Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Julie and me

We had big dreams, Julie and I.

She was going to be an Oscar-winning actress and I was going to be famous the world over for writing that would make people laugh with joy and weep with empathy.

Instead I today mark the 13th anniversary of her death by trying, in this humble space, to use my words to pay some kind of tribute to her and to our friendship.

Julie and I met nearly 20 years ago in my first year of university. I was in full party mode, enjoying a concert by a band I can’t remember, when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned and there stood a tiny, doll-like girl with a big, tipsy smile.

“I’m ever so short,” she said. (Really). “I can’t see the band. Help me out?”

She gestured to my shoulder and I burst out laughing at her audacity. When I regained my composure I stooped down and up she hopped. We were pretty much inseparable from that moment on.

I don’t know exactly how tall Julie was. Four feet, ten inches maybe? Four feet eleven? Surely not five feet. She never discussed it so I’m not sure how I came to understand that her growth had been stunted by treatments she endured to successfully fight leukemia as a toddler.

No matter. What Julie lacked in stature she made up for in attitude. She was startling beautiful and she knew it. She turned heads wherever she went. She would insult you in the most outrageous fashion and then charm you a second later with a conspiratorial wink and a flip of her hair.

We had a shtick, Julie and I. She was drool and I was goofy. I told corny jokes and she made cutting observations. We were partners in crime, kindred spirits, two peas in a pod. We got each other.

A few years after graduation Julie moved Los Angeles to pursue her acting career. I took a road trip to visit and fell in love with Arizona on my way through. I moved there not long after and we visited between Scottsdale and Los Angeles regularly.

What a heady time! She acted bit parts and I worked as a freelance writer. Drunk with youth and possibility, we attacked the world the only way we knew how – full tilt. We narrowly avoided a dust-up with a member of Faster Pussycat at Whiskey a Go-Go. We danced on the tables at a sushi restaurant in Venice. We traded jokes and insults behind the microphone at a house party we crashed in West Hollywood.

Superbowl weekend rolled around. Julie had vague plans to visit me in Arizona. I didn’t hear from her, but wasn’t overly concerned. Then her mother called in the early evening.

I’m in Los Angeles dear,” she said. “With Julie. She’s dying. She’s asking to see you. You better come right away”

I have often tried, during the last 12 years, to recreate how I felt to hear those words. When the picture I carry of her in my head gets blurry or I can’t quite hear her voice, I force myself back into that dark moment, hoping, I guess, that fresh pain will somehow make her seem less distant.

And so I drove, tears streaming down my face, across the desert in the middle of the night. I remember the moonlight on the palm trees and the warm wind and the feeling that surely I must just be playing a part in some cheesy movie of the week – the kind Julie would eviscerate with one pithy blow.

But it wasn’t a movie of course. Julie had visited the doctor just a few weeks earlier about a nagging cough, which was, it turned out, symptomatic of imminent heart and lung failure. Her respiratory system had been compromised by the very treatments that had saved her life all those years ago.

I got to the hospital and went in to see her right away. I remember thinking how glamorous and beautiful she looked laying there, her hair artfully fanned out around her pillow: a tiny, perfect doll.

“Tell me a joke,” she said. And, because she asked me to, I blinked back my tears and did just that. Then I told her I loved her. She smiled like Cleopatra on the Nile. Of course I did.

One after another, the people who loved her filed in to say goodbye. Her parents went last and came out an hour or so later. She was gone, they said.

Julie was gone.

Afterwards I went to a Denny’s on Sunset Blvd and ate pancakes and drank Irish coffee and cried. It seemed fitting somehow and I lingered, knowing Julie would revel in the curious glances I drew with my smeared eyeliner, disheveled hair and tragic demeanor.

Some days I can’t believe that how much the world has changed since Julie was in it. How can it be that Pulp Fiction was the last movie that she saw? That she never got to make fun of Paris Hilton or weigh in on reality television. That September 11th was remarkable to her only because it’s my birthday?

I carried Julie’s lace handkerchief down the aisle with me on my wedding day. And on her birthday every year her parents treat me to dinner at her favorite restaurant. But I feel her loss most keenly at times when her memory sneaks up on me. Like on my 30th birthday when I couldn’t stop crying because it didn’t seem fair that I got to turn 30 and she didn’t.

There are so many, many things that Julie didn’t get to do and even as my life moves happily forward, I am haunted by each and every one of them.

Because we had big dreams, Julie and I.


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76 comments:

newduck said...

Your post left me speechless, but I wanted to weigh in anyway to let you know I was reading and incredibly touched by this post.

Karen MEG said...

I am almost beyond words.
What a lovely, lovely tribute to your beautiful friend. I am so sorry for your loss, you had a such a very special friendship.

Are You Serious! said...

Very touching...

Life As I Know It said...

What a beautiful tribute to your friend.

MamaGeek said...

I am so sorry.

This was a stunning tribute. WOW. She would have been so proud of this post my friend. She definitely would have smiled like Cleopatra on the Nile after reading this.

