I got a phone message from my best friend on July 3rd, which said, "Hey, it's K. Call me. Not good news."
I didn't get the message until 11pm - too late to call anyone, so I waited until the morning of the 4th to return the call.
"Hi. You rang?"
"I'm sure I did. What did I say?"
"Not good news."
"Oh - yeah. Well, last night I called to tell you that B was dying and it didn't look good. But I've got an update. She died last night."
B had been friends with K's husband since they were small children. When K met her husband, he took her to this little bar off campus and introduced her to B, who was bartending there. K and B hit it off right away, which was a good thing because when K married her husband, B was part of the package. Like family is a part of the package. Like friends are part of the package. I was hanging with K at that point too, but since I wasn't much for hanging out in bars, I was never really a part of that crowd.
As the years passed, I would bump into B from time to time. Usually at K's house. We would chat, but we were not meant to be close friends, I think. Just acquaintances who both loved K.
I would hear about B's struggle to have another child. The testing, the in-vitro attempts, and finally the pregnancy. B was tiny and when I saw her pregnant, she looked like a belly with a head and lots of hair sticking out on top and a couple of legs to carry it around. Finally, the baby - and he was SO cute. Mama loved him so much!
Then, when the baby was about a year old, B started having these headaches. They never completely went away, and then they got worse. A trip (or a few trips, actually) to the doctor later and she was diagnosed with cancer. Chemo, radiation, bone marrow transplants.... remission!!! We were all so relieved. Because B was a huge presence in a little body. She was sweet and rude, could out-cuss a sailor, yet be a patient ear for K.
The relief was short-lived, however. The cancer came back, agressive. It attacked her bones. It shut down her kidneys. Everything was failing. But she was still B. Still sassy, right up to a couple of days before she died. I got updates every now and then from K.
Then finally, B gave out. The pain was too much, and despite having a teenaged son and a 4-year old and an adoring husband and lots of loving friends, I think she was ready to go. She said her goodbyes and went.
And now I know the reason B and I were acquaintances. Because when K lost her other best friend, she needed the one left to understand but not be grieving the way she is. She needs me to be strong - to hold her hand while she mourns, to take her children when she needs a break, and to not be emotionally crippled by grief at the same time she is.
And even though B is gone, she will still be holding up her side of the triangle that is the friendship between B and K and me.