This week has been heartbreakingly terrible.
Very early on Sunday morning my best friend for half my life died from breast cancer. She would have turned 55 today.
Debbie was a true blue, once-in-a-lifetime kind of friend. She ALWAYS had my back. She was the keeper of my secrets, my number one cheerleader, and my shoulder to cry on. Debbie never once over the course of two and a half decades betrayed my trust or confidence. That shouldn't be such a big deal but it is because it is sadly such a rarity and every other friend I ever had or have has done so numerous times. She respected me and she had integrity, two qualities I admire in a friend.
When I say she was my biggest fan it's no platitude. Every time we got together she was so loving and complimentary, telling me I look like a movie star or she loves my hair or top or boots and did I lose weight? Good things, positive things, every time she greeted me. Honestly, sometimes it seemed almost disingenuous that she could rave so about silly me, but she could, and let me tell you it was so nice to hear. She made me feel good about myself; that's a beautiful gift she gave me every day she was alive and one I so desperately needed. It's time for me to do that for myself now, to love myself and be my own best friend.
Speaking of time, Deb always had time for me, or made time for me. She never refused me if I called her upset after a fight with my husband or kids (or both) and she always welcomed me with open arms and a smile, no matter the time or reason and provided me a place to go and vent and be heard. We got together quite regularly, at least once a month. Most times I would go to her place as she lived a 3 highway drive away and was more than a little anxious about driving on highways. Plus she lived alone, which was a nice respite for me and the demands of my family. We enjoyed a little music and wine and discussing everything under the sun from deeply personal relationship issues to pop culture. Or we would meet halfway between our two homes in downtown Toronto and share a meal or go to a play, have a few drinks in a bar and listen to some live music or watch the funniest comedy show either of us had ever seen. That comedy show came at an ideal time as Debbie had just had her first round of surgery and had healed physically but not so much emotionally; she was very fragile and worried. We laughed so hard it hurt and just when we thought we couldn't laugh any harder, we did. It was a night I will always remember. Stellar. But each rendezvous energized me and my friend and I parted ways with smiles on our faces as we returned back to our homes.
In many ways, Deb was my alter ego. I was the married mother and she was the single girl and we lived vicariously through each others escapades. I wouldn't say either of us thought the grass was greener on the others side, partly because she lived in a condo and didn't have any grass and partly because there was zero jealousy between us. Her triumphs I celebrated and they made me almost as happy as they made her, and her heartbreak made my own ache in empathy and I know my highs and lows were equally profound for her. She was genuinely happy for me and my good fortune and family. Debbie never had a family of her own. She had never been married and never had any children. It was mostly by choice as she had been proposed to many times but there was always something about the man that just wasn't quite right. In that crazy, stupid, ironic way that life works, she found Mr. Right shortly before she passed. He was by her side as she left this world, bless him. I'm comforted knowing she died with love by her side as I know she was comforted by it.
Having such a wonderful friend was empowering to me on so many levels. Truthfully, she was a large part of how the whole idea of Feby came to be a reality. As it happened, it was during one of our evenings together at her place that I came up with the idea of a bracelet as a calendar for the menstrual cycle while we were discussing how even at our age, our periods seem to sneak up on us. Straight away she said "That's a great idea. Something to keep track of when it will come again would be awesome. A bracelet! How though?" and she encouraged me to explore the idea. Even the name Feby can be pronounced to rhyme with Debbie and that was by design.
Fast forward a few years later when Feby first debuted at a festival in the beaches area of Toronto in the summer of 2011, Debbie was the one person who was with me every single day. It was the hottest day on record (107 F) and the sweat was pouring off of us as we set up our little booth on the sidewalk. Despite the oppressive weather we had fun and some very interesting conversations with passersby and sold a bunch of bracelets to boot. Debbie came back the next night and then all day on both Saturday and Sunday and reminded me again of what a true friend can be. Even though we were working, it never was a hardship if we were together as we were always laughing and enjoying each others company.
She lent her voice to some silly videos we made after a glass and a half of wine like these:
It's hard wrapping my head around the passing of my best friend. Her funeral was on Tuesday and though it was quite beautiful in the sad way that only eulogies and burials can be and it brought a certain sense of closure, I already miss her more than I ever thought possible. Just knowing I can't call her or visit her leaves a hole in my life and I'm feeling a little lost.
It's a strange world that we live in as I have my deceased friends' messages still on my phone, and her emails and her text messages. What am I to do with them? It's slightly macabre to keep them but I can't imagine deleting them and her voice is gone forever. Hearing her voice keeps a little bit of her alive in the static of today's electronic existence.
Speaking of, if you're so inclined, please enjoy this playlist dedicated to Debbie, featuring the folk music of days gone by that she loved so much.
If you are a lucky enough to have a friend like Debbie, tell her how much you love her and how you appreciate her while she's still here. Every day with a friend is a gift and I am thankful for the gift of Debbie. She will live forever in my heart and memory.