A friend of mine from high school died yesterday. I heard last night, via the Facebook IM tree, and it was like the breath just flew out of me.
Kirsten fought off leukemia as a child, but liver cancer would end her. And with her death, so ended my foolish belief that we were eternal.
In my mind, she is forever a junior and I’m a sophomore. We traveled in the same group of friends, who partied on the weekends with music and Monty Python, who dated each other shamelessly and intertwined our lives and dramas for three years of my life.
I always knew she was brave, because you can’t be a kid dealing with cancer and not be brave. I also knew her to be kind, smart, funny, and sweet. I have distant, fading Polaroids in my mind of moments from parties at her house. These were the truly formative moments of my life, when my heart was built to be broken.
She wasn’t the first person I know from high school to have died; that honor goes to Dylan – one year behind me – who died while still in high school. Foolish escapades on a jet ski ended him, and his may have been the first wake I attended. But it’s K’s death that reminds me that even my band of friends, who I see really only online these days, is not forever.
We live in different cities and, in some cases, on different coasts. Many stayed in the DC area, and she was one of several of us to migrate to New England. I probably last saw K when she graduated; her being in Maine made her no closer to me than anything else. I rarely head that far north.
But she was never fully out of my thoughts, and hearing of her death from liver cancer gave me sad pause, adding another name to the “In Memory Of” list I wear as I walk my marathon for The Jimmy Fund/Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
My childhood is gone, more so than any other single event, because now I’m reminded of the fragility of it all. I may not see all of these people online, or talk to them on a daily basis, but my love for my friends of that time will outlast us all.
RIP K. I miss you and I love you.