In 2008, I was 18 and my mother thought I was depressed (she was right). She wanted me to talk to someone. So she convinced me to chat with her friend, Tina, over the phone (long distance counseling at it’s most sincere). I remember when Tina told me that anything we talked about would be in complete confidence. In that moment, my mom’s best friend became my best friend. I felt so understood and heard. She treated me like an adult and called me “dahling” with the worst British accent, but it was our thing. She was intelligent, witty, and so empathetic.
During that summer of ’08, I broke up with my dysfunctional boyfriend and wanted to leave everything behind. So I settled on restarting my life in Tennessee. I lasted about three weeks. But I was with Tina and it was good. We sat watching the Tennessean sunsets and talked about the true meaning of love and infatuations. I took her kids grocery shopping and let them pick out their own cereal. I drove around Athens in her little beat up Honda looking for a job. I listened to the crickets in the humid twilights and witnessed lightning bugs for the first time in my young adult life. It was healing.
I didn’t see much of Tina after that summer. I went back to Washington, on to college and then to California.
When my sister got married in June 2015, Tina and I were reunited in Washington. I had the privilege of sharing a hotel room with her and we picked up where we’d left off. We played card games for days. My initial anxiety of being back in the homeland wore away as I got to spend time with her and some of my extended family. At the end of my trip, I didn’t really want to leave. I couldn’t figure out why at the time but I think it was my spirit. I didn’t know it would be the last time I’d get to hear her voice or hold her hand.
She was one of my closest confidantes. She believed in my dreams. She taught me to love the setting sun. She laughed at my jokes. She understood me in all my dysfunctional behavior. She loved me so, so well. She was a hell of a fighter.
Her greatest opponent was called cystic fibrosis. It’s a genetic disease that causes mucus to build up in the lungs. The immune system is weakened and the body becomes highly susceptible to lung infections, the common cold easily becomes pneumonia. The only real treatment for cystic fibrosis is lung transplant, but there’s only a 50/50 chance of survival within 5 years. The life expectancy for CF patients is 37 years. Tina celebrated her 47th birthday in July of 2015.
She died a year ago, today.
I’m happy that she can breathe easy again. I celebrate that she can sing as loud as she wants now. She can stare into the sun without blinking. We miss her and the strength that she brought to our lives. Her legacy lives on in the people that she loved so deeply. We are grateful that we knew her and had the privilege of being called her friends.
Here’s to you, dahling.