The Absence of a Particular Friend

The Absence of a Particular Friend
Stream of Consciousness Sunday
This week, I’m participating in “Stream of Consciousness Sunday”, hosted by Jana of Jana’s Thinking Place. The idea is to type for 5 minutes, a brain dump of sorts, and then to publish without editing the writing at all.

It’s been a hell of a week.

We had the support and love of so many this week, these past few weeks, this year, but the absence of a particular friend weighs heavily on my heart. I know that friends sometimes come and go, and I have seen the disappearance of a couple of good friends in the last few years, but this one… she’s not supposed to come and go. She’s supposed to be here, my sister by choice, my best girl, and I miss her.

I wonder if it’s something I’ve done or said. I wonder if my grief is just too much for her to handle, or if she blames me for Clara’s death but doesn’t want to say it. I wonder if she’s just moved on, found other friends. I hate to admit to such a petty emotion, but I am overwrought with jealousy of those other friends.

She’s my friend, after all. We’re supposed to rock on the porch together when we’re old and grey… even after the men have gone, we’ll still have each other. We’ve joked about that for years.

How can she move on without letting me know? Or… did she? Maybe she’s just busy? Maybe I’m overreacting… over emotional? It wouldn’t be the first time. I’m not the most emotionally balanced person this week; I will admit it.

I miss my friend though. I miss you a lot, dear friend, if you’re reading this.

The Absence of a Particular Friend

Love from Friends on Clara’s First Birthday #loveforclara

Love from Friends on Clara's First Birthday #loveforclara

This past Monday, July 1, would have been our youngest daughter Clara’s first birthday. She was stillborn at 42 weeks 3 days gestation, and we found out she had died when we went to the hospital to give birth to her.

It has been a difficult year for my husband and I, and we have been dreading this day. A day that should have been filled with happy birthday songs for my smiling baby girl was instead destined to be a terrible string of memories and wishes of what can never be.

Clara's First Birthday - Love from Friends #loveforclara

The day started out very hard, with David and I reliving every second of what was happening at this exact time last year. Things began to get better after I got online to find dozens of Facebook notifications and email messages. I am lucky to have a wonderful group of supportive friends who remembered us and organized “Clara Day”, in memory of our sweet girl.

Clara's First Birthday - Love from Friends #loveforclara

Balloons were released, candles lit, trees and flowers planted, memories made… all in honor of Clara Edith Webb. It makes my heart sing to feel so much love from friends I’ve never met face to face. I read so many caring messages and saved so many pictures, and every one of them lifted my spirits and made me feel so much better. I called David over to share them with him, and we cried together — sad tears for the loss of our baby, but happy tears for the love and light that we could feel from our friends.

Clara's First Birthday - Love from Friends #loveforclara

Thank you to each one of you who read Clara’s story and remembered her by sending in her name or celebrating with us on Monday. I wish (so much) that she were here to celebrate her first birthday with us, but that cannot be, and I am honored that she is being remembered so wonderfully.

Clara's First Birthday - Love from Friends #loveforclara

The Best of Friends

I love it when my daughters are the best of friends. There is very little that can brighten my mood like  the sight of them playing and grinning, the sound of their giggles. It doesn’t happen as often as I would like — in fact, it seems that much of their time together is spent devising new ways to torment one another, but when they’re getting along, it’s like magic. Their smiles and laughter make every difficult thing so much easier to deal with.

The Best of Friends - Giggling Girls

 I walked up to the apartment complex office one afternoon this week, to check the mail. As I came back down our breezeway toward the front door, I could hear their laughter. I paused outside and listened, hoping that it would last and not turn into tears or grumpiness. They’re hormonal prepubescent girls, after all, and apt to get emotional and full of attitude over the slightest thing.

This time though, the laughter continued, and actually got louder. I opened the door and immediately picked up the camera, wanting to capture this beautiful and rare moment for posterity. I snapped this picture, and then their giggles became contagious. I’m not even sure what they were laughing at, exactly — an animated drawing of a Pokemon battle that they both worked on. I couldn’t tell you what was so hilarious about it. I’m old, you see, so I don’t get it. They get it though, and in their opinions, it was the funniest thing ever.

No, I didn’t laugh at their silly video. I laughed at my beautiful daughters, still children but not for long, grinning wide, giggling until they had to run to the bathroom, which made them laugh even harder. It was pure happiness, unadulterated fun, side-splitting hilarity. I could watch them laugh and smile like that forever.

