Thursday, July 05, 2007

Death of a Friend, Once-Removed

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.


Jeff said...

That is so tough. So many people will feel that loss - no more than that child. My heart and prayers go out to you, B's family and friends.

Momish said...

I am so truly sorry for you loss. There are no words for such a tragedy. My thoughts and prayers are with you and all the people who loved her and will miss her so much.

nikki said...

So sorry for your loss. I'm thinking about you and your friends.

Loz said...

I think the lesson is to cherish your friendships wherever they come from and however deep they go.