I’m not sure where to begin or even if I should write this, but writing is the way I deal with things that don’t make sense, and one of my oldest and most life-loving friends dying from cancer, definitely doesn’t make any sense.
I had my usual Monday rundown post all ready to go but, it just seems so pointless now. I can’t be anything other then myself in this space and, right now I feel sad and lost and really, really pissed and couldn’t care less about how many miles I ran last week or what was on TV.
As you probably know, ovarian cancer killed my mother in 1993, when she had just turned 43. Cancer claimed my friend Julie’s life this past week at nearly the same age. I was 17 when my mom died and she seemed kind of old to me at the time. Now that one of my friends died close to that age, it seems disgustingly young. I now know what my mom’s friends were going through when she passed. It feels like a kick to the stomach, like an overwhelming sadness and like it could happen to anyone.
I’m reliving my mom’s death all over again, while feeling for the first time the crushing sadness that can only come from something so fucking tragic and senseless, that these words do it no justice. But words and pictures are all I have so I will do my best to honor my friend here. I know she would have approved of the title.
Julie was a swearer, a party girl, a live-out-loud woman who was strong and outspoken. We met where I meet all my best friends – at the gym. Because we shared the same brutal honest way of looking at the world and lived with fervor and passion, we were instant friends. I was at her wedding (and, years later, talked to her though a divorce), I remember when her two sons were born and I even moved into the same neighborhood she and her family lived in. She was a staple at my “girl’s nights,” we drank heavily together every chance we got and our usual response to “how’s it going?” was “I’m just living the dream” with a heavy dose of sarcasm. But really, life was a dream.
I have so many great stories I could share about Julie. When you’re friends with someone as long as we were, there’s a lot of memories. Not all of them are shareable or good but that’s what makes a lasting friendship. However, there is one story in particular that I keep coming back to. It’s a story we would tell over and over as the years passed. It’s the one about how she found out I was pregnant.
In 2008 at eight weeks pregnant, I went for my first doctor appointment. Because they had an ultrasound in the office, they decided to have me do one just to hear the heartbeat and check things out. I protested since I was alone and I didn’t want my husband to miss it. The doctor insisted that it was no big deal and that I would have at least two more when there was much more to see and hear. Well, I got the shock of my life during that ultrasound when I discovered there was not one baby but two!
I was in a panic and it took me several hours to compose myself and leave the doctor’s office. I had to call my husband and tell him the news over the phone. He was driving and had to pull over. With my head spinning and making rapid-fire phone calls to my closest family, I realized I had to get on with my work day.
At the time I owned a personal training studio and I had a meeting with two men who happened to work at Julie’s office. I was discussing the possibility of me incorporating a health and wellness assessment and plan for their company. Before we started the meeting, and without thinking, I told them I wasn’t sure how productive this meeting was going to be because I had just gotten the absolute shock of my life. I told them the news and then we moved on.
A little while after the meeting ended, my phone rang and it was Julie. I was still not connecting the dots but she was! Now, I have to remind you that #1 no one even knew I was trying to have a baby, let alone the fact that I was pregnant and #2 absolutely no one but my immediate family knew I was having twins since I had literally found out that day. This is how the conversation went:
Julie: Um, I just heard this really weird story from Jim and Dave that you’re pregnant and with twins. So of course I know this can’t be true because how can two guys who work in my office who don’t even know you, know this news when I, one of your best friends have no fucking clue. Can you explain this please?
Me: OMG Julie I didn’t even think about that and yes it’s true and can you believe it? I’m freaking out, OMG OMG!
And it went on like that. She was laughing and calming me down and for years would tell the story about how Jim and Dave knew about my twin pregnancy before she did. It was a classic.
Six years later I would be calling her and begging her to tell me the news I just heard about her stage four lung cancer being a horrible rumor. Unfortunately it was the beginning of a 10-month nightmare for her.
I’m grateful for her friendship
I’m grateful for the time I had with her
I’m grateful I was able to celebrate one last birthday with her
I’m grateful I was able to see her in the hospital and tell her how much I loved her before she died.
I’m grateful I’m a runner because the only time since hearing of her passing that I felt a little bit ok was on a run
I’m grateful but I’m not happy and I’m not buying into the bullshit of her “being in a better place” because that’s all the same shit people said to me when my mom died. Her place was here and it’s not fair and it’s not right that she’s not here anymore. Like my mom, she made the world a better place and she had so much more life to live.
I will never accept that this happened.
There’s no need to leave a comment today. I’m writing in this space because this is what I do, and I wanted to share something good and funny and comforting about my friend. I would close comments if I knew how to do that, but I don’t.
Instead of commenting, tell your friends how much you love them and appreciate them, let go of petty disagreements and hug your kids…and then drink a toast to life and to Julie, because that’s what she would do.