Remembering a Friend Today: It’s Seasoned My Soul

Your black Gap tank top sits in my drawer, at the bottom of a pile of long-sleeved shirts. I don’t take it out anymore, but I love just knowing that it’s there. It’s traveled with me to five different homes. Your CD single of Cher’s Believe, the one with an hour of the same song over and over in different remixes, sits in a dusty CD tower. It has also made the move with me five times, with a slight detour to Chicago. I don’t listen to it anymore, but I love just knowing that it’s there. The Alice in Wonderland figurine you bought me at Disney World sits in my office, a symbol of how quickly we became “friends who bought each other presents on vacation.” Five times I have packed it up lovingly in paper, tucked it in a box, and moved it around with me. When you gave it to me, it was because you knew I had played Alice in a play, but you had no way of knowing that I would be spending my life with the man who acted alongside me. Sixteen years have passed since I last heard your voice, wishing me happy birthday. Every birthday since then is a reminder. You were gone less than a week later.  If I concentrate, I can still hear your voice, your laugh. The slight southern drawl. The twinkle and lilt. Sixteen years have passed since we dance-exercised every night to whatever song we were obsessed with at the moment – “La Vida Loca,” “Crush,” “Hit Me Baby, One More Time,” “Upside Down,” “Believe.” Sixteen years have passed since you came to visit me in NYC and frustrated the hell out of me by wanting to take cabs all over the city. Sixteen years have passed since you introduced me to Law & Order. Who knew what a big part of my tv-watching life it would become! Sixteen years have passed since you taught me about wearing tank tops year round in Maine. I think of you when I wear them in the New England winters. Sixteen years have passed and I would be lying if I said I thought about you every day. Sometimes I can go for long stretches without thinking of you at all. And then, I am reminded.  In July, it feels like I think about you every minute of every day. The minute I start thinking about my birthday, I start thinking about you. But it’s not all sad. Your life and death taught me so much about friendship. It brought me closer to some people, even if just temporarily, and it cemented bonds that were already strong. It taught me to spend time with the people I love, to hold them close, to let them know how much I love them. There should never be any doubt. Sixteen years later and I am still learning how to grieve, still perfecting it. For some reason, this year I was hit with the overwhelming desire to grieve publicly. To put this out there into the world. Grief is a work in progress. But I’m someone who loves to remember. And I am oh so grateful for the memories. Today might be a good day to spend some time with some old photos and a cup of tea. And maybe an excerpt from this poem written by a friend.

A Poem in Which the Word Casket Does Not Appear
by Rachel Simon

…We should send kleenex
instead of cakes.

Mourners meet
in Massachusetts,
Manhattan, sweep up

grieving companions
along the way, embrace
down the coast.

The momentum of grief
pushes toward Virginia,
it tugs on cars and planes
recklessly, it
crumples little sisters.

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Margaret Belanger Photography | Remembering a Friend Today: It

Meg Belanger