In April, I learned that one of my oldest and dearest friends had died. In between the surges of shock, of sadness, anger, and disbelief, I recalled how my friend and I would always laugh when we were together. All my memories of our friendship are filled with us laughing.
We shared so many experiences in middle school and high school, so many inside jokes and so many friendships in common. I was so close to her that she always referred to my biological aunt as “Aunt Liz” even though they were not related. Her father used to sing us songs and make us laugh. She worshiped her father and he – her.
Her name was Kristy. She was a mother to two beautiful children, wife, daughter, sister and friend. In middle school, Kristy and I were part of a foursome of friends that we called the “four musketeers.” We were inseparable during our middle school days and we have countless pictures of the four of us together at school, on band trips, and at school dances.
After learning of Kristy’s passing, the two other musketeers, Stacey, Felicia and I kept in close touch, messaging each other late at night and in the early morning after waking to be reminded that no, this was a not a dream. Kristy is dead.
It is like apart of our hearts has been lost. We kept reassuring one another that we will be ok. We checked in with one another and shared pictures and stories of our beloved friend. A larger group of friends are also staying in close communication following Kristy’s death. I am learning from them how each one of us shared such a special, and unique bond with our friend. For me, Kristy and I had this thing we would do each time we would send a letter or a birthday card – for over thirty years when we would write one another, we would include a piece of chewing gum in the envelope. I don’t know why we did this but somehow it just seemed to be a necessary thing to include in the envelope before we sealed it.
I think it said to the receiver, “I know you like the back of my hand and I want you to remember that I know you this well.”
As my plane began its descent into the regional airport that serves my hometown, I could see the mountains, the roads, the rivers and the valleys that were so familiar to me, like Kristy’s friendship.
These roads and mountains are home to me, they are unchanging, they ebb and flow and I lose sight of them from time to time; the sun blinds me from their view, but I know they are there, just like I know Kristy’s friendship and her love was always there.
When the plane landed, I got this pit in my stomach and I couldn’t breathe. It was real. I was home. Kristy was gone.
I’ve buried both my parents but losing my friend, my peer… I don’t know. Somehow, it’s even harder.
At the funeral services, I was reunited with Kristy’s family: her brother, her father, her sister, and cousins. All her family is family to me. Our childhood friends were all there, many of whom are still very close to me.Kristy knew me, no matter how much I aged and evolved, no matter how far away I lived from our hometown, she knew my heart, she knew my family, she knew my spirit, she shared my values and experiences – the experiences that shaped me into the human being that I am. She was a constant in my life. I don’t know what life will be like now without Kristy’s friendship.
She seemed to hold this invisible thread that connected these dozens of childhood friends and she kept us together. I think each one of our friends felt this invisible tug and knew that it was Kristy who had sewn us all together.
That is why so many people showed up to her services. Her death pulled us together once again so that we could be together in fellowship and friendship and that we could mourn her loss. Her death also made many of us say, “We need to keep in touch better,” and I hope we will do that. I think we will in honor of Kristy and because we were all jolted by the realization that life is really short and so precious.
At her burial, we were all given a balloon. We wrote our own special thought on the pink balloons (Kristy’s signature color). The balloons carried messages up to the sky, in hopes that Kristy would hear our good wishes and feel our love…
My children are young – my son is five and he has a friend who he has known since they were six months old. He holds her hand and they have secrets they share and special games they play and jokes they tell one another. They always greet one another with a hug and there is a sparkle in their eyes when they see one another. I know what this is like – this intimacy and this connection that we have when we share a deep friendship.
I know that wherever life leads my son and his best friend, that they will have this same constancy of friendship that Kristy and I shared.
As my plane ascended from the airport, I followed the Holston River as it wound in between the towns and the mountains and under the bridges and roads that are so familiar to me. This same river had carried Kristy and me on inner tubes when we floated down the river on a lazy, hot summer day. From the view of the plane, I looked back to take one more glimpse of home – I followed the line of the mountains to find the road that leads to the town that I call home.
As the plane ascended higher, the roads looked like little lines – like the threads of our friendship that connected Kristy to each one of us.