Witnessing the moment my best friend died…..

An experience like what I describe below is an experience one never forgets.

The following is long but its best to start out with how I came to be blessed with and to love my Best Friend.

M. and I were best friends from the womb. It’s true!

Our mothers were best friends. They both became pregnant at the same time. She was born only two months before me. Her in September, me in December. We were friends from the beginning of our lives. That is why I always considered her more of a sister to me.

We grew up together, played together. I used to wait for her at her house when my mother would be helping her mother with work. I would wait for her at her front door for her to come  home from school. We started our gaming together.

And she always envied my Strawberry Shortcake collection.

I didn't have quite this many, but almost. Memories...

I didn’t have quite this many, but almost. I also had the play house that came with the set. Memories…

Yet, I always envied her Cabbage Patch Kid collection.

More memories. And she even had the TWINS!

More memories. And she even had the TWINS!

We would always spend the night at each other’s houses. We even shared clothes. I remember we had other friends as our parents knew a lot of people in our Cult but it was always me and her.

As we got older, our paths stopped crossing. We both went to the same private school the Cult owned.  But I was set back in the 6th grade leaving her and a lot of my other friends to move forward while I stayed behind. Luckily, I made new friends but she was in Jr High and I was still stuck in elementary. We no longer shared the same adventures and friends as we used to.

In high school, she ended up going to a public school a year earlier than me at a school that was about 15 miles from where I ended up going to public school. Our paths never crossed much at all at that point. I made my own friends in my school though. But we still remained as close as we could, considering our distance.

She started college at U.C. San Diego during my Senior year in high school. I spent many weekends visiting her during my Senior year in high school, partying with her and her new circle of college friends.  Being that I didn’t have many friends at my own school, there was no reason for me to not visit her when I didn’t have to actually go to school.

I remember a few weekends in Tijuana. I remember getting super drunk and making out with one of her guy friends who I was super attracted to. I remember her drunk friends (not me) who she always ended up having to babysit at the end of the night.

Oh no she didn't

One night, I was at home and she called me up around 2am, crying. If you knew her, you would have known that she never cried. Half asleep, I asked her what is wrong and she tells me that one of her friends had gotten drunk and started making out with her boyfriend.

Well, I had my shoes on, my keys in my hand and I told her I would be over there in 1 hour (it took 2 1/2 hours to drive from my house to her dorm in San Diego) to kick this girls ass.  She soon realized that she may have had a mistake in calling me knowing that I would react this way. Again if you knew her, you would also know that she was the most non-confrontational and easy going person on the planet. That is why lots of different people were attracted to her and able to take advantage of her. Even the drunk sluts…

Needless to say, I did not kick anyone’s ass that night, which may have been a good thing.

Towards the end of her first year in college, she started to get really really tired. She later told me that she thought she was partying too much, and smoking and drinking too much or maybe the 1st year of college was taking its toll on her. So she cut down on smoking and drinking. But just before the end of her Freshman year in college she was sent to the ER because she was having trouble breathing.

We later found out, she had a large lump in her neck just at the collarbone and one crushing her lungs.

When it was thoroughly examined, she ended up with the diagnosis of Cancer, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

She was 18 years old.

She recovered from the initial onset of it and did her radiation treatments. She had a head full of dark lustrous naturally curly hair. And I mean the curls that are ringlets, all what God had given her. She never dyed it excessively and always kept is long.  Her hair was beautiful.

Within months of her treatments, it was gone. She was devastated. Myself and many of our other friends pitched in for hats and scarves to help her out. It was all we could do.

After a year of the treatments and her losing all her hair, she finally went into remission. She had 2 years of being cancer free.

Then it returned. She was 21.

This time it hit her harder. Some lumps were found in her feet and around her neck. She went back to treatments and lost all the hair she had just grown back. This lasted for about another year.

At this point, I had already met the man I was going to marry and later divorce. I remember when she first met him she asked him a million questions and he hated that. He didn’t like having questions asked of himself. But that is who she was. She wanted to know who her friend was dating. It was a gesture of concern that any good friend would do.

She was back in her home town, Pasadena, CA and rooming with another friend of ours. She smoked a lot of Marijuana to help her relax as she was just ending another round of treatments. Of course, I engaged in that with her. But quickly realized pot wasn’t my thing. Blegh….

She had already graduated from college but she wanted to pursue photography as a hobby so she took some classes at Pasadena City College (yup, the same place that I was Homecoming Princess). During this time, I was preparing for my wedding and she wanted to take some photos of me. She was actually really good. I remember she took some still photos of a martini shaker and martini glass. She gave a print to me and signed it. That photo is still hanging in my dining room to this day with her signature.

