Today I have to buy shoes I never wanted. Shoes to go with a dress I never thought I’d wear.
Things change in an instant. With a phone call. A call that tells you, somehow, one of your oldest and dearest friends is gone. Gone at 38, without warning.
And the lens through which I see the world may never be the same.
I’ve known Jen for 27 years. She lived down the street. She went to middle school with me. And dance class. And high school. And summer vacations down the shore. She shopped for my wedding dress with me. We were bridesmaids to each other. She told me which car seat I needed for my first born — in fact, she bought it for me. I’ve known her parents’ phone number by heart for over two decades. And now she’s gone. And I don’t understand.
I don’t understand how, today, I’m supposed to show up to this address I was given — a funeral home — and tell her goodbye. The truth is that I don’t think I can.
I don’t understand how her husband and kids and parents and friends can be left without her.
I don’t understand how it’s ever going to feel any less like this combination of heartbreak, disbelief and helplessness.
I would give anything to be buying different shoes — the pumps for our prom, the ballet slippers for our recital, the flip flops for our high school days at the beach, the comfortable white heels that let me dance with her for hours at my wedding. Not these shoes to wear with this dress to show up at that address today. I don’t know how these shoes will hold me up when I look her parents, her brother, her husband and her kids in the eye and tell them how much I loved her.
But here’s what I do know.
I know that there will never be someone whose laughter draws you in like hers. Jen, you never believed you were that funny. You were so very funny. You always made me laugh louder and without reservation in a way that nobody else could.
I know that I will think of you hundreds of times every day, and I will try to smile instead of cry. I will try.
I know that I will tell your beautiful children, like many others will — for years and years to come — all of the things that made you so fabulous. I will tell them about our times in school. I will tell them about your unwavering friendship and everything you ever did for me. How you were a fixture at my parents’ kitchen table, telling jokes. How a friendship this true grew more and more with each milestone of our lives.
And I know that, wherever you are, you are with us. Always.