I was in my early twenties, and in a horribly abusive relationship. I couldn’t even say the words out loud. So, I wrote them on a yellow post-it note and pushed it over the reception desk at her.
Patty was a friend I made at my first job out of college. She was old enough to be my mom, but we connected on a sweet and soulful level. She had black hair that fell in natural spirals around her face.
Sometimes I called her Aunty.
Or Ladybug. She looked amazing in red, with all that black hair and her dark eyes.
Like a brilliant Ladybug.
I’ll never forget how she looked at me when I told her that news, her face full of abiding comfort. She didn’t say much, but her quiet understanding allowed me to feel everything would be alright.
It was one of the truly kind things anyone ever did for me.
Long story short, I ended up terminating the pregnancy. Then I went pretty crazy for about a year.
Patty never judged me. She never chastised me. She never made me feel anything but loved and supported. When I look back on that time in my life, I see her as a huge part of my healing during a time when my heart and soul was torn in two.
She was a bright spot in a decade that was filled mostly with dark loneliness and trauma for me.
I learned Patty died recently.
Suddenly, but not suddenly.
She’d been ill but hopeful about her treatment. She died in her sleep.
The last time I saw Patty was when Emily was a newborn. We had gone to lunch and Patty held my irritable, little daughter while I wolfed down a tuna melt. We talked about hard economic times. We talked about her niece who was working in the City and had several kids of her own. Patty never had children. She never really elaborated on this fact, just that it was not meant to be for her. She was a private person who never got deeply into her own story, but would listen to the tales of another all day.
She loved children and seemed happy to hold Emily and coo at her while I ate.
It feels like it was last week, this lunch.
We emailed a few times over the past couple years. I took it for granted that she was there. I thought of her when I saw sunflowers.
When I changed jobs a couple months ago, it struck me that I was working right down the street from her and that I should call her up for a lunch or a coffee. But I was busily settling into my new job, then rushing home to tend to my family. I figured I would get to it. Eventually.
I figured I had all the time in the world.
I didn’t know that lunch so many years ago would be the last time I would hug my friend of nearly two decades. I suppose she didn’t know it either.
The shock, sorrow and grief at learning of her passing filled me and overflowed in salty tears.
I remembered so many times when she was just kind to me. Such a loyal and generous person. Her essence fills me with gratitude that I knew her, that she touched my life.
But it still hurts.
It is frustrating trying to keep up with all the people with whom I should keep up. Being a working mom I am pulled in so many directions, and being a highly sensitive introvert, I mostly want to hide in bed at the end of the day. I don’t know how to balance it all. I don’t know how to accept the grief that I missed another chance to connect with someone special and important.
May the glorious energy of her spirit soar free and tickle the flowers.