My Friend’s Grieving Husband Knew Who I Was
I’ve never felt more recognized as a person.
When I was in 4th grade, a new elementary school opened up in between her home and mine. She lived on one side of a major road. I, on the other. Going to Shannon’s house included riding my bike across a desert field that ran by the junior high. It became well traveled.
She was my one of my best friends from 4th grade until well into our college years. We did weird things. We listened to Beatles albums when everyone else listened to Madonna. We painted. Her, beautifully. Me, like a bull in a china shop. Neither one of us ever had a date for homecoming. So we stayed at her house and watched Gone With the Wind. All four years of high school.
I was a bridesmaid in Shannon’s wedding 22 years ago. I had met her husband, Lee, a time or two before and a few times after that.
Shannon and I drifted apart after her marriage but there was never a moment we didn’t love each other. We just lived different lives. Still, she was my childhood and I was hers.
My heart sank on Monday when I heard she passed away. Cancer finally got the best of her. I knew she was sick. I saw it happening. I never reached out. I think it was always just understood that I loved her and she loved me. It was enough. I don’t regret not seeing her in her final days. I have this immaculate memory of her and I like it that way.
Tonight, another close friend of mine and I attended the funeral for our childhood best friend. We laughed, we cried (and I mean the ugly kind) and we got utterly confused about what was happening about 50% of the time. Structure, apparently, confuses Nicole and me.
On our way to our cars, Nicole and I saw Lee and stopped to offer our condolences. Upon seeing me, in a dark parking lot, he hugged me and, without me introducing myself, said, “Oh, Vanessa. I’m so sorry.”
This grieving husband knew who I was and offered me condolences on the loss of my friend. His wife. After 20 years of not seeing me.
Nicole introduced herself and he said, “Of course,” and greeted her by her full maiden name and hugged her. They had never met before. We were astonished. He said, “You were very important to her. She loved you two. I’m sorry I took her away.”
I told him there was nothing to be sorry for. That he gave her the life we wanted for her. We watched for the last couple decades from the sidelines and it was beautiful. I thanked him for giving my friend a happy life she always dreamed of. And he did. He really did.
I am still confounded by this man’s compassion for his wife’s friends. I have never felt more significant in my whole life than to be recognized by this man. In his time of need. He made us feel loved.
I implore you one thing. Never again use the excuse that you’re “not good with names.” Put in more effort. Remember people. Honor them. Make them important. Pay attention. Because it’s a beautiful moment when such a simple thing as knowing the name of your departed wife’s childhood friend can be that meaningful.
Lee gave me the gift of knowing how much I meant to my friend simply by knowing who I was.
It was the closure I needed to say goodbye and to know that our friendship was one of the truest things I’ll ever have, no matter the time or absence of physical presence in each other’s lives.
Be present. See people. Know them. Learn their names. Remember them. Honor the space they have in your life and in the lives of those you love. You’ll never know when that gift can mean a lifetime of beauty to one person.