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Saying goodbye is never easy

It is true what the songs say, that saying goodbye is never easy. About 24 years ago I said goodbye to a friend, Maria. It wasn’t easy, partly because it was violently unexpected and partly because we were both 24 years old. People are not supposed to die at 24 years old.

It was January. We had planned a hot date night with our respective mates. I had a babysitter for my firstborn and was seven months pregnant. We were very sure of ourselves, and we knew what we wanted. We were both born under the sign of Leo and we fancied ourselves as “being all that and a bag of chips”. At least we thought so.

Maria and Richard never made it to that dinner. Dan and I were running a little behind and were home to receive the phone call from the hospital saying Maria would not be joining us for dinner. I remember the nurse’s voice on the phone. She just said, “your friend is at the hospital, and maybe you should come.”

She landed at the Lakeshore General Hospital, but she had left this world at the scene of the accident between their car and a flatbed truck on that cold, slippery evening. Their car hit the back of the flatbed due to a patch of ice on Highway 40. Richard was fine but at the hospital in Lachine. Maria was not.

The human body sets up a shock system to lessen the blow of news that makes us unable to cope. I barely understood what was being said to me by the family when I waltzed into the hospital still thinking I was heading for dinner at Milo’s on Park Ave. It was simply a matter of scooping up my buddy and getting things back on track. We had a dinner to get to……

Not so. That was the night I said goodbye to what today would be called my BFF. Today is her birthday, so I think of her and wonder what would have been. Would we have drifted apart in time or made the long haul? Would we have attended all the weddings and baptisms? Would we have laughed and cried a million more times? I think so. Anyone who knew us together already understood giggling was part of the package. We giggled at everything.

Saying goodbye was really hard for me. She was the one I would have leaned on in a situation like this. She was the one who I wanted to help me through this, but she was gone. How was I supposed to manage?

It took a full year for me to adjust and be able to speak about her without crying. I still miss her and still cry for her but more so on special occasions, like her birthday and New Year’s Eve. I seem to have held placeholders in her honour without actually planning it. I hate New Year’s, I never did, but since she died, I save that day to be miserable and say goodbye all over again. The odd time I have made an effort to join the festivities but my heart is just not in it. That was our day. I want to keep it that way.

Though we will not have the pleasure of sharing life’s events, I see her face in her nieces and nephews and hear her voice when I visit with her sisters. I somehow know I will see her again on the other side. She will be waiting for me. I choose to believe that; it comforts me to think I have not said goodbye but À Dieu. So maybe a good way to look at goodbye is “someday.”

Not today, but I will see you someday.

We will giggle together again someday.

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