November 4, 2010

It’s been almost a month since Judy died.

I called her Snow White on my blog, but her name was Judy, and she was stunningly beautiful, wise, witty, and fierce, and I called her Jude, and now she’s gone.

It still doesn’t seem real.  It just feels like it’s one of those periods where we’re both busy and not talking as often.  She can’t just be gone forever.  But she is.

Jude was my oldest friend.  That’s how she introduced me to the nurses every time I visited her at the hospital.  We met when we were 14, in Mr. Seaquist’s World Cultures class at Xavier College Prep.  I was always falling asleep, and Judy would nudge me awake.  And when she wasn’t nudging me awake, she was rolling her eyes at my doodles of “Mrs. Eduardo Forello” all over my notebook. 

22 years later, we were still friends.  We went camping, we had lunches, we sent many, many, many emails, and best of all we sang “Holding Out for a Hero” together at countless karaoke bars.  We were bridesmaids in each other’s weddings.  We decided to get boob jobs when we turned 40.  We drank cosmos together and oohed-and-aahed over Carrie Bradshaw’s wardrobe.  I was there when her parents died.  She had a baby boy; I had a baby girl.  I freaked out over breastfeeding, and she sent me the longest email I’ve ever received, detailing every ounce her son consumed in his first six months. 

Our friendship wasn’t always easy.  Judy always said exactly what she was thinking, and she expressed herself so eloquently and succinctly.  As a person who always fumbles for the right words when I’m talking and worries about what others are thinking, I sometimes felt intimidated and awkward around Judy.  Also, I’ll admit it – when she got that first pair of Manolos, I felt jealous.  And as our friendship aged, sometimes it seemed like she’d built a wall around herself, and it got harder and harder for me to get inside.

I didn’t write about her very much on my blog, because she was supposed to get better.  It wasn’t my story to tell.  But now she’s gone, and I guess it is my story to tell.

In May of 2008, Jude and Rosalind and I got together to see the Sex and the City movie.  We hadn’t gotten together in a while because we all seemed to be going through a rough patch, but I hoped that a movie about friendship, combined with some contraband cosmos, would loosen us all up.  But Judy declined the cocktail, and declined once again at the restaurant after the movie. 

So I blurted,  “Hey – are you pregnant again?!”

She smiled and nodded, and Rosalind and I shrieked.

Then she told us she was having pain in her side and felt terrified that the pregnancy was ectopic.  She started to cry, and I saw that I had a chance to get beyond her wall.  So I grabbed her hand and held on to her, and told her that I was absolutely sure everything was fine, and I would be there for her, I would help if she would let me help, I wanted to be there for her, I wanted to be a good friend.  I felt closer to her in that moment, holding her hand so tightly, than I had all year.

Her pregnancy was fine.  She gave birth to twin babies that December – premature, and in the most dramatic way possible – but they’re now healthy toddlers.  But the pain in her side didn’t go away, and in August the doctors finally figured out that it was cancer – a huge, fucked-up, mystery cancer that destroyed my friend.

She had countless treatments and surgeries, and for a while, it really seemed like she was going to get better.  I wasn’t terribly worried – she even had a clean scan at one point.  But it kept coming back, with more and more complications.  About three months ago, she had another surgery, and with it came even more complications, and her lovely body, already ravaged from fighting cancer for two years, could not seem to recover.  For the first time, after she told me she didn’t know if she could do this any longer, and I gave her my fumbling speech, saying YES you can, I KNOW you can…I didn’t really know if she could.  And I wondered if, as a good friend, what I really should have said was, “It’s okay, Jude.”  I think that’s what I should have said.

She was tinier every time I saw her, even if only two days passed between visits.  And then, suddenly, she was at home with hospice care, and Rosalind told me to get there quickly.  So once again, I was holding her hand tightly.  For the rest of my life, I will never forget the feeling of her hand on my cheek.  Or the look on her face when I kept repeating, rather inexplicably, “You’re my friend, I love you, you’re my friend.”  And I will never forget how I sat next to her with Rosalind, and Jude pointed to herself, and me, and Rosalind, and made a big circle around the room with her finger.  I knew exactly what she meant.  She meant, “You’re my friends.  I love you.”

She died October 13th.  She leaves behind her husband, her 4-year-old son, her nearly-2-year-old twin daughters, her large family, and us, her friends.  And life has fallen apart, and makes no sense, but somehow, cruelly and blessedly, goes on.

I sometimes think the word “friend” is overused.  What is a friend?  Someone you gossip with, drink with, joke with… sure.  But Judy was a part of me.  And I was a part of her.  I have 22 years of memories with this woman.  She was so much more than a friend.  And even though maybe we didn’t always make sense to each other, we loved each other.  She was, and is, in my soul. 

I could tell you so much more about her, but the fact is I don’t love her because she was so loyal, or so smart, or so encouraging.  I love her just because she is my friend.  I love her just because I do.  And always will.


13 Responses to “Jude”

  1. kristi Says:

    That was perfect and beautiful.

  2. Beth H Says:

    beautiful post, K. thinking of you & the other friends & family Judy has left behind, and hoping in time you all will be able to find peace. so very sorry for your loss and sending you a big long-distance hug.

  3. Kara Says:

    I have been checking your blog hoping you would write about Judy. Even though we weren’t friends (just didn’t know each other well), I have not been able to stop thinking about her. Thanks so much for sharing about your relationship with her- sounds amazing- what a gift.

  4. Mary Says:

    Beautiful post. So glad you are back to writing. So sorry you had to lose such a good friend so early in life.

  5. badassmuse Says:

    I am so sorry. I wish I had known her, she sounds wonderful – but thanks to you and your lovely words – I do in a way.

  6. Leslie Says:

    Hey Mama,
    I’m terribly sorry for your loss – my heart breaks for the pain you, her sweet young family, and all that loved her feel. It’s not easy to express in words, but you did so quite beautifully.
    Please know we’re praying for everyone – especially her husband and children – that they find peace in their hearts.
    Love – Leslie

  7. Sallie Glerum Says:

    When my longest-running friend (we called each other that in lieu of “oldest” because we were “gettin’ up there”), I realized how few bereavement letters or calls friends get (as opposed to family). My sister sent me flowers, whereupon I burst into tears and didn’t stop crying most of the day. There were so many ways I missed Karen, and still do–even though it’s been a year and four months since she died. We talked every single day of her last year, despite our physical distance of 180 miles. This is a round-about way of sending condolences at your loss. You have written eloquently about your friendship.

  8. thank you my dear. i feel like i have more to say about this, but…just thank you.

  9. Sonia Says:

    I love how much you love! It makes me cry not simply for your loss but because everyone wants to be loved as much as you loved your friend. I cry because it’s so wonderful to hear of sucha wonderful friendship. You’re so blessed to have had this kind of a friendship. She was so blessed to have you. I cry because you give me hope. <>

  10. mamarose Says:

    Thanks very much to all of you for your kindness.

  11. pam b Says:

    i have been wanting to leave a response but havent been able to put my head in the right place. i think of you, rosalind, katie, monica, alex and all the other gals in your group every day. i think of chris and his kids every day even though i have not met them. i am so sorry for your loss – i know i have told you that a ton of times already. i just cant even put to words what is in my head. but just know that you and judy’s family are in my thoughts and prayers

  12. […] mostly, because I missed Jude so damn […]

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