The Last Goodbye :: Navigating the Unexpected Loss of a Friend

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You really never know when you see someone when it will be the last time.

It had been a long time since my friend and I had seen each other. Too long.
After I saw a comment he posted on my Mother’s Day photo with my kids, I messaged him a few days later and said we should grab lunch. 

He told me to pick the time and place, so I did and he said he was buying.

When I arrived, I immediately saw him sitting at an outdoor table. It was a beautiful sunny day. We hugged and immediately started talking as if we hadn’t missed a beat in years.

How long had it been since we had last seen each other? We couldn’t decide. He said 15 years. I said no way. 10 maybe, but it had to be less, right? Too long either way.

Life happened. We both got married, had babies within months of each other. Life got busy and the years went by so fast. We were in and out of touch, but being friends on Facebook, we could stay up-to-date with each other’s lives, although that’s not really the same.

As our conversation went on, he told me about the mental illness he had been suffering from for many years. I had no idea. I immediately felt guilty for not knowing and not being there for him.

We talked nonstop about the past, about the present, and about the future. He told me he wished we had eight hours to talk and catch up. I agreed.

A little over an hour later, we said our goodbyes. He gave me the biggest hug and said we had to meet up again soon. I said, “absolutely.” He said “name the time and the place.”

I didn’t know this was it. That this was the last time I would ever see him. I would have hugged him longer and at least snapped a photo.  

Three days later, a text from a mutual friend. “Did you see he died in a car accident yesterday?” I had to re-read it. Multiple times. That couldn’t be right. 

But it was true. I was in complete shock. The first stage of grief is denial, right? I kept thinking. . . I just saw him. I literally just saw him.

How could this happen? I went through the rest of the day feeling numb. I told my parents that night and just saying it out loud broke me.

My mind was flooded with memories. When he transferred to my elementary school in sixth grade, I thought he was the cutest boy I’d ever seen. We were such great friends, and I loved our friendship. 

We stayed in contact pretty well for the first 10 years after we graduated, but we didn’t get to see each other much. Thank goodness for cell phones and social media so we could at least see a glimpse into each other’s lives even when we went long stretches without talking.

One week after we met for lunch, I attended his funeral service. Talk about surreal. I got to see his mom, who I was always close to, and hug her and talk to her. She told me after our lunch he had called her and said “You won’t believe who I had lunch with today. It’s someone you really, really like.”

The pastor asked if anyone wanted to say any words at the service. I really wanted to. There was just too much to say, and I was pretty sure I couldn’t make it through it. So that’s why I wanted to write this.

As I sit here with tears running down my cheeks, I am so incredibly sad that I won’t get to see you again, but I’m so glad you are healed, mentally and physically.

Rest In Peace, dear friend.

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