Tuesday, June 25, 2013


I've been very lucky to make some amazing friends in my adult life. And they are not second string by any means, they are dear to me as if they've been here all along, and even though I met them at a later point in my existence, most of them are already old friends. History is history, it just has different periods over a lifetime. When you lose one of your own from the olden times though, one that you knew from before you were a fully formed human in the world, there is no comfort like the friends you grew up with, who can practically read your mind. Being together helps in a way nothing and nobody else can.

This weekend I was surrounded by people I've known forever, who knew and loved Niki in the same way that I did, and to be together made a rough occasion a beautiful one. Nobody had to say anything in actual terms, it was assumed that we all shared the same sorrow and loss. Jumping back into our shared jokes and references was our way of saying "I'm sorry and I miss her and I love her and I love you." It was the funeral that we, the living, needed to move on. The laughter and memories and the few but genuine tears were cleansing for me. It was a gift to see friends with whom I haven't exactly lost touch, but just haven't seen in years. To meet their babies. To hug their parents, who are my parents in a way. To cast a gauzy, romanticized eye into the best of our past but also catch up, and see into each other's present, our future. We will always be friends. Family. And it is unfortunate that it becomes most evident at the most sorrowful times, but the thing is, that's when the reinforcement is really important. I could always, always do better, reach out more, be a better friend. But when it comes down to it, we will have each other. And I hope we do for many, many more years.

Saying goodbye at the end of the evening was the hardest part, because next time any of us meet, it will just be the post-Niki world. There's a new shorthand to be learned to encompass that. To Niki's mom and step-dad, to her cousin and the rest of her family, to her husband who has been in her life only a short time less than I have (and, whether he likes it or not, will always be one of us): thank you for everything you did for Niki in her life, and all you will do to keep her memory alive. I love you all, and you are family and that doesn't go away. To our mutual friends, and to my own family, who claims Niki in their way, to Mike, who got to know Niki over the past 15+ years and form shared memories with us, I couldn't weather this without you.

This is a hard time for every one of us, but because of you, my broken heart is also full. I'm not at peace with Niki's death, not even close, but the denial is over. The next step begins. I know who will be there to catch me when I fall back, just as I'll be there too, for whoever needs it.

I have more thoughts about the occasion: about my own issues with the church made anger a stand-in for grief during some parts of the service, about how strange it is that my parents should be spending their 40th anniversary at the very site of their wedding and reception, but with a tragic bent, about how HR will grow up only knowing Niki in the past tense, and how I don't yet have the words to explain where she's gone. How unbelievable and unfair it is that she died at all. But that's not where I want my focus to linger. When I think back upon this memorial, all I want to keep in my mind's eye that Niki was present. I am not a person of faith, but I do believe in some things, and the power of love is the cornerstone. I believe that all the love for Niki in one space at one time summoned her. We couldn't see or hear her, but she was there in every breath, every tear, every snort-laugh, every color of the jell-o shot rainbow.

Niki is love, now. And love is here.

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