I lost a good friend recently. It's heartbreaking, in so many exquisitely beautiful ways, that she's not here on this mortal soil with me (even though I know her laughter fills the holy halls of Heaven).
She was a beautiful woman who loved to dress as the spunky young girl that lived inside her heart. It wasn't unusual to see all 6'-plus feet of her Amazonian self wearing cabbage patch kid overalls and curly black pigtails with bows. She had the best cupid bow smile and a laugh that could crack the code of even the snarliest old goats. I know, because one of them was my husband.
During the time we knew her best, she was part of a group of friends supporting each other through some extreme life difficulties. It was an unusual addiction recovery group where we not only knew each others last names, but we met often socially and became close friends. I have seen her at her drunk-on-mouthwash worst and her shiny Sunday tentative testimony bearing best. I love the whole spectrum of her.
We met weekly for a couple of years and cried with both spiritual inspiration and hearts cracking into pieces for the struggling among us. My own husband, who has left his substance addictions behind, but who at that time struggled with depression and rage, was deeply changed by this group. It was better than the costliest therapy. One time Lloyd had broken his glasses and was raging about how impossible it was going to be to solve. He was at Walmart, looking for medical tape to secure them, and couldn't find it. Instead he found me in the checkout line and loudly vented his frustration to me and the dozen other people in close proximity. In an effort to quiet him, I suggested he walk over to the Vision Center and see if they could fix his glasses. He hollered about how “those morons won't be able to do anything!” and then went over to ask. Ten minutes later they handed the glasses to him fixed. At no charge. He had nothing to say about that.
Later, he shared that story in group, and Suzy reached up waving both hands frantically, calling out “Wait! Wait!....You couldn't find medical tape in Walmart and THEY'RE the morons?” We all burst out laughing and the story was often retold. In that moment, thanks to her, he saw himself in a new way. It sapped the anger from his veins, calmed and healed him, the way that group did over and over again.
She told stories about throwing her cigarettes out the window, vowing to quit, and then driving back to that exact spot to retrieve them later when the craving got too strong. She humbly shared her most shameful secrets in an attempt to overcome them. It inspired me. And the rest of the group too. Her honesty, her openness, her wounded warrior self that fought courageously on this shared battleground.
I watched her slowly gain sobriety with panache and grace. When she moved, I saw her less and less, But I got to watch her marry her best friend (another member of our group) in a gymnasium decorated for the Utah Jazz where they both wore jerseys and we sat on bleachers. Yup, she was that kind of girl.
We have lost several members of that group. Some have died, more have driven deeper into addiction, and a few are in and out of jail and rehab. Many struggle. Few have stayed sober. Suzy got her act together at a rehab we helped set up for her. She worked there later with great success, married and had a son. She was happy, thriving and using her life to pay it forward. I was lucky she was my friend.
I don't know how she died. Not sure I want to know. But I know I love her, and the world is not the same without her. Look out, Heaven! I hope you know what you're getting! (And just thinking about her spunky angel self makes me laugh...)
Part of me wishes I could be there to see it!