Shattered — A Bestie Story of Love & Friendship

The strong, sicky sweet smell of lilies never fails to riot my belly. When I breathe them in, transported back to your service, scores of memories tear a path up from my heart to my brain.

Even now, I miss you with a fierceness that makes me want to jump into the afterlife and beat the crap out of you for leaving.

Rational? No.

No, but if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that grief isn’t rational, nor delicate. It’s snot-slinging, messy, headache and heartache, forgetting to eat, not caring about anything through a pain moment of years that binds trauma and emotions to… well, everything.


When the cancer was first diagnosed, I felt like it was a big joke, someone would jump out from behind the proverbial curtain and say “HA just kidding. I won’t take her. She’s too precious to many people. Her light can’t be dimmed. It’s just the way it is. She is so much more than this stupid disease.”

Watching you waste away eight years ago with double pneumonia — as a result of chemo — and on a ventilator made no sense. Four days after your getting off the ventilator, and my family moved across the country. I will never forget standing in your parents’ driveway, tears streaming down both of us, your Dad and my son, prying our grasping arms apart from each other.

And then you beat it.

After watching the chemo almost take you first, a clean bill of health seemed like a win which could be revoked at any second, and we celebrated, quietly at first, like oh-don’t-get-comfortable-here, but as time went on we became more and more set in the space of “it’s gone,” we can relax.

And we did.

Little did we realize, the clock was still ticking.


We went back to being the best kind of besties: supportive, loving, you-are-my-person besties. We took vacations together, made the trek across the country to visit, talked and texted all the time, and each time we saw each other it was as if no time had passed; we knew all was right with our world. When one had a work issue, or a friend issue, or a boy issue, any issue, it was worked through by communicating to that one person who was so completely safe and protective. It was just that way with us, from the minute we met, decades ago.

The parking lot was pretty full, I’d never eaten here, but meeting friends for a coffee, late 90’s time-frame. Unfolding from the car, stretching after a long drive, first weekend ever where I left my kids with my mother-in-law, and while I was nervous, I knew I needed a break. Walking in, the bored hostess greeted me and I waved past her as I saw my group sitting in a cracked booth. Walking up, enveloped in hugs I saw a woman smiling at me. Something energetic and profound passed between us. I sat across from her and we introduced ourselves. It was like a cheesy romance novel only on a bestie plane: we instantly connected and those bonds never faded. I can still see your smile, hear your laughter.

It’s strange as I sift through the thousands of memories of your ready smile, warm hugs and generous heart, that when we met, through mutual friends all those years ago, it was like no one else existed. We sat at the table at a coffee-and-donuts-place and felt like we had come home.

You used to say frequently, we would outlive the men in our lives and be little old ladies, cussing up a storm, sitting on the porch in rockers at night, looking out at the mountains, cackling at the stars over inside jokes.


Remember that time, when I was heartbroken because my ex cheated, leaving me with two little ones to raise, and you were ready to commit murder, and instead opted to concoct a plan to put cranberry juice in the gas tank of his motorcycle? And, when we got to the house where he was living with my ex-friend, we suddenly couldn’t do it, the dictates of your sobriety, decades strong, said “Turn around and think about this.” And you said, “Dammit! I’d have to make amends.” I recovered, of course, from that broken heart, with your support, but I love that story because it’s the crux of who you were. Even though you were so angry and protective and watching me barely hold it together, you couldn’t harm him. You held me as I sobbed and you said, “There is life after him.” Once again, you were right.

When my Mom suicided, when your ex also cheated, when your Dad passed, when I went back to school in my 40’s and started on a new career trajectory, when we lost multiple fur-babies, when other friends faded, when, when, when… We’ve been together through all the barbed-wire, high-tree-sitting, confrontational, horrifying, appalling, bloody, joyous, traumatic, complex, moments, years, lifetimes for and with each other.

When I needed to sober up after my mom died, you told me that I was skating on the edge of the pond and pretty soon I was going to fall through the ice and that if I didn’t stop it, I stood to lose everything I’d worked for. You walked through the insanity of early recovery, helped me, bit your tongue, and never gave up on me. Every year on my dry-date, you would blow up my phone and badly sing “Happy Birthday,” and say “I’m so proud of you.”

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You would remember, even when I would forget and judge myself, how hard it was for me as a child growing up in the dysfunction and abuse. When my career turned this direction, to help others, you were my biggest cheerleader and support. When you decided to quit corporate and work with animals, we walked through what that looked like, and I held your hand and we sat in the fear. You were so freaking strong, and you didn’t always know it. I told you every chance I got.

You had this amazing humility and humor. You were there for and with my kids every birthday, every milestone, for every hug. One Christmas Eve when they were little and my son was worried that Santa wouldn’t be able to get to our Christmas tree because we didn’t have a fireplace, you stood outside their bedroom window and rang bells on a freezing cold night, and when they didn’t wake up to hear them but snored through it, you kept ringing those bells until you were frozen through. We laughed and put baby powder and boot prints on the floor next to the laundry chute, to simulate Santa stomping around: “Plan B,” you said.

