I’m taking a bit of personal discretion in writing this post. Today I write about the recent loss of a friend. A friend that I unfortunately did not have the chance of knowing better. I hope that, for anyone who knew that friend and might be reading this, I do justice by her and do not dredge up hard feelings.
I didn’t post last week because I really didn’t have anything to write about. You probably think, “Right, it wasn’t just because you forgot again?” And I totally get that. It would seem logical given how spotty my posts have been since my job ended in September. But actually, I thought about posting several times throughout the week, and just really couldn’t think of a topic that I haven’t beat into a dead horse. (No actual horses have been harmed in the writing of this blog.) But since last Friday, two big things have happened: I went on a retreat at my church (this might not seem big, but it really was a great refresher that breathed new perspective into several aspects of my life) and probably a little more significantly, a friend of mine from college passed away.
This blog has morphed into something weirdly more personal that I expected or had intended. In fact, I started this blog nearly four years ago simply as a way to build a presence in the age of social media, and as a place to put writing samples and encourage myself to practice routine writing. I thought I would write funny, quirky posts that were relatable to other college students, and then I thought I’d start writing about that transitional period between college and real life, and somewhere in the midst of all of that this blog has turned into a public diary of sorts, sharing my experiences uncovering the world one person at a time, one city (right now LA) at a time.
I write a lot about dating, and jobs, and unemployment, and friendships, and family, and moving, and pretty much everything that rolls around in the mind of a 20-something. I’ve even spoken a little bit about anxiety and depression and mental illness because I have personally dealt with those things in my life. But I’ve never talked about death. Not really. This is because I’m in my early twenties. Death is not supposed to be on my mind.
My friend Kelly had cancer. She was only two years older than me. I knew her battle had taken a turn for the worse, but I had never expected that I would wake up one morning, check Facebook and see a post from her family announcing her departure from this world. She was young. She was strong. She had a future ahead of her.
Let me interject here and say that Kelly was my friend, but we had not spoken outside of Facebook updates since she had graduated from KU. I hope that her closest friends and family will forgive me for not being able to encapsulate the absolute beauty of a human being that she was. I cannot even begin to fathom the grief that they are experiencing.
If you’ve read my other posts, you’re probably aware that my mother also battled cancer several years ago. Kelly and my mom had the same type of cancer. My mother beat her cancer. It’s not fair that Kelly did not have the same outcome. This has reminded me of a few things that I had begun to forget in the nearly fourteen years since my mother’s battle with cancer began.
Since my childhood, cancer has been to me like an estranged uncle that no one in the family really feels comfortable discussing, but who shows up without invitation during the holidays and ruins Christmas with a bottle of Cognac. Cancer’s presence in my life has been an eye-opener, teaching me the incredibly raw and terrifying realities about love and loss. I carried cancer’s memory with me throughout childhood and into high school. I wrote my college entrance essay about my experience with cancer. Cancer got me a scholarship that paid for half of my tuition.
In college cancer’s memory softened. I could joke about it (I deal with everything through humor). I found myself telling people about how I’d come to terms with the likelihood of my own eventual battle with cancer. The idea of it didn’t seem to scare me. I had finally entered that phase of invincibility which had evaded me all throughout my teenage years.
And then Kelly found her cancer. And then she blogged about it. She was so optimistic, and I knew she would beat it. She was so young, there was just no way she wouldn’t beat it. If my mom could do it on the absolutely primitive chemotherapy she had, Kelly would definitely be fine. It would just be another mountain that she could say she had conquered, along with NYU Law School, along with passing the bar exam, along with all the incredible social activism she had done at KU, along with all the lives she had touched along the way, including my own.
And then she didn’t. And then it was all over, and all that remains now is how everyone will remember her and the shock of knowing that someone so young, so beautiful inside and out, who had such a long and bright future ahead of her is no longer here to pursue that future. It is utterly and completely devastating. There are no words that can bandage the incredible loss that those who knew her share.
And all I can think is that the Kelly I knew would want us all to take this as a spark, a motivation to do right by ourselves and this world now. To stop putting off the things that are truly important, like helping others. I remember her telling me when she was applying to NYU Law that she wanted to be a lawyer so that she could help non-profits. She was the president of KU’s Amnesty International while she was in undergrad. She was always thinking about others. Nothing she did was selfish. She would want us all to realize that life is fleeting, even now as young twenty-somethings, our days are all numbered. Spend them doing right be others. Love yourself and let that love spread outward.
Rest In Peace, Kelly. You will be missed.