SO much has happened in nearly three years. So much so I couldn’t even begin to detail it all. Two of the main things that have happened have both been monumental in my life. One I will relate here, because it deserves its own separate post. The other I will tell in a separate post.
It has taken a really, really long time to be able to write about this.
I have a best friend who has been my friend for over 26 years. She was a little older than me, and I was not yet old enough to be drinking in the bar I met her in. I was casually dating a guy who was friends with her, and he introduced us. We were fast friends from that night on. We took trips together, shared each other’s lives and secrets….I was the maid of honor at her wedding, and she was the matron of honor at mine. She was godmother to my oldest daughter, and my BFF for life through everything. EVERYTHING. We had small disagreements over the years, but always found a way to preserve our friendship and we never had a fight, not even once.
In fact, one time a really really long time ago, a producer for the
Dont Want to Say Because Of Libel But The Show is Still on the Air Talk Show, back when it was first on the air, contacted us to ask us to appear on the show because of the topic: “Can Black Women and White Women Really Be Friends?”
That’s a young, fresh faced me on the left, shiny, glowing Paula on the right. We were interviewed, but we were rejected. You wanna know why? Because we WERE true friends. I had never slept with any man who was with her, nor she with anyone I had ever dated, we never had a fight, neither of us had ever stolen from the other or disparaged the other to anyone else, and we loved each other AND had never had sexual contact with each other. In short, we were too boring….there was no drama between us and we were not what the show was looking for.
My lovely, caring, charismatic, peaceful, fun-loving, giving, wide-hearted, most beautiful BFF of 26 years passed away on the evening of Sunday, March 7, 2010. She died in my arms, and the arms of several close family members, including her mother, two sisters and a niece, and another friend. She passed relatively peacefully, surrounded by love, and I am crying now even as I type this, remembering that night. I hate that I lost my best friend….I hate that she is not here any longer, and still, even now over two years later, I reach for the phone to call her when she crosses my mind…until I remember. So, so, sad.
At Paula’s final moments, she was sitting on the edge of her bed, feet on the floor, elbows on a pillow placed across her knees….she kept lying down and sitting up, lying down and sitting up, because her lungs were filled with fluid and she felt like she was drowning, she said. So she would sit up to breathe, but then vertigo would force her to lie back down. So she was sitting up, me sitting on her right, my left arm around her, her mom sitting on her left, her right arm around her, her sister Susan on her knees on the bed behind her, rubbing her back, her niece Autumn at her left leg, stroking it in the way she taught us to increase blood flow and relieve the pressure, her good friend Carrie at her right leg doing the same, and her sister Linda on the floor in front of her rubbing her thigh and murmuring loving words.
None of us knew she was going to die.
I mean, seriously, I think we ALL thought she was somehow going to “pull out of this”, and her sister Linda was even on and off the phone making hospice care arrangements and such, since Paula could not remain at home alone, and arranging shifts of people to care for her was hard for her family, none of whom live local to Paula. Everyone pitched in with every task and it was fine, and her teeny, tiny little apartment seemed to magically expand to accommodate however many people needed to be in it at any time. We didn’t know she was going to die.
Paula knew. She kept that to herself, though, and just smiled and nodded when the rest of us babbled our “you’re going to beat this”s and “you’ll get better”s and “next month let’s go to the beach, that’ll make you feel better”s and “we should have an epic party for your birthday in November”s. She knew.
I do believe that in moments of awareness and coherence, Paula was able to say what she needed to to everyone who was important to her. She said a lot of things to me, relived memories and experiences we had over our 26 years of friendship, and we laughed a lot, though quietly. The last private thing Paula said to me was “I love you. I’ll wait for you on the other side. Next go round we’re gonna rule the world, babe.”
Paula took her last breath, enfolded in that circle of love and peace, and left this world at a time of her own choosing. Just like she lived the rest of her life….the way she chose, no matter what anyone else thought. Can’t argue with that. But damn, do I miss her.
See you next go round, babe.