My Friend Died Today
Actually, she died Friday. Yesterday. But I wrote this last night in bed, my daughter asleep and softly snoring beside me, the doona off and the fan on blowing hot, heavy air. Summer in Brisbane - the smell of mock orange, the chatter of geckoes. You can tell how hot it is by how fast they chirp.
And my friend is gone, and I don't know how to feel about it. I'm sad, but am I as sad as I should be? Because she was so important to me in all those cancer years - the year of the surgery and the chemotherapy and the radiotherapy, when Nelle came to our support group sessions not even walking yet but with cheeks so pink and fatty you could sink your teeth into them - and then over the years after when it was still all about cancer. Every day. Death at my door.
But then, I didn't die.
I moved on into cancer-free life, a life of known but surely-distant mortality, and her cancer moved out of her breast and through her lymphatic system and into her liver where it would stay and grow and mark the end of her existence one cell at a time.
Is it fair that I survived? Is it fair that I lost touch?
I remember her smile, and the softness of her hugs. Sometimes she had hair, sometimes she didn't, and she wore bandanas and short scarves to cover her bareness. Years of chemotherapy. Years of hope, and waiting, and living, and dying. I ache for her pain, I hope she lived hard.
And how is it possible that I feel so connected and so distant at the same time, for this life that's gone and a friendship that had already spread apart over the years? Us girls, we are like a photograph in my mind - an image in another friend's living room, all of us smiling, making it, getting through. A picture that fades with time as we dissipate - as delicate as dandelion seeds - blown off the stem or stuck to it, but changed for the shared experience. My friend, all these friends, carved a space in who I became, who I am and will be all these years I live on and on.