“A friend is someone who understands your past, believes in your future, and accepts you just the way you are.” –Unknown
My friend’s husband recently passed away after a long battle with cancer. But as we all know…it doesn’t matter how long you’ve “known”…it’s always a shock when that moment comes.
We were always meant to be friends, and I think we were always meant to have a place in each other’s lives. Our friendship is unusual because in the two years we’ve known each other, I’ve never once met her husband.
He had been sick the entire time I’ve known her, but since I had never met him, that made me 100% her friend. Someone who knew her and her struggles and could be there completely for her without feeling disloyal to her husband.
He knew about our friendship, and at times I got the feeling that he wasn’t crazy about it. My presence in her life probably reminded him that terrible things were possible. And that there was a chance I might be here to help her when he couldn’t be.
We met 2 years ago at a church fundraiser. I had been looking for a photographer to take pictures of my kids and she had a booth in the Narthex. My sister told me later that it was strange how I went straight to her booth without looking anywhere else. But when I saw the pictures and the magic she could create, I had no doubt that she was the person who was meant capture my children at that playful age.
As we were setting up our appointment and emailing back and forth, she asked me if the session was going to be all about the kids or if there would be some family pictures taken. I emailed her back and told her that I mainly wanted the pictures to be taken of the kids, but that I’d like a few taken of me with them. I told her that these would be the first pictures we would have taken as a family since I lost my husband.
The response I received from her later that evening gave me chills and somehow cemented our friendship right away. She told me that her husband was battling cancer, but that they knew it was terminal. And that she had two small children.
We made our session appointment, and I enjoyed watching her work and interact with my kids. She really worked magic and had all kinds of tricks up her sleeve. But I think we were both anxious to get that initial meeting out of the way so that we could make plans to get margaritas and really get to what would be the heart of our relationship.
During our first dinner, she asked me a million questions about benefits and raising children alone, and after every question, she apologized and told me that she felt terrible for asking me these questions before her husband was even gone.
I finally said, “You have to quit apologizing. We’re women and we’re mothers. You think that if I had known my husband was going to die, I wouldn’t have asked someone questions who had already been through it so that I could be as prepared as possible?”
During the last couple of years, we’ve talked, sent texts, and gotten together when we can. A 4-year-old and a 2-year-old along with a business and a terminally ill husband kept her beyond busy and single parenting and my own projects kept me on my toes. In the last few months, knowing that the end was probably near, I would leave her messages, reminding her that I was here if she ever needed me.
More often than not, her response would be, “I’m going to need you. I’m going to need you after.”
And so here we are. After.
Since my husband’s death, when I deal with loss, I find myself less sad about the person who is gone and more affected about the people who are left behind. I don’t necessarily always mourn the loss; I mourn the loss of the life that they thought they would have and the memories that will never be.
While I read her blog — something that I’m jealous that she had the presence of mind to keep up so well while she dealt the many things she had going on — I am instantly reminded of my own moments, telling my children and making arrangements. Knowing what a blur it will be in the upcoming days, weeks, and months, I cry with the knowledge that there will be some things I will be able to ease. And some things she will have to go through alone.
The first day we met at that photo session, I asked her to do me a favor. As a tribute to my husband, I asked her to take pictures of my kids releasing balloons. I wanted to remember them at that age and have something to remind me that such a simple act provided the four of us some peace for a moment.
She teared up for a minute and then aimed her camera at my children. She took those pictures knowing that someday, it would be her standing there with a little fist in one hand and some curly ribbon in the other.
Waiting for the right moment to release.
Catherine Tidd 2011