I'm going to try to write this post without reverting to the words that describe my mood best right now--maudlin, morose, mournful, mad. All of those wonderfully descriptive M words. Maudlin, in particular. But, who am I kidding?
Last Tuesday night, I lost my best friend. And I've wept more in the past month than I probably have in years, because we all knew it was coming. I've thought a lot about that, recently--whether it's better to know that the death of a loved one is coming, like Kara's, or for it to take you by complete surprise, like a Mack truck ran into you, as it was with my brother's accidental death 13 years ago. And although they're both terrible in their own ways, I guess I've decided that an anticipatory death beats out a sudden one, just barely. Because at least you get the chance to say goodbye.
I won't rehash the beginnings of my and Kara's friendship. If you really want to know, you can read about it here. I guess just suffice it to say that, for now at least, I feel completely bereft. (Even though she's playing our song as I type this--every little thing's gonna be alright.)
I've never been a person to whom friendship comes easily--which made the ease with which Kara entered my life surprising. From the beginning, I felt unguarded around her, which is not my usual form. In past (and even current) friendships, I've had to take the time to feel a person out, to get to know them slowly, to see if I could be my true self around them or if I needed to introduce them to my weirdness in small doses so as not to scare them away. With Kara, I felt immediately welcomed and that I was in the presence of a kindred spirit. Which I guess is one of the reasons that makes this so hard.
While Kara was in the hospital and then in the nursing home and then in the hospital and then, finally, in hospice, I visited her quite often (although my heart says not often enough). And those visits gave me a lot of comfort, I suppose. Because even at the end, when she was hallucinating from the morphine quite a bit (this is what it sounds like when giraffes cry), it was clear that she was still there. At the same time, though, the visits made me feel incredibly sad, because they were always with other people in the room, and I felt like there was so much I wanted to--and should--say to her but didn't because I didn't want to do so in front of an audience. And I know I didn't really need to, except for my own benefit, because I think she knew how much I love her and care about her and how hard it was to watch her go.
And on the last day, I did get some time with her, both before she passed and after. And I told her what I needed to say at that time. That I loved her. That I would be so very sad without her. That Mardi Gras and Saints season were going to be terribly heartbreaking in the coming months and years, but that we would muddle through without her, because we know that's what she would want--and expect--us to do. That it was okay to leave. That we would be alright without her. That we would take care of each other. That we would watch out for Trey and the boys. That we love her. And it gives me great peace that I was able to tell her those things, because that's what dying really comes down to, after all, even if it seems selfish--what those of us who are left behind will do, how we will cope. As strange as it may seem, I don't worry about Kara now. I have no doubt that her soul continues to exist, because, God, what a beautiful soul she was--and is.
I am so glad that I got to have eight years of friendship with you, Kara. We met at a time when I desperately needed a friend, and I wouldn't trade the past eight years for anything. So here is what my heart has wanted to say to you, and that I very much hope you already know.
You, to me, are New Orleans. You came into my life shortly after Katrina, when my feelings for this city were mixed and my thoughts varied from minute to minute as to whether I wanted to stay or go. You introduced me to so much of the good in this city and made the bad easier to take, with your fierce love of everything New Orleans. You made me a defender and lover of this city, just as much as my husband has. You took me to second lines. And to Super Sunday. And away from St. Charles Avenue on Mardi Gras day, to see all of the other things this city has to offer. And to St. Joseph's Night, which will go down in my memory as one of the most magical nights ever. Because how can you beat Indians and dancing at Handa Wanda's? You showed me the beauty of this city in a way I never could have known before, on my own, just by showing me your love for it.
You taught me every single damn thing I know about football. (Well, you and Krissie.) My dad and my husband like football, but they weren't the ones who explained to me what a safety is. Or what the referee meant when he made this sign, or that sign. The difference between a false start and offsides. You made me a part of all of the Saints away games in da courtyard, and you made me part of a football community--something I hadn't had, outside of watching games with Kenny, since my UGA days. Hell, you made me care what happened to the Saints during home games, when I was sitting home alone watching with Emmeline while everyone else was at the Dome or in a bar. And god, every Sunday was fun. So. Much. Fun. Even if we were losing, we were screaming "Sparta!" or beheading stuffed squirrels or threatening the six-foot Drew Brees poster with cigarette burns if he didn't get it together. We were making posters to go to the airport and welcome the Saints back. We were speculating (always correctly, as it turns out), on whether Brittany was pregnant, based on Drew's game. We were saying "in the house tonight" and "one fucking job" every five minutes. And we were making fun of pink jerseys, pink socks, and pink gloves--because why does breast cancer get all of the attention and melanoma gets none. We were watching Trey setting fires in the fire pit and us winning as a result (or so we say). And we were laughing at (with?) poor Boudreaux in his Aaron Brooks jersey. All of those times are memories that I will hold in my heart for the rest of my life. It will get better, I know, but for now, all of the posts on FB counting down the Sundays until Saints season starts make me desperately sad, because I don't know how we're going to do it without you. You and your mimosas and your vegan chili.
You were, and are, the Mardi Gras queen. You will always be the Mardi Gras queen. You (and Cher) were out there every minute, every hour, before every single parade. Every. Single. Parade. We watched our kids grow up together (and, I hope, will continue to do so) on the parade route. You texted me every single damn day and night of a parade (PARADES!!!!) to ask me if I was on the way yet. You stuck it out this past Mardi Gras, in 39 degree weather and that terrible, relentless, never-ending rain to make sure that Emmeline had the best damn Mardi Gras birthday we could possibly give her. You are Mardi Gras. And I will be back on St. Charles and Eighth each year, and you will be there with us, especially every time a Teach for America volunteer wanders by with a band.
You were a shelter in the storm, when I needed one the most. If I was having a bad day, or a bad relationship day, I knew that I could come to you and vent my frustrations and would get only love and acceptance in return. You never judged. You just listened and let me work it out on my own. I can't tell you how much I'm going to miss hearing you say, "I know, right?"
You are so loved. The hardest part about letting you go, I think, has been the way you've drawn us all together. You gave me a New Orleans family--Trey and Krissie and Beverly. Beau and Joey and Michael. And Cher and Jade and Jay and Nora and Tom and Sarah and Rachel and Kiersten. And Ryan and Jeremy. Lindsey and Connie and Andrew and Beth. Josh and Cicely and Ciarra and Max. Jonathan. And hundreds of other people that I can't fit in this post. Watching all of these people that I care about now hurting as much or more than I am has been just as difficult as losing you. Watching Beverly lose her beloved daughter, Trey losing his touchstone, co-parent, and the love of his life, Krissie losing her sister and her shared keeper of your history together, and your sons losing the mom that they love so very much has hurt so badly.
You were--and are--one of the best friends I'll ever have in this lifetime. You are amazing. You are loved. You are missed--so very missed. You will, I know, go on to do even more good in this world.
I do--and will continue to--miss you so much. Thank you for being my friend. Who Dat. And PARADES!!!! I love you.