I lost a friend recently. We hadn’t talked for a while when I found out the bad news. No reason other than I haven’t talked to anyone for a while, really. Instead, I spend my time inundated with little people goings-on. (I have two boys now, in case you’re counting: One almost four-year-old and one four-month-old). Our last exchange was just before the birth of my second child. I can’t believe I didn’t ask more about her: How was she? What was new? When would we see each other? Alas, I was too wrapped up in the upcoming birth and riding on the tail end of a nasty pregnancy during which I was constantly ill. That said, I’m disappointed we hadn’t seen each other in so long – disappointed I couldn’t carve out a few extra minutes to catch up on the phone. I wonder, did she know how much she meant to me when she died? Did she really understand how special she was to me? I hope she knew. I hope she knew she shaped me. I feel like I should’ve made more of a priority to tell her so.
Like anyone reeling from the death of someone dear, I feel pangs of guilt and sadness that it wasn’t enough time together. She certainly empathized with the challenges of losing yourself within motherhood, having two (now adult) girls of her own. In fact, one of the last really long and deep phone conversations we had was right after I had my first son. I couldn’t wait to tell her all of the details, ask what she thought I should do about a million different things, cry to her, etc. She helped me so much in a way that only she could – by slinging a “That’s bullshit,” or, “Who gives a shit?” in her Swedish accent, always with a chuckling undertone. That was her: quick to laugh, cut the bullshit, do what works for you and fuck anyone who doesn’t like it. But she wasn’t rude about it. And certainly not foolish, immature, entitled or, more importantly, afraid to live. Actually, she totally lived. She was fearless. Never afraid to put herself out there. Have a little fun. She jumped right into things she felt passionate about. She wasn’t afraid to move to a new city, invest in a new venture, start a business, lose everything, profit, fail, because she knew it was all bullshit.
She loved to laugh. She was real. Flawed. She had her own demons like we all do, of course, but never pretended to be perfect in the first place. She lived – perfectly imperfect. Balls to the wall, no excuses for a town or a career or circumstances that didn’t work for her. Always learning, always evolving. Her husband and family came first and as long as they were okay everything else was bullshit.
She taught me so much about life and about love. She loved unabashedly. Ferociously, even. She was also pragmatic. Nothing was really a big deal. You want to do something? Then do it. Nothing was that complicated. Live a little. Risk. Fail or succeed. Sink or swim – no matter.
Reflecting on who she was, I feel grateful and blessed to have had any piece of her because I will take her with me everywhere I go. I feel grateful that she thought enough of me to include me in her inner circle – that I got to know who she really was. And she knew who I really was – to the core. All of the good and bad.
When I think of the last time we saw each other, I can’t help but be pained by the realization that it was so long ago. I know I’m repeating myself but I just can’t believe how much time has passed. Years even. Of course we kept up with each other on Facebook and had the occasional phone call but, really, once I became a mother our relationship took a back seat. Of course she had her own life, too – her own husband, children, business ventures, relocations, etc. – but I can’t help but feeling so sad that I let all of that time pass without seeing her. She got it, I know. This motherhood thing is hard: being 100% in the moment caring for young children means letting everyone else go for a little while. And I’m okay with letting go. But losing her? No, I wish I hadn’t let go at all. Not even an inch. But that’s life. I can hear her say, “It’s an ebb and flow, baby.”
Still, I feel deeply sad. Sad that I will miss out on the rest of her life and that she’ll miss out on mine (because couldn’t we just pick back up after I passed the cloud of babydom someday? I’m pretty sure that was our plan). She wouldn’t tolerate the sadness, though. No, she would want me to live. She would want me to make every day positive and great. To pick up and do something new. Get uncomfortable. Risk it all and stop apologizing. Kiss passionately. Love recklessly. Smell the ocean. Be opinionated. Make love not war. Act instead of dwell. So, that is what I will do.
To my dear Anetteska: Even in your death, you continue to teach me. Your voice resonates in my head and your smile lingers in mind’s eye. I pray that neither fade away. Nonetheless, I promise to always keep your spirit alive. For you, I will unapologetically live in the moment. I will kiss the ocean, thinking of you, and there will be no white flag above my door.