Moving day. I remember like it was just yesterday. A beautiful day, the end of April. Here I was alone in a new neighborhood frantically looking for Dewey who managed to escape an open door. My tears are flowing as I'm calling his name. Already overwhelmed by the move, now losing my buddy was pushing me over the edge. Hey! Hey! HEY!!!! You managed to get my attention. I turn to see this smiling face, not realizing those Hey's were for me. Did you lose a little brown dog. I came closer and your smile grew larger. Hi, I'm Val. Your little guy is making himself at home. I'm so sorry. Oh don't be, he is making friends with Daisy. Please come in and let's have a cup of tea. Oh no, I don't want to bother you. No bother, we must get acquainted.
Walking into your house was like being wrapped in a warm blanket. Cookies cooling on a rack. A warm cup of tea and our dogs snuggling together in Daisy's bed. Conversation as easy as if we'd know each other forever. Wow, I was hoping for nice neighbors but this was over the top. Like finding your long lost sister. Warm, cozy and so comfortable.
I was older, you were wiser. I was red, you were white. Many evenings you would spy me sitting alone on my deck. I would hear your famous Hey as you took your seat and poured white into your travel mug. We'd share our week, bitching about the stress of jobs, laundry, grocery shopping and just laugh as we prayed for a lottery win. I'd warn you not to drink and walk as you waved a goodnight from your deck.
Time passed. We celebrated the events of life. Birthdays, graduations, kids going to college and a son coming home. We cried as Dewey crossed the Rainbow Bridge. You loved him as your own and knew the void he left for both of us. You welcomed Cooper into your life and once again you were Aunt Val. We shared our dark secrets as only woman do. You told me to pray as I cried about Matt's addiction. You never tired of hearing my heartbreak during our walks. I'm sorry to burden you, I'd say realizing I'd once again monopolized the conversation. Your turn will come. I will need you and you will be there. We cried and comforted each other as life started to get harder. Adult children not listening to advice as we helped each other to bite our tongues. It became our pattern. I'd have the first mile and a half and you'd have the last mile and a half. We talked, we listened, we laughed and felt lighter as our burdens were held by the other.
We quietly celebrated you losing your job. Our little joke. You loved being home, freedom to enjoy the little things. I was so jealous. I'd always ask, Hey, how's that job hunting going. You'd flash that smile and chuckle, it's going. We would laugh together. You would pop over and let my pups out when I was running late. Text me, hey, I'm going to store, you need anything. You beamed with happiness. Unemployment suited you. You would sneak over and spend time with Matt. He told me of your faith and kindness. You lifted him up when I was busy saving babies. You thought you were so sly.
Little did we know the darkest days were coming. Losing Matt rocked me to my core. When others went back to their lives you were there. You mothered me. The days were cold and I was locked away in tears. You were there. Letting yourself in knowing I was alone. I'm not good company I'd say through my tears. I'm not here for company, I'm here for you. We would sit and cry together. Two mothers, friends, except it was you doing the holding as I fell apart on a daily basis. You'd bring me chicken soup and make me eat. I'm not leaving until you put something into your mouth. We would smile when I'd call you Mom. You scolded me for getting too skinny. You told me that Jesus had this when I questioned unanswered prayers. Your faith lifting me.
So here we were two unemployed ladies. You were still looking, you'd say with that perfect smile. I'm still getting used to being useless.
There were days I just couldn't move. I'd see you standing in my driveway on your cell phone as mine was ringing. Get dressed, I'm not leaving until you do. Don't make me come in there, I know your garage code. It became our joke. The weather broke and our walks took on new meaning. A friendship built strong on celebration and sorrow.
I can remember hearing your voice. I've been having a pain in my side. We both laughed it off. If we worried about every pain our old bodies felt we'd never move again. Both of us stating various aches and pains and laughing as we continued our walk.
Three days pass and I don't hear from you. I'm thinking you went to your place in Frankfurt to relax. My cell rings, I see your name. Hey, where you been. Your voice different. I'm in the hospital. The pain got worse and I'm nauseated. Oh God, I'll be there. No, I'm too tired for company. I just want to sleep. I respect your feelings as my nurse brain starts going crazy. I tell myself about pulled muscles, herniated discs, trying to keep calm until you call. It's cancer. I hear the words but don't hear. You are talking like you are telling me about a new haircut. I feel my throat tighten, my heart racing. What, what, no, no. Your calmness amazes me. I'm holding onto my counter for dear life as you tell me 3 months maybe a year. I try to keep the tears away, try to be as brave as you but I'm a failure. You tell me it will be ok. I'm losing my mind and you are comforting me.
You are away for three weeks. Too sick to come home. You will not let me come. I am sick, can't eat. I look at your house for signs you are there. I'm bugging Kelly everyday about you. Trying to be strong as I walk your grandson telling him stories about my amazing friend. I love him for you.
You are coming home. In my denial I let myself think everything will be back to normal. We will return to us and our friendship will continue. I'm standing on my deck when I see the ambulance pulling into your driveway. I hug myself as the sobs come. My beautiful friend, my rock is home. At first you will not let me come. I let you have your way for a bit. Then I become you. Hey, I have your garage code. Don't make me come in there. I will not go on like this. We have shared too much. I need to see you. I'm selfish. I need you.
At first you can sit in a chair. You are frail. Your baldness making your beautiful eyes pop. I tell you that bald is beautiful, we laugh. I talk, you listen as I can see the weariness on your face. You fight to keep your eyes open. I hold your hand and tell you I love you. I hold back my sobs until I'm cutting through our yards. Memories of the short cut from our back doors flood my mind. I become a daily visitor. You are now bedridden, this is happening too fast. You spend most of our visit with closed eyes as I hold your hand. You tell me your mom has been visiting. My heart tells me it won't be long, my mind fights the inevitable. Now your family is coming. I don't want to intrude. I keep in touch with your daughters. I watch as cars come and go. I can stay away no more. I come and sit. You are leaving. I tell you again that I love you. That you have meant the world to me. I try not to let you hear my voice as it cracks with raw emotion. I ask you to give Matt a hug and tell him how he is missed.
One breath and you are gone. A sweet peaceful death. Just slipping away. For once Jesus answered my prayers.
Now I am re broken. My heart shattered with another life altering loss. I sit and look at your house. Your bike on the porch. Your pumpkins sitting on the front steps. I close my eyes and see you standing in my driveway. Smiling. Hey, you coming or am I coming in. My life will never be the same. I will remember your wisdom and your faith. I will walk our walk carrying you in my heart. I will open the bottle of white in my fridge and drink to a friendship that truly was a gift from God. Be at peace my dear friend. Until we meet again.