Our master plan was this: my son finishes college and we move to the mountains, have houses next door to each other, and we live out our days, you helping animals and me helping other developmental trauma survivors. We hike and bike and see live music. Dance with our hearts. “That’s my Bestie!” you would always chime. We were two halves of the same whole.

My heart is heavy with my pain. There are so many layers, complicated nuanced, HARD pieces, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. All the people you touched in your sobriety and helped on that journey. All the families who’s beloved fur-babies that you helped to transition. All the goofy things we did, all the laughter. Your joy when I talked you into kayaking the first time and you loved it, just like I do, skimming the surface of the water, splashing me, your laughter echoing and racing away. Those moments were the best.


How many times did we hike mountains in Colorado, on vacation from our lives? Standing on the peak, knowing all was right in the world just because we were each other’s foundation. You would always joke and say it was too bad we were heterosexual, as we would have been the most amazing couple. I would respond that we were in love with each other’s souls.

That isn’t to say we didn’t argue: we most certainly did. When you have two stubborn, independent women who may get stuck in an agenda, it happens. The great thing about it, though, was that after a time out, we would come back and talk it out, usually end up teasing each other and laughing.

In October of the last year, when I was super-stressed with work and had taken on too much, you said “Okay, that’s it. I’m getting on a flight: my Bestie is too stressed.” You came for 5 days and it was like it always was. Little did we know it would be the last time you would feel good. You got back and had a scan and they found a tumor next to your spine. You would never call my phone during the work day, so when it rang, my heart dropped to my feet.

It was back.

It progressed and raged like a forest fire through your body.

After getting a call from your oncologist nurse on a Wednesday in early December, saying you were having brain surgery on Friday, that your spinal fluid was filled with cancer cells and saturating your brain, I caught a flight on Friday and walked into the hospital room Saturday morning with my son. You opened your eyes and said “Hi,” like we had just seen you the day before, then you realized you hadn’t. With a squeak, you held out your hands, gripping my cold ones and tears rolled from your beautiful brown eyes.

After seeing you in December, after the brain surgery, when the doctors said you couldn’t beat this, after my denial period was over, my inner mantra very quickly became “Please take her sooner rather than later, she’s suffering so much.” It’s beyond painful to watch someone you love, now a shell of their former vibrant self, tormented in physical misery.

In January, we went up to see you again.

You were so skinny. Everything hurt and it was hard for you to hold a conversation, you’d fade in and out. I sat by your bed and held your hand, fed you and brushed your teeth while I talked endlessly about our lives and how entwined we were and how much love we had.

The powerlessness I felt watching you navigate the cancer, the pain you were in, the harsh drugs, all of the bi-products of pouring poison into the body will forever be etched on my heart. Holding your head up so you could take a sip of water, you said one time, “You didn’t sign up for this,” and I said, “Yes, I did.” Didn’t matter what was needed, whatever light and love I could give you, it was my honor to do it.

Your humor never left. At one point, someone passed gas and you opened one eye and said, “Ewww… whoever did that, needs a toilet.” My son and I cracked up and I heard your laughter one last time.

Leaving to come home from that trip was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, knowing that I wouldn’t be back before you passed.


You slipped away peacefully, in your sleep, we all weren’t there with you, and I know you wanted that. A beautiful butterfly flitting into the next realm.

When our important people pass, it feels like the world should stop and take a moment, but that doesn’t happen. People get up, go to work, write articles, live their lives. Part of me just wanted to yell “STOP! You don’t get it, she’s gone, how does this thing called life even work now?”

My pain comes in waves: it’s tangible, suffocating, and overwhelming. And yet, I would do it all again knowing the outcome. I wouldn’t give up one second of being your Bestie. I will be immobile in my heart trying to shake off the concrete shoes of this grief for a long time.

That’s okay. It sucks to feel this way, to miss you so much I can’t breathe sometimes, and I honor that in myself. It means I’ve loved with my whole heart, and unexpected love is such a rare, true gift.

So! Bestie, if you are listening today, know that I’m continuing with our plan, moving to the mountains and still helping others. My son is graduating college this year and is coming with me. I’m fulfilling our dream.

It doesn’t mean it’s easy to go on without you. You imprinted yourself upon me in a way no other relationship ever has. Your unwavering courage in the face of such a horrible disease and treatment is a lesson I will never take for granted. Missing you — missing us — is part of my heartbeat today.

But, you’d be the first one to say “You have to keep going, move on, take our dream and run with it. Keep helping others, staying authentic, bring yourself to the table, no matter who’s table you are eating at.”

So I am. Some days are easier than others. Grief has a way of expanding your soul, to encompass the intensity and break down any barriers and expectations you think you have as a human being.

I’ll see you on the hikes, Bestie, and around the porch in the evenings.