She used the colleges’ photography studios to take my portraits.  What came from this photo session was probably the most fun I’ve ever had and some photos of myself that I still, to this day, deny its me. She really captured me wonderfully.

Here were the best photos of that session:

I still remember this one. Just after she clicked the photo, I started cracking up. I couldn't keep a straight face. I was nervous.

I still remember this one. Just after she clicked the photo, I started cracking up. I couldn’t keep a straight face. I was nervous.

100_1747

I started laughing hysterically after this one to. It was HER idea to show, uh, more than I cared to.

That session was a riot! She was laughing a lot to only because I couldn’t keep a straight face to get any good photos. I had a pair of my glasses on so she wanted to use those as a prop. It was a lot of fun.  These photos were taking in 2001

Soon after these photos, I got married.  She had just turned 24 and I was about to turn 24. She had just finished her round of treatments and her hair was a cute little short cut. I remember I got her rhinestone hair clippies to wear.

Below is her and I at my Bachelorette night. She and two of our other friends took me to Saddle Ranch on Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood, CA.

MichelleandClaraBachorlerettePary

I rode the mechanical bull, got knocked off it, then drank a lot. Then they took me to a strip joint…needless to say, I got really drunk and passed out in a car, somewhere. That seems like a whole other lifetime ago.

I then got married and she worked for a little while but was always feeling so tired, listless. The below photo was taken at a 2002 New Year’s party. It was one of the last times she would live life normally.

1368037135499

In 2004, I had my son and she just happened to live right across the street from the hospital where I was at. She was one of the first people to visit me after I had given birth. At this point, she was starting to get dark spots all over her skin and her hair was not growing back as it used to. She never told me what the doctors really said was happening to her but her body was deteriorating. However, she always tried to function normally and refused to let any of us acknowledge that she needed help with things. 

Soon after that she moved out of her apartment that she was sharing with a roomate to move in with her parents in Pasadena. Of course, I wasn’t told why she did this but I knew it was so her parents could help her more. In the summer of 2005, her parents took her to the Caribbean and New York City, two places she has always wanted to go.

In September of 2005, her family threw her a 29th birthday party. Everyone she had ever known in the 29 years she was living, was there.  People came up from San Diego, even other countries like Ireland! (She travelled a lot during her college years and made friends in other countries). The aura of the party was always kept lively and fluffy, on the surface. But we all knew what each and every one of us was thinking.

She was dying.

At this party, there was one moment where she was to weak to get up from a soft chair she was sitting in. Some of us offered to help her up but, completely out of her character, she smacked their hands saying she didn’t need help. She didn’t say it loud or mean. She just really didn’t think she was dying. She probably couldn’t believe it.

Note:  The next part of this was VERY VERY hard for me to write. I believe it took me about two weeks to get my thoughts in order and get it all typed out. Many times, I had to just stop, the pain was more than I anticipated it to be.

The last time I was to “party” with my best friend was New Year’s 2006.

happy-new-years-2006

We were in Pasadena at a Steakhouse on Colorado Blvd. The group was our smaller, closer group of friends which included two other close girlfriends and their husbands, myself and her.

We ate and danced in the New Year. She was actually in really good spirits that night. She enjoyed her food and even danced a bit. But I’m sure she was forcing it.

Two weeks later, my mother called me at work.  It was Thursday, January 12, 2006.

“M. is in a coma”

I left work within seconds. I don’t even remember what excuse I gave my boss. I think it was that there was an emergency and I needed to go to the hospital.

I first went to my parents house and we all went together, my parents, my sister and my then 2 year old son. When we arrived, they only allowed a certain number of people in the room and no children so my father stayed outside with my 2 year old while my mother, sister and I went into her room. She was at the City of Hope.

She was hooked up to ever machinery imaginable. She was no longer really breathing on her own, the machines were doing it. Her skin was still so blotchy and full of dark spots. Her mother was there as well as her other family and friends of her mother’s and of our families.

I had been there for about an hour when I realized that my son had to get home. Since we all came in one car, my mother offered to take him home with my sister and father and my father would say home with him and my sister and mother would return to the hospital.

About 20 minutes after they left, we were all standing around her bed. Her aunt was rubbing her feet and had just put Phantom of the Opera (her favorite) in her ears with ear buds.

I can still see her breathing…very shallow, up and down, up and down…then. Nothing.

No movement at all. At this point, a lot happened all at once and all within 1-2 minutes.

Her aunt who was rubbing her feet said “she stopped breathing!” 

Then her father started yelling her name before crumpling onto the floor like a pile of clothes.

Her mother, at her bedside, was crying, more like screaming. I had known this woman for 29 years and had never seen her cry, ever.