Brittany said...

Absolutely beautiful words. How lucky you were to have her apart of your life, and how lucky she was to have you in hers.

Thanks for sharing the story.

Amy said...

I am so incredibly touched by this writing. I hope she's reading this right now, though it seems like she could read your mind and heart as well. I am sorry for your loss.

OHmommy said...

Diva. You have left me speechless. Me.... have no words.

You are so beautiful, like a book of poetry, Diva.

sky girl said...

I have to say that in almost 4 years of blogging, I have only rarely been moved to tears.

This was one of those rare times. Such a touching tribute. Thanks for sharing a bit of Julie with us.

Melissa said...

You wre right, she was stunningly beautiful and so are you for writing this post about her...may her memory live on forever through you.

Dawn said...

I'm so sorry that you lost such a dear friend. You wrote such a beautiful tribute to her, she sounds like such a wonderful person.

Corey~living and loving said...

WOW...you had me in tears. What a beautiful post in honor of someone so very loved.

hugs for you!

krissy said...

I am stunned at your beautiful tribute to a really good friend. And might I add how pretty she is!!!

I'm sure the pain cuts deep in the heart! I feel so sad that she left this world!

God Bless and thanks for visiting my blog...I'll be back to visit yours!!!

lattemommy said...

Wow. I'm totally choked up. That was a beautiful tribute to a woman who so clearly meant so very much to you. You've done her proud, I'm sure. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Jen M. said...

I have no words. Just sitting here, sad for the shortness of your beautiful friend's life.

Amy said...

That is a beautiful tribute, your words brought life to her once more.

Kitty said...

Hi. Firstly, thanks for visiting my place. Secondly, I'm so glad you did, and that I came and saw your blog. That's a really lovely piece of writing. I'm sure Julie has read it from wherever she is, and approves wholeheartedly. It was nice to 'meet' you Julie!

I'll be back. Take care :-)

Kat said...

That is the most touching tribute I have ever read and I am so sorry for your loss. But it is nice tha you could call her your friend and that she's made an impact on your life.

Beth said...

What a beautiful tribute to your friend. I'm so sorry for your pain...

secret agent mama said...

I have no word other than, I'm sorry. So sorry that she was taken from the world so soon.

I could feel the love of this post, so you did this tribute justice. And, I know that won't make it hurt less.

What a beautiful Angel you have, K.

E said...

This was achingly lovely

Kyla said...

This was perfect, I think. I think she'd think so, too.

I'm totally sobbing my eyes out.

Mrs. Chicky said...

An amazing tribute to your friend. she must have been an incredible woman.

Kathryn said...

That was beautiful, Diva! What a stunning tribute. She would be proud, indeed. Well done.
And, I'm so sorry for your loss.

Victoria said...

Oh, I'm so very sorry. Your love for her was expressed so beautifully here. She surely was nothing short of amazing.

ewe are here said...

A stunning tribute...

I'm so sorry for your loss ...

Kimmylyn said...

I am so sorry for your loss but you have done a beautiful job allowing us all to remember her with you.

Maria said...

That was a nice story about your friend. You never know where or when you'll meet one, and how they can touch your life.Thanks for stopping by my blog! Yours is very interesting! I can't wait to hear more about you. BTW, I love Toronto! My husband and I have been trying to find some time to go there for another weekend, without kids!

Lisa said...

What a wonderful friend you are. I can't imagine the loss that you must have felt - and still must feel. I'm sure Julie's smiling down on you now ;)

Magpie said...

What a lovely post - she had a good friend.

Zoe said...

ok. i'm bawling my eyes out. that was so incredibly touching!

GoMommy said...

Wow, she was beautiful. I feel your pain, having lost a close friend two years ago. I don't think it ever gets easier. You're post moved me to tears.

painted maypole said...

you told this story of your friendship beautifully. it seems it is a loss for all of us.

Melody said...

Wow. That was beautiful. I'm sorry for your loss, I know it must still hurt even after all these years. Your words made me feel as though I knew her, and I would have loved her, too.

Thank you.

Family Adventure said...

Absolutely tragic. I am so sorry for your loss. You honoured her memory with this beautiful post.

Heidi

Mighty Morphin' Mama said...

Thank you for introducing us to Julie. What a wonderful friendship, one that doesn't die, because it and she live in your heart. I am so sorry for your loss.

Teachin' this mommy new tricks! said...

What a moving post. Just wanted you to know people are reading.

ALF said...

wow - so well written. I am sitting at my desk, at work, crying. How wonderful for you to have had a friend like Julie and for her to have had you!

Abbie said...

What a special little gal she must have been. Thank you for sharing so deeply and giving us a little glimpse into something that touched your life incredibly!

linds said...

Such an awesome story of friendship. It made me appreciate my friend a little more.

Julie sounds like she was a wonderful friend, and so do you for that matter.

Thanks for the well written and heart-warming story!

mamatulip said...

