I suppose this is just part of being a grown-up, but I am still, regularly, and awesomely struck at how grief can just spring back into your life and whack you in the face.
I lost a friend about four years ago. And though she’s no longer a part of my active, every-moment thoughts, I do find myself thinking of her often — usually sparked by something trivial or unidentifiable, usually unexpectedly.
When I arrived in downtown Nashville this summer, I was looking out the window of a shuttle bus at saloons and the Opry. My eyes started stinging and I started breathing in short little gasps. I don’t know why — but something about the neon and cowboy boots and possibility-of-crazy-single-girl-anticsness of it all reminded me uniquely of her. Sometimes I think I see her — I’ve run into her at Target buying Oreos — and just the other day, she was driving behind me on the highway.
Today, another friend sent me this article about An Unfinished Friendship. She said it struck her just so and made her think of our missing friend. It hit me, too.
“What I didn’t realize then, or at the time of Nicole’s death, is that friendships often curve back around as we get older. There’s no master schedule that says X happens at this age and Y happens at that age, so we don’t necessarily go through certain experiences at the same time as our friends. We’ll all have our first kiss at some point and we’ll all go through a period when we feel stuck in our jobs, but in our teens and even in our early 20s, we don’t have the perspective to understand how little the ‘when’ matters in the long run.”
And especially this:
“What makes me saddest now is not the loss of my childhood best friend, but the fact that we never got a chance to find each other again as adults.”
We’ve often spoken of our friend and the questions we have about her memory — will she age with us? Will she remain perfectly, perkily 23 (23!) as we age around her? Will it always feel like she’s out there somewhere, serving in the Peace Corps in some remote location or lavishly taking lovers across Italy, fulfilling some 23-year-old fantasy the rest of us were too reserved to see through? I don’t know. But I do know that as time goes on, I miss the possibility of her almost more than the actual her. Our friendship, hers and mine, was built on mutual close friendships and infatuations. We were heading toward being Christmas card friends, I think, both involved in our studies and careers, seeing each other only on holidays when everyone was back in town and gathering. But I’ve often wondered where our relationship would’ve ended up.
Grief still grabs me from behind. And when it does, it’s usually because I’m thinking of her and missing that chance to see where life would have taken us both — us all.