I’m sure others in the room were crying but I only remember her father and mother.

I grabbed her mother’s hand with one hand, then grabbed my best friend’s cold hand in the other. I noticed something amazing happen to her body within these few seconds.

When I first saw her lying there, her skin was covered in blotches and dark spot.

draft_lens17652259module149837395photo_1303924668soul-rising

However, the moment she stopped breathing, I knew her soul had left her body because her skin instantaneously cleared up from the dark spots. It was like something you would see in a movie, some sort of CGI effect. Her skin just became clear and was like porclein.

It was the most amazing thing I’ve never seen in my life. Like magic. Like her body had become just a shell as her soul was lifted away.

I called my mother who was actually on the way back to the hospital with my sister and told her “she’s gone”…..

Everything I’ve stated here was absolutely true, there was no fabrications for drama effect. I experienced this.

At the age of 29, my best friend lost her 11 year battle to cancer.

That’s what I say!

 

I remember after her brother came in and he was in shock, absolutely speechless, I decided I couldn’t take it anymore and left with my mother and sister.

I got home and I believe I just passed out.

The next day was a Friday. I had planned a Disneyland visit (I had been taking The Boy to Disneyland since he was 10 months old and Fridays were my days off from work which was when I went).

I decided that I would go ahead and go. Below is a photo that was taken the day after my best friend died.

It is with Eeyore, both her favorite character and mine.

eeyore

The smile was very forced but I was still happy to be hugging something that she liked.

I spoke at her funeral. The church was filled with over 250 people. She touched many lives.

I know the preceding was extremly long and I thank you for taking the time to read it. This was yet another major part of who I am today. I miss her tremndously and know that my life would be so different if she was still walking it with me.

However, she was the sweetest and kindess person I had ever known. The only place left for her was with God.

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21 thoughts on “Witnessing the moment my best friend died…..

    • Yeah, she had the cancer, on and off, for 11 years. I still wished she was still alive to this day. I think she would have been the “friend you grow old with”. After she died, I realized that I really had no other friends. And that is where it stands now.

  1. very beautifully written with lots of love and tenderness; im sorry to hear about your best friend. its hard to watch someone be sick for so long and struggle and i can only imagine how difficult it is to watch her pass like that. as difficult as it is for the rest of us, my guess is there’s some comfort knowing she is with God and that she’s not struggling anymore. i lost my grandpa a little more than a year ago to cancer. it’s a wicked disease. it took him quickly – we only had six months, but in some ways it was good because those last couple of weeks were really tough my mom said (i couldn’t be there because he was in colorado). thank you for sharing this!

    • I’m sorry about your grandfather.
      Yeah cancer is awful. It’s been a few years since she died. But I felt mostly for her parents. It took them years to finally get her ashes that were in a jar off their Baby Grand Piano (it was her piano, she played) and finally into a grave site.

  2. I wanted to tell you, I was touched by what you wrote and it made me think to write my own journey with Hodgekins. My wife died one month after her golden (30th) birthday on the 28th of December 2012. She battled off and on (mostly on) for over 7 years. I spent her last breath with her as well. It was an amazing and beautiful experience, even if beyond sad in its own right.

    My wife also went to City of Hope, had her first stem cell transplant there. Then she moved to MN and spent the last 5 years of treatment at Mayo Clinic. Your journey, such a personal experience to share. It changes your life in ways others can never understand. It will shape the rest of your life, thanks for having the courage to share such an incredible friendship and the journey of life you experienced.

    • Thank you for your comments and I am so sorry about your wife.

      It was very hard to write this blog entry. Took me a few weeks to get through it. But I actually found therapy in writing out my feelings about her and about our relationship. I’ve been very lonely lately and miss her tremendously. I know that she would be on the adventures that I have gone on and sometimes that makes me sad. But not all the time 🙂

      • There is a certain beauty in sharing, and I really think the encouragement it would give would be a good thing to do.
        I really try to live my live and live my dreams. That is what my wife would have wanted, it is what she did. She got her Photography degree, and went on to start her graphic design degree knowing she wouldn’t finish. That is something incredible to me.
        I believe I can’t live any less, because that is not living up to her legacy and memory. That is what I always try to remember especially on the bad days.

  3. be thankful you once had a friend like her. she might have also been thankful that in her life she had a friend like you. I was 21 when I had cancer, I’m now 26 and cancer free, I can say that friends do help a lot

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  5. Thank you for sharing this extremely personal, and deeply touching, story. You did your friend a great service, keeping her memory alive and introducing her to us. It is a lovely tribute to her. She sounds like she was a wonderful, fun person. You both were so fortunate to have that bond with each other. Take care.

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