I lost a friend yesterday. More than a friend. She was my best friend, my sister, my daughter. Our relationship was simple, layered, open, complex and mysterious. It was what I always hope to find in dear friends who bring color and meaning to my life.
And it hurts dreadfully that she is gone.
I have not blogged in months because of her. Not that she caused writers block so much as her needs took time, attention, focus and energy away from other hobbies and pursuits. In the triage of what to do with my spare time, a lot of things got squeezed out over the course of the last 8 or 9 months. I work. I spend time with M and other close friends. I struggle with my own mindset and funks. And I gave freely of everything I had available and juggled more to help her. Put your own oxygen mask on first they tell us in the emergency procedures presentation while flying. I did that for the most part, but I willingly sacrificed other pleasures in the short-term for the long-term gain that is my friend. I noticed the encroachment, that I seem to be postponing my own life and goals in pursuit of helping my friend.
It was worth it.
I gave freely of all that. This morning, sitting at my laptop feeling gutted by her absence and knowing our 2-way conversation is now over, I feel no regret for pushing aside what I did to make room for her and caring for her needs. I feel only the empty loneliness of the space in my heart and mind she occupied so fully.
My closest friends, we are tribe. This is a term I have lately learned is offensive to many. I. Don’t. Care. In this realm, political posturing has no standing. In my realm, my family is tribe, and tribe is family. In my realm, tribe trumps family.
Serenity was tribe.
We met a few years ago, when I was caring for her grandfather’s day-to-day financial affairs. I liked her immediately. A beautiful, charming woman in her own right, she was shy and socially awkward while supremely confident in her intelligence and physical power and grace. As we worked together and got to know each other better, the barriers dropped quickly and the real person came tumbling out of both of us.
Despite the 28 year age gap, we became close friends. When in town to see her grandfather, we would have meals out, shop, drink coffee, and gossip like schoolgirls. Her big giant intellect and wicked sense of humor were intoxicating, and our adventures were saturated in lingering belly laughs and a growing library of inside jokes.
Rennie-isms became a thing in my life.
When her world crashed this year and emotional and mental illness consumed her heart and mind, crippling her in ways she could not fully process or understand, I stood by and supported her as she fought the good fight to gain mastery and control over her demons. Dragon slaying, we called it. It was not always easy to be her friend, but I stood by her steadfastly with both compassion and doses of reality, neither of which she fully appreciated me bringing much of the time. We worked through breakdowns in her spirit, emotional temper tantrums about life’s shoulds in the world according to Serenity, rages against the unfairness of the hand she had been dealt, terrifying despair when she wanted to give up and give in and let the dragon consume her whole.
But she had courage and grit and was the strongest person I know. She was my friend. I fought fiercely beside in her the battle for her heart, mind, soul. And I would give much for the opportunity to do it all over again.
Making people better versions of themselves was her superpower. I know, because I am lucky to have benefitted from it. I myself to be a better human being, wife, mother, friend from the opportunity to know her and be her friend-sister-mother.
For someone as intelligent, disciplined, and complex, she was supremely lonely inside. When we met, work consumed her and was her only real passion in life. From personal experience, putting the job first is an active defense against being alone and feeling lonely, of taking risks with people in a real and engaging manner. I know her concept of love and family were skewed and the idea of needing either was deeply discounted when we met. There are so many great compliments from her in our time as compadres, but perhaps the nicest is that she found me authentic, down-to-earth, and real.
In this, we mirrored the best aspects of one another.
Loss comes with challenges. How to let go and go on. How to process sadness and grief. How to adjust to a world with such a vital life force no longer in it. I draw no comfort from practical knowledge that life continues and I will go on living and thriving. My heart is broken under the numbing anesthesia of shock. I am an anger ball about to explode.
Mostly, I miss my friend. I fear life in a world without her in it. But from personal experience, I know life does continue with joys and sorrows.
Almost 23 years ago my daughter died suddenly and unexpectedly. She was 12 and my world was shattered. Our year of firsts did not start with Thanksgiving as it does this time, but every holiday, every family celebration since then I envision an empty chair at whatever table I am at. No matter how many people I like and love are crowded around me, there is always an empty chair where she should sit, where she is always with me in my mind. Her final words to me – I love you, mommy – echo inside my head.
There is peaceful comfort in that. Our world is a smaller place without you in it, I wrote at the time. The circle shrank again yesterday with this fresh loss.
For my dear Serenity, she is out of pain and at rest. That I and others will never forget her is tribute to her spirit and her who-she-is. In the last year, she learned about love and about meaning. Her star shined brighter, illuminating where we thought no more light was needed.
Today we struggle in the dim, her light extinguished. We mourn, grieve, go on. Love heals, I told her. My hope is that my affection and care and love for her sustain us in as we find our way forward without her.
Rest in peace, Serenity Grace. You are forever loved and will always be missed.