Today is Memorial Day, the day our country sets aside to honor and mourn those brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. And I won’t trivialize their selflessness by waxing poetic about the death of a character or favorite plot thread.
Today I honor and mourn someone I lost, someone who slipped from this life without my immediate knowledge, someone whose death I didn’t understand right away because I was too busy being selfish.
My Old Crabapple, my Triple E.
My first friend.
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She was my courage, my aggravation, my whimsy. Though seldom philosophical and rarely stationary long enough for serious dialogue, she could knock you on your ass with her dead-on observations and wit.
I’m sure she had her reasons for keeping its resurgence a secret. I know she did because she never did anything without a reason.
But without the benefit of her rationale or an opportunity for recourse, I was lost.
And pissed beyond articulation.
See, we weren’t done. Even though we had 30 years together—a lifetime, as we were 33 when she died—our reign of mischief and misadventure had barely begun.
We were supposed to go back to the apartment complex where I grew up, the one where we played behind the gate in “The Amazon” against our parents’ wishes, to dig up the time capsule she, Nita, and I buried somewhere in the dirt.
We were supposed to have a sleepover with pizza and popcorn, watch “Dance 'Til Dawn” and "Back to the Future III," play M.A.S.H., and reminisce about the good ol’ days.
Moreover, we were supposed to grow old together, to buy that three-story house on Rittenhouse Street so she, Nita, and I could each have a floor to ourselves when our hubbies and kids got on our nerves.
And hear my heart. I’m not obtuse or obnoxious enough to think she wanted to go, certainly not with tattered pink ribbons billowing in her wake. I know my pain does not compare to that of her parents and brother, the nephew she adored whose life had barely begun.
But her death was my first soul-shattering crisis, the first time my faith and life collided and forced me to examine myself. Sure I'd lost loved ones before. I'd ministered in song and prayer at family funerals and understood the power of death.
But this was different.
Because this was E, and she was not supposed to go.
Not my Old Crabapple.
Not the one with the unique distinction of knowing my cousins on both sides, my first kiss, my first love, my husband, and all seven of my children.
Not the one who’d been there in my childhood bedroom, my preschool, middle, and high schools, and my dorm rooms at both Penn and Howard.
Certainly not the one with whom I shared so much history, I could hardly exist if she did not.
So today I honor her. Not by looking at old pictures or listening to favorite songs. Not by reciting our famous four-word poem, chuckling about a private joke, or obsessing over everything I forgot to say.
No, today I honor her by being me.
In all my audacious glory.
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Because for everything she was—and she was a lot for so short a person—she was undeniably, unapologetically herself. And through 30 years of eyeliner experiments, breakups with bad boys, and too many memories to name, she loved me: loved me when I didn’t like myself, loved me when we irked each other, loved me the best she could as long as she could, and was the first person outside my family to do so.
So here’s to you, you Old Crabapple. Thank you for showing me how to be myself.
(And hey. I'll bake you a cake for your birthday.)