Celebrating You

August marks more than just the ending of summer, it also serves as a reminder that you are no longer with us.  It is a reminder of how precious life is and how quickly you can fade into distant memories.

Fourteen years ago, my dearest friend passed away in an awful accident.  It was shocking to all of us and jolted me into reality.  When you’re young, you have this mentality that nothing bad can happen to you.  We are invincible!  Sadly, that is not the case.

I remember the day clearly.  The way the storm clouds floated above in the summer heat.  It was a rare summer thunderstorm, which I thought was very strange for early June.  I vividly see the darkness in the clouds, an image my mind will not let me erase.

I was sitting in the theater on a date when I kept feeling my phone vibrate.  I was annoyed at the idea that someone would be bothering me as I was trying to live my life.  I stepped out to return my sisters six or seven missed calls and heard, “Mary is dead.”  I thought nothing of it.  I remember responding with condolences as she too had a friend with the same namesake.  “No, not my Mary.  Your Mary.”

My mind went blank as my world came to a halt.

That day changed my life forever.  It marked an ending to a life, dreams, and laughter.  I struggled to cope with the loss for a very long time.  I not only lost a friend, but I also lost myself in the ghost of you.

I have avoided celebrating you for a long time.  I fantasized for the first few years that you were traveling somewhere, and we would get together to celebrate later.  I disguised my grief with laughter as I struggled to let go of you.

I used to focus on the things you were missing out on when your birthday came around.  I would focus on another year without you, your laughter, or spark for life.  I would wallow in the thought of you not being here to celebrate my latest accomplishment or give me one of your famous pep talks when I felt the world was falling apart.  All of that vanished when you passed and I did not realize how good my life was with you in it until you were not around to cheer, root, or share your caring words with me. 

Summer has always been my favorite time of year.  Mostly because we spent so many summers together swimming and chatting about boys.  I enjoyed beating you at basketball and you accusing me of cheating because you couldn’t stand to lose.  I miss riding ATV’s around with you, and when we started driving cars cruising around driving around aimlessly. I miss our dance routines you would choreograph; I miss it all.  I miss you.

Summer always brings back the ache in my chest as your birthday comes and goes.  My mind fills the gaps of the void in my life.  Would you be married with kids?  A teacher?  Where would you be at this time in your life?  The story I have created about you in my head is beautiful and tragic because you are not here to live it.

Instead of making a mental note like I always do on your birthday, I decided that I would celebrate what would have been your 35th birthday.  It is a hurdle that I knew I needed to tackle this year.  Celebrating you felt right as I have worked hard to grieve you. 

I did not want to let the day come and go and not acknowledge that it was your day.  After all, it was a day you enjoyed reminding me that I was so much older than you – a whole year and a half to the date older than you.  I roll my eyes as I type that out remembering how funny you thought it was to remind me of how much “older” I was.  

So, on your birthday this year I lit candles and sang happy birthday to you.  I felt a calmness about your passing that I have never felt.  The idea of letting someone go is painstaking because the sentiment is leaving that person behind, but I now know that it is not the case.  I can make peace with the fact that you are gone physically but find comfort in the memories I hold dearly.  Moments of happiness that still make me laugh at how silly we were. 

 Despite the heartache I feel for you not being here, I am happy that you were part of my life for eighteen years.  Those are moments I cannot get back but am so lucky to have.  I was learning what true friendship was and had the gift of an incredible friend for the first part of my life.  Had I known then what I know now, I would have held you a little tighter and would have let you win a game of basketball here and there. 

My longing for you won’t ever lessen, but the idea of you being up above rolling your eyes at the latest idea I am concocting makes me smile widely.

I love you.