. Against all odds and in the blink of an eye, that mundane task ended her life.
She will not get married. She will never again listen to me cry out my frustrations. She will never laugh at me again for being a doofus. She will never again call me in the middle of the night to ask how my race went. She will never again talk to a basket of flowers. In an instant, her life is over.
The funeral was Saturday. I was unable to attend. I missed my chance to say goodbye because I was slammed at work. I hope she was sitting in Paradise, drinking a Mai Tai, watching us scurry around, panic braiding, and laughing her ass off. It was that idea that got me through Saturday night.
When I finally began to accept her death and understand that it was real, I posted this:
Finally getting my head around things. Last night it really hit me that I have no choice but to say goodbye. I don't know how and nothing seems good enough but that was the thing about Dee, you were always good enough... no matter how imperfect... she loved people as is, right now, warts and all, judgement free. She raised forgiveness and acceptance (AND HUMOR) to an art form. Rest in Peace, my beautiful friend. I truly miss you.
The lesson in her death is this. You never know. Kiss your kids. Express your love. Show kindness. Dump all your baggage. Live fully and joyfully so that each moment could be your last without regret. Things could turn in an instant. Live every minute of your life. The only moment you are guaranteed is this one.