There is a girl I grew up with. She was my comrade. I blamed stuff on her, all the time, and I turned to her, a lot. We were little. Maybe (?) I cut one of her ponytails off, though to this day I have no memory of making the malicious snip. For sure, that ponytail was gone, though.
I think she taught me to play the piano, because when my daughter started lessons, I discovered I knew some songs. Weirdly, I knew some songs. She’s the only person I knew with a piano. I think my dog ate a birthday cake in her house once. And that dog was her dog’s puppy.
And once, when I overestimated my athletic prowess, and completely ate shit trying to run and leap onto a Uhaul ramp, her dad scooped me up and made it ok. Her mom was another mom to us. She was patient, and funny, and firm, and a friend to my mom in that cold and sort of hard place where we were growing up.
We jumped on the trampoline, a lot, and my littlest sister kissed one of her little brothers, under that trampoline. We learned about everything, together, back then. And that a-hole, she was ALWAYS Sandy when we played Pink Ladies. Even though I was older. She had some kind of “because I said so” magic, and it worked, and it would piss me off.
There are a hundred more stories, and they still make us laugh. We don’t see each other, and we aren’t in touch, but we’ve never lost that connection. And that is why, when I found out her beautiful eighteen year old son died this week, I was sick to my very core. I went a little dark inside, and I went straight to the bathtub.
I poured a deep, hot bath, and I crawled in and wished I could take it away for her. I can’t. I slipped down into it so only my face was peeking out, and I tried to make it go away. It won’t. I have learned to listen to my body instead of my mind, when the shit hits the fan. My mind will break, my body will not.
In that hot water, I listened. No matter how many times I write, teach, or talk about the heart, I am always, always surprised when I hear mine speak to me. In that hot water, I heard my heart, louder than I even knew it could sound. It beat again and again and again, like a roofing hammer.
Every time I thought about her son, and how nothing could be done, and how nothing could help her and nothing could save her and no one could fix it, and no one could make it easier, the hammer dropped faster. Every time I wondered, isn’t there something I can do, it dropped faster. Every time I let myself just feel that dark feeling, it slowed down. I stayed in that tub until I could let go of the thoughts that anything, any action, any word at all could fix a fucking thing for her.
My hope for her, is that as she goes through this, she can always find a little toothpick of truth, to pin her tarp down in the wind, that she did enough. No mom does it right. There is no such thing. Every mom makes mistakes. The world knows that boy was loved, because she is love. This girl is made of love, and ferocity, and everything that is real. Her child knew that, and her children know that.
And I hope that when she doesn’t know what to do, she can find a way to listen to her heart. It can hold her, when nothing and no one else can hold her. And while all is lost and this is the darkest a life can be, she is not lost. She is loved. And most of all, she needs to know she can rest, and sink into the places she needs to go, and worry not a damn bit about the rest of it. And we are, near or far, shining love toward her and that beautiful boy, and all her mourning family, and feeling only a sliver of that pain.