This Monday February 13th marks the four year death anniversary of my BFF Anne Hurley. Losing someone you love so much is the strangest and longest journey I’ve ever been on. I’ve discovered that the path is long and even though it continues to narrow each year, it never ends. I remember the dreaded phone call like yesterday, “Are you sitting down?” My friend Craig said. I remember the disbelief, the tears streaming, my heart sinking. I never thought I would survive this. It was different from my dad’s murder conviction. That time was also a loss until after my dad’s sentencing he would still call us collect a few times a week. He’d complain about the family not getting him better attorneys. After that, I didn’t miss him so much. Anne’s loss, however, was a complete devastation.
I was living in NYC at the time and just by chance had landed at LAX that day to take my mom to chemo. As I landed at the airport, Mom called me to say her chemo was rescheduled and I was elated. We could do a little road trip to Santa Barbara or something instead of her feeling even more ill. Then I get that “are you sitting down” phone call. Anne had collapsed from an aneurysm and was brain dead on life support. I drove up to Saratoga the next morning, I could barely see because I was crying so hard. I drove straight to the hospital where Anne was being kept alive, surrounded by family and friends. Just like Carrie Fisher.
We had two days of watching Anne on life support, her body still warm and connected to about three machines helping her stay alive. I must have said goodbye to her about 50 times, holding her warm hand, fixing her hair, remembering the shape of her nail beds. Then the nurse and doctor came in when no one else was around and called her time of death. I was there, it was a living nightmare – seeing someone so vibrant, full of life, so much more to give, just gone.
It was kismet that it all worked out, I mean not that Anne died, but that I just happened to already be in Cali and could see Anne one last time. Otherwise I don’t know if I would have flown out. I think I would have been in total disbelief and thought for sure Anne would make it out of this and everything would be fine and we’d be drinking wine again. Seeing her lifeless body on life support gave me a gutted feeling of closure.
Back in NYC with my busy life, I couldn’t stop crying. I’d run into conference rooms at work to cry. I’d cry at my desk, at the gym, on the subway, in the bodega. I came down with pneumonia and was out of work for almost a month. All I could do was watch sad movies, drink our favorite Chardonnay (Acacia), wear her clothes and look at photos of us from all our adventures. I’d wake up every morning exhausted and puffy-eyed from all the crying in my sleep. I was obsessed with death and dying and felt comfort in talking to peers who had also lost someone. It seemed so incredible that these people were able to move on. Man, I needed to get a grip.
At the end of 2013 I quit my job and moved back to Los Angeles. After Anne died I realized how important it was to grab the bull by the horns, purge the riff raff, and spend time with people and adventures that mattered most. I traveled mostly with my close friend Laura. Laura lost both her parents at an early age and her brother had recently committed suicide. Wow. My loss paled in comparison. Laura was so strong and positive, you would never know the suffering she’d endured. I learned a lot from her and in some strange way I think Anne gifted me Laura as my new travel buddy. We got along so well and Laura even convinced me to get scuba certified. Anne had tried to get me certified 20 years ago but I had no interest, WTF?
Every few months I’d have my Anne breakdown. I’d feel overwhelmed with Anne. My lip still trembled when I spoke about her and I’d often get teary-eyed. Sometimes I’d even force an Anne meltdown just so I could be sad and mourn her. People say that you’re supposed to move on and that the person would also want you to. I struggled with this for a couple of years. I didn’t want to move on, I didn’t want to forget about Anne, I didn’t want to lose that sadness. I didn’t want her to think I didn’t care.
Now it’s been four years. I can’t believe it. Some days I don’t think about her and then I feel guilty; but I know it’s what she’d want. I used to have twenty pictures of her on my wall, now I only have ten 🙂 I miss having that one person who got me, REALLY got me. Like I could tell her inappropriate men and poo poo stories, not occurring at the same time, and she’d just laugh her ass off. Sometimes if I experience a crazy moment I grab my phone to text someone, but I don’t know who’d appreciate the text like Anne would. I kept her voicemails and they’re in my itunes library. They’ll play randomly when I’m listening to music in my car. When I hear her voice it comforts me and puts an instant smile on my face, especially her response to my voicemail when I told her about the tiny Asian penis I’d encountered in NYC. God I loved her.
My memories of us together are beginning to fade. Sometimes I’ll see her picture and I see someone that I used to know. It’s weird. I think of all the events she’s missed, especially our 30th high school reunion last fall.
I know so many people have suffered loss. I mean I think of all the devastation in Syria and I cringe. I see the animal videos of baby rhinos and elephants not leaving their dead mother’s side as they experience grief. It’s all around us, every day. Somehow, some way we manage to move on and life continues. I still have Anne’s blue hat from our kayaking trip hanging on my bedroom door, and it reminds me of all the fantastic times we had together.
Wow, as I reread this blog post I’m beginning to cry, about Anne, not Carrie! Ugh, grief blows.