Losing a Friend
Every time I make a roasted chicken or fettuccine. When I make a mustard-olive oil sauce for steamed artichokes. When I think of Richmond. Every couple of days just because.
These are some of the times I think about my friend Lynn. I met her my sophomore year of college when she was my supervisor at work and although she was seventeen years older, we clicked right away. She was passionate, artistic and had a tendency to overthink like me but she also taught me to enjoy the finer things in life like a really good meal. My love for food and cooking skyrocketed during those years. She would teach me how to turn a simple meal into something gourmet. A roasted chicken became an almost sensual experience by ripping it up into shreds and hand-tossing it with quality fettuccine, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and herbs.
We had dinners together regularly and she was one of the few female friends in college that I really connected to and felt I could truly be myself. She had a love of film and music like I did and introduced me to everything independent. I'll never forget that her favorite film was Babette's Feast.
She suffered from depression and poor self-esteem and while I knew that about her, it was hard to wrap my head around it because she brought such joy into my life and she had so much to offer. I used to get angry that she would let men treat her like a piece of meat and watch her get her heart broken when she deserved so much more. It got to the point when I almost couldn't hear about it because it made me too sad.
A few years after meeting her I moved to Los Angeles to start my post-college life. She came to visit and we kept in touch regularly with long-distance calls. This was before social media so it took a lot of effort to keep in touch with East Coast friends. I enjoyed our calls but her behavior seemed to get worse after I left and she seemed to continue to self-sabotage with unhealthy relationships and an overall air of desperation. I hated feeling judgemental at the time because I cared so much about her but I was still in my early 20s and was close to marrying my (first) husband at the time. We lost touch after continuously playing phone tag and I just kind of gave up. The time difference made it difficult to call at a reasonable hour and I was driving a lot to go visit my then boyfriend in the Marine Corps. It honestly just became too difficult to maintain the friendship. So we kept in touch a little through Friendster when it started but she also disappeared off the map.
It hit me like a mac truck driving straight into my chest.
Fast forward four years or so into my marriage and I find out that she died. It hit me like a mac truck driving straight into my chest. I still get a muted version of that feeling whenever I think about her, which is every two to three days. Some weeks it's multiple times a day.
Lynn had gotten gastric bypass surgery right before we met and had lost a substantial amount of weight. I remember when she got her skin removal surgery (it's hard to remember when that was but I think it was after I moved) and it caused her a lot of pain. Excruciating pain, in fact. I heard this second-hand from a friend of hers but she coped with the physical and emotional pain by drinking. When we were hanging out regularly she was pretty good about limiting her intake of food and alcohol so she didn't reverse the bypass but I guess she wasn't able to stick with it. She started drinking a lot after I left. At some point between the short amount of time we lost touch and her death, her doctor said if she didn't stop drinking she would die. I guess she managed to stop for a little while but then it became too much. She drank herself into a coma and died of liver failure.
When I found all of this out I was living with my parents during a separation from my first husband. I remember not knowing how to act. I was devastated because I had taken her for granted and had always assumed that we could pick our relationship back up at any time. She was one of my closest friends in college and I thought she was a friend for life. Even if we had lost touch. I figured it was just one of those periods friends go through when one person moves away and then they find a way to get back in touch later. That opportunity never happened and then it was too late.
I still feel a deep ache in my gut when I think of her. For all the years she missed. For how much fun we would have now and how much she would have loved to be part of my life in California. Many days I think about what I would give to have a late-night session dishing on men and food and the best foreign film we watched that week. I would give anything just to have told her how much I loved her and appreciated her friendship before she passed. I spent years wondering what I could have done and felt terribly guilty over losing touch. Now I've learned enough about mental health and addiction to know that I couldn't have done anything to change the course of her life but it doesn't make the ache go away.
The ache from loss is unlike any other ache. It's a constant reminder to make the most of life and to never give up.
The ache from loss is unlike any other ache. It's a constant reminder to make the most of life and to never give up. Giving up would be disrespectful to her short life. I'm lucky enough to be here, so I better make the most of it. I want Lynn to be proud.
One Hard Look's Pinterest board on Grief.
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