A Goodbye

Heddy, Block Island ~ August 2010
I snapped this picture of Heddy just a few months after she found out about the cancer. I had travelled up from Florida to Block Island for a peaceful weekend getaway with her and her boyfriend, Chris. The medication she was taking made her very tired and so, as she napped, I snuck off to stroll along little island paths and around town to think about my vibrant, beautiful friend and her disease. On my way back to the house, as I was smiling about years of memories Heddy and I had made together, I allowed myself to go there ~ to ask the question, What if she dies from this? My green organic grocery bag filled with wine and Pringles rolled into a bed of bright purple hydrangeas as I crumpled awkwardly onto the broken sidewalk.

Throughout the past two years since her diagnosis, Heddy's been bravely fighting a brutal, relentless adversary, as I've been swinging at the air, trying to make sense of it all. She combated nausea, exhaustion, and never-ending pain with unfailing grace and wit. I responded to the deep sadness that my friend was hurting by focusing on my family, my work, the beach, cheap wine... I had that luxury, after all. And not being right there in the middle of it - not visiting her daily with silly gifts, bear hugs, and healthy meals - ultimately brought me great grief and tremendous guilt. Separated by 1,200 miles, I couldn't be the friend I wanted to be for her.

I often wish for a real-life version of those movie montages, complete with melancholy music and beautiful images of the times we spent together. In my mind, these scenes take an erratic and haphazard form. But if I were to film a montage of these personal memories of Heather, perhaps "Into the Mystic" would play as the following scenes would roll sweetly across the screen, one melting into the next:
  • The day we met: It was back in 2000 at the publishing firm we both worked at. I was new and was being introduced around the office. I noticed Heddy right away ~ her shiny dark hair falling over her shoulders and framing her striking features, all juxtaposed with a shy hello
  • The times we went out: Boy did we go out. Our joie de vivre visited greater Fairfield County, CT, and spilled out into coastal New England.
  • Our nights in: Some of my favorite times with Heddy were the ones we did nothing at all. Give us pizza, a big blanket on the couch, and an evening of Lifetime movies, and we were the happiest we could be.
  • The important moments: Heather was there for all of them for so, so many years. Like the times either of us had a broken heart; the night I met Ang; the day I (she) picked out my wedding dress; my wedding weekend; CT reunions (once I'd moved to FL); that weekend in Block Island. And every single Thanksgiving and Christmas, Heddy was always the very first friend to give me a call. No matter where either of us was, she'd call to wish my family and me a happy one.
  • The Saturday following Thanksgiving, 2011: We spent an hour or so together on her couch, like no time had passed. The chemo had taken her hair, but she was still so incredibly beautiful. I hugged her goodbye gently that day. That was the last time I saw her...
Heather Patricia Hickey brought so much joy to my life. She was shy, and at the same time so silly and witty. As an adult, it's odd to have been scolded on more than one (ten?) occasions for laughing at inappropriate moments thanks to Heddy's jokes and expressions. She was incredibly sharp. I could pop over to her desk or call and ask her anything, be it a question on grammar, medical jargon, the best cosmetics for my coloring or for personal advice, and her answer was always thoughtful and spot-on. 

She and I shared an inexplicable sadness for certain random strangers. Like the melancholy older gentleman who would fix the fax machine at her desk. Whenever he left, she'd have tears streaming down her face and I knew exactly why. Just like when I told her about the small, frail man I couldn't stop thinking about at CVS, who was just standing there bewildered, clutching a solitary red bow. Heddy said, "Awwhhh, Jin. I know..." when I told her, and gave me the sweetest hug. I remember this moment like it was yesterday... 

And her exterior beauty? Well. That's an obvious one.

I do realize that my memories of her are only a drop in the bucket when one considers how much she has brought to so many people's lives ~ her family's, especially. (And I include Chris, the love of her life, when I say family.) But these are my recollections and memories, and I will hold them close to my heart. They are my treasures. Lila and AJ will know Aunt Heddy very well throughout their lifetime, as I will always remind them of her and of the gifts she has given me ~ laughter, beauty, zest for life, and true friendship.

I woke up at 2am today and read a text informing me that Heddy was gone. I couldn't formulate any words in my mind, other than "Oh..." I just felt this incredible sadness that I'd not been there for her. That perhaps she left this mortal coil without knowing how much her unfailing friendship has meant to me through the years. I was overcome with a deep need to see her face and to hear her voice and I wept quietly. A few hours later, as the sun was just starting to come up, I fell asleep for what seemed like hours, but was really just a moment or so. I dreamed that Heddy was at her funeral and that she was alive to enjoy it. She grabbed my hand and we danced and laughed. She stopped dancing long enough to grin at me and say, "Oh, my Jin...", like she always did, and I woke up to the sound of her voice. It echoed in my ears, and does as I write this.



Oh, my Heddy. I'm heartbroken that you're gone. I miss you and I will always love you. I loved being your friend. And I thank God that he put us both on this earth at the very same time, if just for a short while...




Comments

SwedishJenn said…
Dear Jen. My heart is breaking for you today. I can imagine how hard it must have been not to be right there with her through her battle but I am sure she has felt your presence and your love wrap around her, an extra blanket of cozy love. She was so lucky to have you as a friend. xo
Serenity said…
I am so very sorry for your loss. She sounds like an amazing person and wonderful friend. Sending you love and peace as you grieve.

xoxo
Anonymous said…
Oh,my. You have beautiifully expressed what really good friends feel. Love you. :-)
Me said…
Beautiful words Jen. Ahh, "Into the Mystic", that VAN! The tears are rolling as I write my comment. The bond that you and Heddy have will last forever. She will be forever etched in your heart and soul. Your memories are priceless, hold them close. Much love during this difficult time. xoxo
aimee jones said…
I follow your pics of your cute twins on instagram...I am so sorry for the loss of your friend.
Anonymous said…
She was a special person who had a very special friend in you. How beautifully shared and written, you were both lucky to have been a part of one another lives. I am sorry for your loss.
JennyCB said…
Thank you guys for your sweet comments. They mean so much to me. Love to you... xoxo
vermonter said…
So so sorry for your loss.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for this beautiful entry. I could really imagine the two of you together. I am so sad about Heddy too... thank you for sharing. Julia

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