I’m linking up several places for Wordful/Wordless Wednesday…

live out loud button better in bulk button seven clown circus button babybabylemon jenni from the blog button pictimilitude button
Fresh Mommy Blog parenting BY dummies
Wordless Wednesday by David 5 Minutes for Mom Tales of a Pee Dee Mama

Nineteen Years, My Valentine

In 1994, I was 14 years old and I had a major crush on the artist for the school newspaper. He was a good friend, sweet and funny and more talented than he realized. He had a girlfriend and I didn’t think he would ever think of me as more than just a buddy to hang out with after school, while we waited on our moms to pick us up.

We had met the year before, right before my 14th birthday. I was a freshman and he was a junior. I had seen him around and thought he was so cute, but he was two grades higher than me, practically a man in my opinion, and I had no idea how to introduce myself to him.

On the first day we spoke, I was standing outside in front of the gym with a friend, and he came walking up the sidewalk. He stopped right in front of me and bent to pick up a screw off the ground. Standing back up, he looked right at me, reached out his palm and said, “Hey there. I’m David. You want a screw?” It sounded remarkably like, “you wanna screw?” I was caught in this moment of pure panic – “he’s talking to me!!!” mixed with “did he just say what I think he just said?” – but before I could react, he was grinning and laughing and I giggled, taking the screw from him with a wink.

From that day on, we were friends. He wrote me notes asking advice on the girls he liked, and I cried on his shoulder when my own relationships didn’t work out like I’d hoped. My crush grew quickly, but I didn’t tell him, not wanting to chance losing his friendship.

On Valentine’s Day 1994, David came up to me between 1st and 2nd periods and slipped an envelope into my hand. “Happy Valentine’s, Heather. This is for you, but read it later,” he said. I’d exchanged dozens of little notes with him at this point, but this was a full size envelope… what could it be? I slipped into the girls’ room and peeled the heart sticker off of the flap. He had drawn the card and written me a silly poem about “our screw”, as we referred to our first conversation.

Roses are Red (see?)
Violets are Blue (actually, they’re a little off purple!)
If you don’t like it, screw you!
Have a nice day!

Valentine 1994 Collage
As silly as that might sound to you, it was amazing to me. It made me laugh out loud, and I couldn’t wait to see him at lunch to thank him. He hugged me, and it felt like I’d won a million dollars. It was my first Valentine’s Day card from a boy. Of course, I’d received plenty of the little cards that moms buy their kids to hand out to everyone in their elementary school class, but I’d never been the recipient of a real Valentine, drawn specifically for me.

A year later, David kissed me for the first time. After another year, we progressed to talking on the phone most nights and exchanging naughty notes, though we claimed it was all innocent fun and we would always just be friends. Three years after that first Valentine, David and I started dating and he took me to my Senior Prom. Though our status as boyfriend and girlfriend didn’t last the summer, we remained friends.

Thirteen years after that first Valentine’s card, I was in the throes of depression, having ended my marriage of six years. David was there to pick me up, hold me close and listen to my tears. The summer of the following year, we admitted that we kept coming back to each other, year after year, because we had never found another person who could fill the void that we each had, and our relationship became exclusive and serious.

It has now been nineteen years since that Valentine’s Day, almost twenty years since we first spoke… when this funny man who I adore offered me a screw and made me giggle. He still makes me giggle, every day, and I feel like the luckiest woman in the world that he is my husband.

And yes, I still have the screw.

Patsy Annette Binns Edwards

My friend Patsy Annette Binns Edwards had been sick for a long time. She had a cold in October 2005 that wouldn’t go away. The doctors diagnosed pneumonia in November 2005, then pleurisy in December 2005. Pneumonia again in January and in March 2006. In April she began to suspect that it was something more…. she had lost 17 pounds since December. In early July, tests showed that an overactive thyroid was suspect for the weight loss. Right afterward, a pinched nerve landed her at a chiropractor and when that didn’t help, back at the hospital. On July 28, my friend had a CT scan and it was confirmed that she had a cancerous lung mass. Two weeks later, on August 11, 2006, she was diagnosed with incurable cancer in her brain, liver and lung.

She started radiation and chemotherapy immediately. By January 2007 she was down to 109 pounds, but still pressed onward, ever hopefully and faithful that she would get better. In early March she felt better, then things turned worse again with a bone infusion in late March. She went back to the hospital in mid-April and got steadily worse and worse, needing infusions and fluids almost every day. On May 13, she weighed 99 pounds, down from 158 in July 2006. By the end of the week she had dropped another 15 pounds.

My friend fought a very hard battle. She prayed to God every day to remove the cancer. She believed that God would take care of her and that belief gave her a strength that I have never seen. In an email she sent in September 2006, she said…

Blessings…sometimes they are all around you and you don’t even see them. Being ill like this, I could focus on how awful I feel and how weak I am (I am having trouble walking), but I have to fight this disease and I can’t do that feeling sorry for myself.

