A year ago, I lost my best friend to cancer. I spent time leading up to, and directly after, in a state of shock trying to reconcile that at 35 I was losing someone outside of family that I was close to. In April last year my hubby and I traveled down to her memorial service. I don’t remember much of it besides the hole in my heart. I certainly have no idea what I stood up and said, having written down notes hastily in the car on the way down. Even having as much notice as I did, I waited until then to write down my thoughts. I didn’t want her death to be real. I still don’t.
I’ve been besieged by thoughts – I’m not going to say guilt because Tanya herself would smack me – that I did not do her justice when standing up and speaking for her. As a writer, I thought I could be more eloquent. As a friend, I thought I would be able to rise above my grief. In both, I crashed and burned.
Before all of you come forward to let me know that it was fine, I did fine, and that I don’t need to explain the turmoil I was in, let me say that I agree. But this was not about me; it was about someone I cared for deeply. It was about the one person that knew so much of my heart and soul that it was a bit scary.
I’m writing a year later to try and put into words the amazing person she was, and to offer tribute in a way that I couldn’t when wrapped up in grief. In typical fashion for me, I’m going to organize my observations. She would always laugh at me for my organization, and it became a joke between us. When we got together she’d always ask me what the schedule was, knowing I would have some rough outline of what we were going to do even if I tried not to. It was the same way with our writing – she would ramble and go down windy paths of description, and I would lovingly suggest an outline to keep her on track.
A writer with heart.
She didn’t hold anything back. Every interaction in her stories and poems were heartfelt and didn’t pull any punches. She dove headlong into her story, getting wrapped up in her characters. She wrote poems so strong that they felt like a hurricane had swept through and picked up the chair you were reading in before turning it upside down.
Devoted to her husband and children.
No matter what I’ve gone through in dealing with Tanya’s death, I know that they have had it far worse than I. What I know however is that her fierce love for her family lives on. The few times I visited her home I saw evidence of how loving and kind she was, and devoted to her family’s well being. She encouraged her children to think independently and consider their options and choices. She listened and supported her husband. She kept going even when times were challenging.
An earth goddess.
Tanya lived on the shores of Lake Wyola for a reason. She loved being outdoors, planting flowers, and being barefoot. Her herbal business was a true testament to her love of the earth’s ability to connect. When she would visit me, she’d want to go sit outside first thing, or walk through the backyard and see what flowers were blooming.
A lover of dance and movement.
Tanya and I met in college, and danced together. She always leaned toward the improvisation classes, staying grounded to the earth. We often did contact improvisation together, and looking back on those moments makes me see just how much she felt the movement within her heart and body.
My best friend.
There were many people Tanya loved, many friends that she connected with. They all had special residence in her heart, and I am grateful to know just how many lives she touched.
May all of you know the love of a friend like that.