A year later, and I still don't know how to say goodbye.
I’m having a hard time believing it’s been 12 months since I last saw you; 52 weeks since you took your last breath; 365 days since we desperately prayed for a miracle.
If you regularly read my column, or if you did a year ago, then you’re aware I lost a best friend, Chelsea Blackburn Mercer, May 21, 2019.
I’ve lost my grandparents and other important people in my life, and I miss them every day; but Chel’s death has forever changed me.
Maybe it’s because she turned 30-years-old the February before she died and we didn’t get a chance to celebrate her milestone birthday. Or maybe it’s because she couldn’t party with us at my bridal shower or bachelorette party, and she couldn’t stand at the front of St. Boniface Catholic Church with me when I got married. Maybe it’s the holidays she’s missed and the get-togethers we always had with our girlfriends while everyone was home.
Chel, a lot can happen in a year, and it breaks my heart you weren’t with us for any of it. We grew up together, and we were supposed to grow old together.
I know I’m repeating myself a little, but for as long as I can remember, she was Thang 1 and I was Thang 2; at least we were to each other. We both collected salt and pepper shakers, and we would always share our finds. One Christmas, or it may have been for my birthday, she gave me a set of two peas in a pod.
This past Christmas, her husband gifted me a “Monsters, Inc.” salt and pepper shaker set that Chel bought years ago. Chel and I shared a love for the Disney Pixar movie. I’m not sure Brad understands just how special the gift is to me. They now sit beside my bed, next to a small, stuffed Thing 2 character from “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss. Chel gave me that stuffed figure years ago.
Chel and I always loved taking pictures and rushing to Walmart or CVS to get the film developed; and then, in high school, to print images from our digital cameras. We often enjoyed going back through albums years later.
I’m forever grateful we stayed photo-obsessed. My appreciation for those thousands of pictures of our friendship has grown so much in the past year.
As much as I love reliving our memories and all the fun we had, it’s also just as painful because we won’t get the chance to make more memories.
Some days it’s still surreal, and I feel like I shouldn’t have to figure out a life without you. But I have to remind myself that you are gone and in a better place.
Eleven years ago, my group of friends lost someone close to us. I remember telling my best friend at the time to talk to the best friend he had just lost.
“‘Tell him how your day went. Share your worries or your victories with him. Go to his gravesite, or talk to him while you’re driving,’” I suggested to my friend.
At first, he looked at me like I was crazy; maybe I am. I still encouraged him to do it. I didn’t just suggest it, but I also talked to our lost friend.
Now, I talk to Chel.
As Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us, “There is a time for everything.”
“A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4).
Chel, I imagine you’re in heaven taking advantage of the latter: laughing and dancing. I still selfishly wish you were here with us to make us laugh.
I miss you just as much as I did a year ago, and I’m still not sure how to say goodbye. So, I’ll just talk to you soon, Thang 1.