I met her in a music class about 13 years ago. The class was for new parents, and we were both there with our firstborns. I thought she was great, and we became fast friends. Our husbands liked each other too, and we all spent time together as each of our families grew. For the next several years, we celebrated life’s milestones together (we each had two more children.) We were part of the same community of friends and our children went to preschool together. And then, slowly, time got away from us. Our kids got older and busier. We lived in different parts of town. Our children went to different schools and had very different interests. Each of us led very busy lives. And so, we had lunch when we could. We phoned and talked when time allowed. We stayed in touch as best as we could. And then, she was diagnosed with cancer. I heard the news and I called her. For the next 8 months, I checked on her. I spoke with her and texted her. I brought her dinner and cozy socks. She was very sick from the chemo, and yet was just as dedicated and hard-working of a mother as the day I met her.
A few weeks ago, I realized that her son was in my daughter’s math class. Her kids had just enrolled in our school. My Lauren and her Jack didn’t remember each other. They didn’t know that they were preschool buddies, constantly playing together in one of our backyards or swinging together on the preschool playground. Yet here they were together again as tall, prepubescent, curious seventh graders. I meant to tell her. Every day, I wanted to text her with the news. Every day, I thought about it. It had been a few weeks since I checked in. I had recently sent her birthday wishes and she thanked me and told me what a wonderful birthday she had shared with her family. I meant to write back something positive and encouraging. I wanted to write something really important. And then, I got busy and I somehow just didn’t.
And then, a few days ago, she died. It was a shock to everyone in our community, even though deep down we all knew it was going to happen one day. Deep in my heart I knew. But I don’t know why I didn’t text her back. I don’t know how I forgot, especially with all the things that I know and with all the things that I have seen.
I have seen way too much sudden death in my life so far. My grandmother went to her doctor for her yearly checkup and was given a clean bill of health. The next week, she slumped over and died in the car on the way to Florida. A few years later, my otherwise healthy grandpa died in his sleep. In high school, I saw a teenage friend make his very first basket at a school basketball game and then die an hour later in the locker room. I saw friends’ siblings die in car accidents. During my freshman year of college, I saw a vibrant young friend go to sleep one night and never wake up. I saw my friend’s father, brother and husband die from sudden and shocking deaths all within a few years of each other. She, too, died of cancer a few years later. I saw my co-worker lose his 4-year old little boy to cancer and saw another friend bury her daughter after on her 12th birthday after a car accident that killed her on the way to her birthday party. I watched on t.v. as thousands of people left their homes on September 11 and never came home. I have watched as good friends have had to suddenly say goodbye to their brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, wives and husbands. I have watched on television the anguish of parents whose children went to school one day and never came home. I have read about and have known people that have boarded airplanes that never landed. I have seen it all. And yet. I forgot to text her back.
I hope that at her funeral tomorrow, I will once again remember how quickly life can change. I hope that I will have the right words to say to comfort them, and to all of the people in our community who loved her. I hope that I will always remind myself not to forget to say what I am thinking. I hope that I will always speak up when I see things that make me angry. I hope that I will never be afraid to warn those that are in danger, and to fight for what I think is right. I hope that I will be able teach my children all of the things that I want them to know. I hope that I will tell the people in my life how much I love them. I hope that I will never again forget to check on a friend. Or to tell them a funny story. Or to say how much they mattered to me.
Because in the end, for me, it will not be the things that I did say that I will regret. It will be the things that I didn’t say.