“Hello!!!!” I said. I was in a good mood; I was excited to talk to her.
But, her strangled sounding “hi Mel” stopped me cold. She was crying, why was she crying?
“Where are you?” she said.
“In the car. WHAT is wrong? Why are you crying?” I said.
She said, “You aren’t driving, are you?”
The urgency in her voice filled me with panic; no one asks you if you are driving unless they have bad news.
My face was wet…. I realized I had already started crying.
“No. I am not driving,” I said, “Please tell me what is wrong.”
“It’s Michelle,” she said. “She committed suicide.”
It’s awful, but I thought…. Michelle? She must mean her Michelle. Her friend from high school. I didn’t want it to be anyone’s Michelle, but please God, let it be her Michelle, notmy Michelle. Please. No, please God, NO. Not my Michelle.
“My Michelle?,” I asked.
Her heightened crying was the only answer.
It felt like someone ripped my heart in half. I don’t even remember hanging up my cell phone, what I said to the kids, or the rest of the drive home.
The next few days were a blur.
I cried a lot. I called Michelle’s Mom. I tried to call all of our friends. Then cried some more. My Dad and sister (Cara) drove to Kansas and picked me up, to drive me to her funeral. The drive took all day, we got a flat tire on the way, I was sure we were going to be too late. But my Dad drove faster than I think he ever had in his life, and we made it before the visitation was over. But when we pulled in and parked at the funeral home, I suddenly forgot why I wanted so badly to be there. I wanted to run. I didn’t want to walk in that place and see her for the last time, the last time ever.
How do you do that? Say good-bye to the first best friend you ever had?
Michelle grew up in a house around the corner from mine. She is entwined into the fabric of every childhood memory I have. We were a lot of trouble when we were together. She made me feel brave, bold, goofy and free-spirited. I credit her with every good personality trait I have, she shaped who I became. I spent time with her every single day. She came over every morning before school, to eat some cereal with me, or stand in the bathroom and get ready. Julie, Michelle, and I fighting over the curling iron and the hairspray, it must have been a sight to see. We walked to and from school together every day. We played on my swing set for hours, she would do no-handed flips off of it, or stand on the top of it, just because she liked to freak me out. We rode our bikes everywhere together. We baby-sat together, and then went to K-Mart to spend all of our money on records. We spent hours together in her bedroom, picking out her clothes, fixing each other’s hair, talking about boys, and making up our own lyrics to songs that played on the radio. She was there for me when I had my first kiss, my first period, my first D on my report card (which was also the first time I was grounded), and my first broken heart. When we couldn’t be together, we were on the phone. If I sat in the corner of my window and she sat in the corner of her window, we could see each other while we talked.
When she was 18, had a little girl and named her Melissa. She moved away. I joined the Army. Then I started my own family. We wrote each other all the time, talked on the phone and I would see her when I was home. I missed her like crazy, but it didn’t matter how much time passed, we were always able to pick things up right where we left off.
But, even when we were little I knew that there was a spot in Michelle’s heart that she couldn’t fill up, no matter how hard she tried. When we got older she hardened herself to people, talked badly about herself, and resigned herself to a life that was less than she deserved. After a while it was hard to talk to her. She made some really bad choices… she was breaking my heart.
She would call every couple of months, to let me know she was all right, which sometimes meant nothing more than saying she was still alive. I remember getting SO angry at her; I remember crying over her, I remember feeling so very, very helpless.
But I never thought that I would say good-bye to her forever when she was just 30 years old. Even now, three years later, it still knocks the breath right out of me. On her birthday and the anniversary of her death I cry the whole day. I wonder what I should have done, what I could have done, to change things. I have so much regret, for all the times she called and told me stories, and I got angry at her, or hung up on her, or told her how ridiculous I thought her decisions were. I wish once, just once, I would have taken the time to say: Do you know what a beautiful person you are? Do you know how much I love you? Do you know that I can’t imagine my life without you in it?
So, if there is anyone that you feel that way about? Please… Don’t be too shy, or too proud to say it. Don’t think that there will always be another day to say it, because sometimes, there is no tomorrow.
Friendships are as fragile as a dream, one day when the light of morning comes, all you could have left is a memory.