Best Friends

I’m sad that I have to say goodbye to another special person today.     My friend Kathy passed away this morning.  I knew she was sick, but I didn’t realize how sick until she went missing and her best friend Donna located her in a local hospital, dying.

I met Kathy before I have memories of life events and we were truly best friends.   When we were in fourth grade Kathy moved away and as any nine year old girl would, I sulked.   I grew up in  one of those inner city places where kids played outside until the streetlights came on and neighbors were in each others business all the time, and always looking out for the kids, my family and Kathy’s family included.   I have no idea how many sleepovers I had with her, but I felt like her sister and I loved her.

When she moved away, long distance phone calling was expensive for our families so  my mother made me use a timer.  I was  allowed just 10 minutes once a week to talk on the phone, and Kathy could do the same to call me, once a week.   She made a new friend named Donna when were around 11 or 12 years old.   I hated this new girl on principal, even though I knew nothing about her.  But then came the day when Donna and I were face to face and what surprised me the most  was how much I liked her.  Even more, I wasn’t at all upset when I saw them together,  Kathy and her new best friend.   Donna did, and still does have a special air of  honest caring that let me know, even at that difficult age that she loved Kathy (and me too by association), and we could all co-exist just fine.   When they left that weekend, because they both lived hours away, Kathy’s mom and dad packed up their station wagon and I waved from the sidewalk.  I said so long, but not goodbye.

Adolescence set in, and Kathy and I didn’t talk much.  I had new friends in high school as did she.   I went to college and started to work and Kathy’s life  moved forward too.  Then one day I got a wedding invitation, to Kathy’s wedding.  I didn’t think she ever really thought about me anymore and I was so excited to see her and her family again.   Her wedding  was pretty, simple, and important.   That’s the metaphor I’d use for Kathy too.  She didn’t ask for much, and she cherished what she had.  At the wedding I saw Donna again, and she  was married by that time.  She had the same light and welcoming naturalness that made me feel sad like I missed something not growing up with them, but that at the same time happy becuase everything I missed was right there.  It was if decades had passed but also as if no time had passed at all.

We got together, the three of us, a couple of times more, but mostly we kept in touch over the last ten years or so via the internet.   I got a message recently from Donna that said, “Call Kathy.”   I looked on Facebook and saw that Kathy had been in poor health, in fact, she had cancer.  That was just two weeks ago.  So I did as Donna suggested and called.  “Kathy!” I said.  “What’ve you been up to besides growing a tumor?”  She laughed and told me that she had been in a lot of pain recently but she also suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, and a host of other ailments so she shrugged off the abdominal pain as a symptom of something less significant than cancer.   But when she finally went to the doctor, she was told she had a very large tumor and that it was malignant.   We kept things as light as we could and her plan was to have surgery to remove the tumor, and then go stay with Donna to recuperate.  We made a plan that I would visit them both while she was there and have a weekend together, like old times.

Last week we found out that the cancer had spread to Kathy’s liver and lungs as well as her colon.   We had no idea.  When  Donna’s texts and phone calls to Kathy went unanswered it was clear that something else had happened.   I thought Kathy needed time to process her situation,  but Donna didn’t.  She thought to call the hospitals near Kathy’s home and found out that she was in fact in ICU with a bleak outlook.  Donna immediatly drove three hours to see Kathy and once again sent me a text that said “Call.”

I got to talk to Kathy last night and say I love you.  This time I didn’t say so long, but thanks to Donna I got to say goodbye.

What can I say about Kathy?  She was fun, and loyal, and loving, and gone too soon.   She was compassionate and appreciative and lovely.  But what else can I say?  I can say that she had an angel named Donna who I’m so happy was able to be my friend’s friend and in some ways has been my angel too.  Can I say that Kathy was so giving that she shared Donna with me, and as has always been the case, Donna shared her most precious last night with Kathy when she told me to call.  I will always be grateful for them both.

Life is hard, and it’s hard to accept that for some of us, life is short.   Two things stick out for me today.  The first is what my mom said to me after Kathy moved … “If you have are able to have one good friend in your life, one really good friend, that means a lot.”   And the other is from Stephen King, from the book different seasons…

“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12 – Jesus, did you?”

― Stephen KingDifferent Seasons


God Bless You Kathy.  I will miss you.


2 thoughts on “Best Friends

  1. Janine Talbot says:

    Beautifully said, Helen. It made me think about the Kathy in my life – a high school friend who also died of cancer. I’m glad you got to say goodbye, and that you and were wise enough to allow a connection with Donna, even at such a young age.

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