I got a phone call while I was at work a few days ago from my mom telling me that she saw a close friend of mine in the obituaries that morning. With a pain in my stomach and a numbness immediately following, I searched for the obituary. I sat in my office chair staring at it for a long time before immediately going to her Facebook page and then our recent messages, as if that was going to answer my questions, somehow. I left my tea still hot on my desk, work spread across it, and drove home.
Grief is different as you get older. The reality of being human is that every life ends, and it happens to everyone, eventually. Death doesn’t discriminate: it takes us all, and we are each uncertain of when. Death comes and it never stops being difficult for us to comprehend. My grief started as a numbness, then went into disbelief with my mind scrambling around trying to catch up with the fact: she was gone. Following the numbness, came an overwhelming sense of fragility and impermanence. My friend Caitlin was only 30 when she passed. 30.
There is something particularly heartbreaking about losing a friend who was so young. We all expect that we’ll pass in our old age, with over half a century behind us, but when death comes much, much sooner for someone we know, it hits us in an entirely different way.
This blog post isn’t about my grief, however. It’s about Caitlin. And the grief I described is mere proof of the impact that human beings have on one another. The pain in my chest, the constant stream of memories in my mind, and the this indescribable hollowness is the result of how I have been impacted by her, by one single person.
I met Caitlin when we worked together as hostesses at a local restaurant. I was 19 when I met her and she was 21. She was quirky, extremely sassy, but tender and genuine at the exact same time. She was quiet at first, but we quickly became friends. Every night after our shift, we would meet at Nations and order milkshakes and grilled cheese sandwiches and chat about boys, life, and everything in between. Our conversations had no limits, we always talked about the nitty gritty topics and both seemed to give zero fucks about how fowl our mouths were. Caitlin was the definition of a strong woman. She was feisty, fearless, and had a heart that was kind beyond measure. She adored children and talked about them constantly, and she was a hopeless romantic, too. She looked at love in the romantic-comedy-Romeo-and-Juliet way and it was so….beautiful that she saw love in that way. Love was big in her eyes and she chased it and gave it relentlessly.
She was zany, quirky, and FULL of crazy stories of hilarious things that would happen to her and she told the stories in a way that was animated and comical. She was a loyal friend to me, even when we spoke only every-so-often within the last years of her life. She reached out to me often within the last few months and I have wracked my brain thinking about the last conversation I had with her on the phone a few months ago. It was kind of a normal conversation: we chatted about boys and the latest gossip in our lives and romance (because I’m not kidding when I said she was a hopeless romantic). It was such a normal and simple conversation, and I’ve gone over it dozens of times, as well as our last text messages, and any other contact we had within the recent months. I was thankful to read in one of our last text messages that I told her I loved her. It isn’t that I fail at doing so with people I love, but it’s actually really hard for me to tell people I love them. So, for whatever reason, I said it that day. And I was supposed to; I needed to.
Caitlin: I will always remember you as the feisty, intelligent, and kind woman that you were. I will think often of the late nights at Nations, or our slumber parties when we would eat too much cake and watch WAY too many episodes of Sex & the City, or the time when we would just bake the night away (we made Christmas decorated cake and cookies, like, months before Christmas one night), or the nights when we would just chat at the bar with a couple of margaritas. I will remember it all. Caitlin, there is so much love in my heart for you and I hope that there is love where you’re at, because you had so much of it to give and so much of it that you deserved.