Best friends- they are the keeper of secrets, the ones to wipe your tears, share your dreams with, and who help shape your world views. They are often the ones right there helping families in the toughest of days.
Katie shares with us about the loss of her childhood best friend, Ali, and how she plans to keep her memory alive until they are reunited someday.
Today is May 22, 2020. It’s a picture-perfect Friday before a holiday weekend. There is not a cloud in the sky. Yet, days like today don’t feel the same as they did before August 16th, 2019. It’s almost hard to describe the feeling that I have as I type these words. Ali’s death is a reality that I couldn’t have ever imagined. It’s a reality that I often find asphyxiating. In all honesty, on more days than not, I refuse to accept it.
Ali and I grew up in the town of Churchville. A small, close-knit suburb of Rochester, NY. Ali and her family were our next-door neighbors in a neighborhood where families did basically everything together, including vacations! There were a lot of us kids in the neighborhood, albeit a little gender imbalanced. It was Ali and I and about 10 boys. We set up lemonade stands and played kickball in the front yards. Life was easy. Ali and I always talked about growing old together. As we got older we used to reminisce about the time when our two families first moved in. We lined up on our respective front lawns and introduced ourselves to one another. It was so awkward.
Through it all, Ali and I became the best of friends. Two total opposites became as thick as thieves. She was the beauty queen, I was the jock. Ali was a grade level ahead of me but we’re just over five months apart in age. We experienced so many of life’s firsts together. Riding a bike, learning to swim, boyfriends, and graduating from high school. We went on trips together and did all sorts of things that got us in trouble.
When I reflect back on my childhood, Ali is in every single memory. They are memories that I will cherish for a lifetime. As we grew older, our lives changed as most relationships do in adulthood. We had college, marriage, and careers. Although we saw each other less, we’d always reminisce about those beloved memories from our childhood. I want to create more memories with Ali. I want to celebrate more firsts. I’d give anything to reminisce together just one more time.
Ali had a personality that instantly filled a room. She was wickedly smart and equally humble. Everyone wanted Ali to be their friend. You felt lucky to know her. I’ll always feel lucky to have known her.
Our world lost Ali on what was to be the very happiest day of her life. She died giving birth to her beautiful baby girl. I’ll never forget the call I received for her brother who shared the news. I immediately called my husband. I couldn’t speak. It is, without question, the most tragic and heartbreaking moment of my life. Something changed in me on that fateful day. A piece of me died with Ali. It’s still difficult for me to refer to her and her life in the past tense. Selfishly, I want just one more phone call. I want her to meet the daughter that she never will. I’m devastated and I’m angry.
I have three children of my own. There is a weight that I feel on holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays. There is a weight that I feel watching my children play together. Ali will never experience those moments like I am so fortunate to. Mother’s Day was particularly painful. Ali never got one.
I’ve stopped insinuating that “everything happens for a reason.” There was no reason for Ali’s death. I struggle to acknowledge pregnancy announcements. I even struggle with the idea of growing my own family. I cannot reconcile the guilt and fear.
It’s as though my life is now divided into two parts: one with Ali and one without. In January I worked with Ali’s family and the Red Cross to hold a blood drive in her memory. It was incredibly well attended and we even had to turn people away. It was a testament to Ali’s life and the impact she made on others in her short 31 years on this planet. The truth is, as crazy as it might make me seem, I kept expecting Ali to show up. To the blood drive. In her memory.
Here’s my advice: love people now, in this moment, and at every moment. Love them thoroughly and completely. Don’t let precious time slip away. Here’s one thing I know for sure: I will spend a great portion of my time and energy in pursuit of preventing Amniotic Fluid Embolisms. It’s been 280 days since you died. It’s been 280 days since I lost my friend. It’s 280 too many days without you here.
Your daughter misses you. Your family misses you. The world misses you. I miss you, Ali. May our paths cross again one day.
If you have lost a best friend, we have a support group for you. Please join our group https://www.facebook.com/groups/724213884624946/