On May 19, Patsy’s oldest daughter Ashton told me that her grandma had asked her to come down to Charleston to see her mother one last time. That night I spoke with Patsy’s husband, Conan and the next morning, Ashton and I and my brother Zeb drove to Charleston, to MUSC downtown, to visit with Patsy. By the time we got there, she was in a coma, her breathing facilitated by machines.

We spent the day in the hospital. I held her hand and told her that I loved her, that I could never thank her enough for being my friend and that I would never forget her. I held Ashton while she told her mama how much she loved her and how sorry she was that they ever argued, that she was the best mama she could ever have hoped for. I cried until tears would not run anymore. Hymns were sung, prayers raised, stories told. At 8:30pm on May 20, 2007, Patsy Annette Binns Edwards died, with her oldest daughter holding one hand and her husband holding the other. On May 24, 2007, her body was committed to the ground and her soul to heaven.

Patsy was a wonderful woman. She was the mother of seven children — six by birth and one by marriage. She loved being a wife and a mother, especially a mother. She was never happier than when she was with her children – Ashton, Shannon, Emily, Shayne, Cathlin, Jason and Jamie. She loved being pregnant, loved nursing her babies, loved watching them grow and learn. She was so proud of her older kids and how much they were maturing and changing, right in front of her.

She was a work-at-home mother and had belonged to a huge community of women on the internet since 1999. She started sewing OopsaDaisys! cloth diapers in 1999 and opened My Child’s Garden in 2001, offering beaded “Not Just for Nursing” necklaces and bracelets. In September 2003, she joined Tuesday Bear, a group of work-at-home mothers which has since evolved into Midday Faire. Patsy sewed clothing for children, making incredible embellished overalls and matching hairbows and jewelry. She designed “Baby to Bride” bracelets and “Jean Jewels” for keychains and belts. She did graphic design work for Midday Faire.

Patsy was a pirate, through and through. Her celebrity crush was always Johnny Depp, who bears a striking resemblance to her husband, Conan. She fell in love with the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and eagerly awaited each new movie, going to see the second movie on opening night. She had her own special smilies at the Midday Faire forums and she always had Captain Jack as her picture icon by her name.

I met Patsy in March 2001. We were both members of the Amity Mama forums and both pregnant, me with my first, her with her fifth. Our due dates were within days of each other. We emailed each other and posted together on the forums. She was so jealous when I went into labor first and teased that she would be pregnant forever. Twelve days later, on July 28, 2001, she gave birth to Jason. We emailed late at night a couple times every week, when we were both awake with fussy newborns who wanted to nurse around the clock and later, when our babies were rolling over, sitting up, walking, when I became pregnant again the next April, when we were angry at our husbands or when they did something so incredible romantic, when we were sad or lonely.

Our friendship became even stronger when I joined Tuesday Bear two weeks after Patsy, in October 2003. We messaged each other more than before and one night, when she called me, we spoke easily and laughed so hard we cried. Two more different people you would have trouble finding… Patsy, the Conservative Republican Christian and me, the Liberal Democratic Atheist. It never mattered. We talked about everything, including religion and politics and books and kids and love and sex and men and… everything. She was my closest friend other than my husband, and when I separated from him in May 2006, she became my #1 confidante and keeper of all my secrets, my best friend.

I spent months depressed, self-injurious and for a time, suicidal. I would call Patsy and tell her all of my craziness and she would say just the right thing to talk me out of my tree. She never judged me, only loved me. She prayed for me even when I would tell her that I don’t believe in it. I would visit her in Charleston and we would laugh and talk for hours while our kids played on the playground and she nursed her new baby, Jamie. She saw good in me even when I could not, and she alone knew all that I went through and all that I felt in that one horrible year of my life.

I will never be able to replace the love and the light that was Patsy Edwards. I mourn her loss so deeply and it catches me at odd times in the day. I will laugh at a joke and think how I need to tell Patsy that one, then catch myself and be blinded by tears. I talk to her oldest daughter Ashton, who is dating my little brother Zeb, and she looks so much like her mama. It catches me off-guard when she laughs and her eyes twinkle just like Patsy’s did. I think how Ashton and Zeb would never have met if I had not gone to visit Patsy and take her a life-size cut-out of Johnny Depp right after she was diagnosed with cancer and I smile through my tears. We were all blessed to have known this woman and in the short time that she was here, she touched so many lives.

I’ll love you always Patsy girl.

Patsy Annette Binns Edwards