Lovely, K. I wonder if, one day, Julie's parents might want to read this. It's beautiful.

C said...

Oh my goodness! What an incredible post. So poignant and vividly told. You really do have a great gift for writing. I can almost imagine your life in a book or screenplay.

Your friendship with Julie sounds so special. There's no doubt at all that both of your lives were enriched because of each other.

Nap Warden said...

What a wonderful tribute to your friend...There are tears streaming down my face. So sorry for your loss.

Candy said...

She was beautiful, and a great loss.

You wrote her well.

wheelsonthebus said...

It is not often that I am without words.

I am sorry you lost her.

Queen of My Domain said...

What a beautiful post regarding a beautiful friendship. Not everyone is as lucky as you two were to have that kind of friendship together.

Jennifer said...

I am sitting here with tears in my eyes. Your Julie was beautiful and your friendship was, too. I have a "Julie" in my life and I cannot imagine one day not having her. I'm so very sorry.

Tootsie Farklepants said...

I don't know what else to say except, I'm sorry.

caramama said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. She was beautiful, and that was a beautiful tribute to her.

Jer said...

I’ve always wondered how we, humans, are able to cope with the 'deep losses' in our lives; what is it that makes us survive, and choose to live. The only answer I can imagine is: in a way, a part of us die each time, and, then, we continue to live.

Ms. Porter said...

Beautiful post. What a tragedy for someone to part our world so young. She clearly left her mark in this world...it's a lovely thing to share. Thank you.

La La said...

Superb writing. Very moving tribute. I started crying half way through, and I had to stop reading for a moment because I have a very close college friend I can't imagine living without. I'm so sorry for your loss.

She was very beautiful!

Blessings.

MommyTime said...

What a beautiful post. You were lucky to have each other. And that, I think, is what true friendship means.

Val Cox said...

a beautiful tribute for your friend. Thank you for sharing it with us. I'm sorry for your great loss, those many years ago. Val

Jen said...

What a touching Story. I am so sorry for your loss.

tommie said...

You have such a gift of writing from your heart....thanks for sharing.

Kellan said...

Kelly - this was a beautiful tribute to your beautful friend. Thank you so much for sharing her with all of us - what a privilege! Take care - Kellan

Barrie said...

What a lovely post. And there's something about Julie's picture...

Erin said...

What a beautiful tribute to your friend. OH, that we could all have friendships like this.

mamafabulosity said...

I guess one o'clock in the morning wasn't a good time to start reading blogs, now I have to go to bed crying.

She was so beautiful and your story reminds me of a wild version of the movie Beaches. I'm so sorry that you had to lose such a special friendship.

a kelly said...

Incredible words for an incredible friend.
I can tell you are grateful for the experience of this special friendship and memories.
With all my heart I thank you for allowing us to share in Julie's memory.
Alex

The Boyds Family said...

I'm so sorry for your loss...What a beautiful tribute to your friend.

Jenifer said...

You are both so beautiful.

Just Janice said...

Great post - I'm so sorry for your loss.

kittenpie said...

Oh honey, you've got me crying.
What a lovely, moving tribute to someone who will be with you forever.

Mary said...

Wow...........that is the nicest thing someone could ever write about their friend. So sorry she left you so soon.

b*babbler said...

I'm sorry this is so late, but I still wanted to say how much your tribute touched me.

I'm so sorry - for your friend, for her parents, for you - she left far too early.

Kami said...

What a beautiful friendship and a beautiful tribute to it. I am so sorry that you lost your friend.

bermudabluez said...

This is such an incredibly beautiful tribute to your friend. How sad that she had to die. I am so very sorry for your loss. She would have been very proud of what you have written about your friendship.

sparklepants said...

This is so moving. I don't know what I'd do if I lost The BFF. She is my world. *hugs to you*

Jules said...

You have NO idea how much this post hit me in the heart.
Jules
House of Jules

Ms. H said...

Wow. What an incredibly amazing connection to have with another human being.
I'm positive that, if she could, she would tell you that your friendship--however brief--made all of those horrific treatments worth it. She simply had to stick around so she could have the chance to meet you.
*hugs*

Kathy said...

I followed the link. And I cannot even imagine. So sorry.

Anonymous said...

You have perfectly captured the essence of Julie's heart and joie de vivre. She was truly a remarkable person and left an indelible print on all the lives of those fortunate enough to have known her and her family. It is wonderful to know she had such a great friend.

Gail said...

This post made me cry.

My closest friend in Toronto died suddenly on January 3 of this year. We spent New Year's Day together at the lakeshore and talked about the future. She went to sleep the night of January 2 and never woke up. The autopsy and toxicology report showed nothing.

Today would've been her birthday. I got a bunch of her friends together to celebrate. Guinness, her favourite, will be the drink of choice.

gypsygrrl said...

i stumbled here from "unwellness"... this is so beautiful, and while i am so so sad for your loss, i am grateful you knew such a friendship as julie's and that you got to stand in her light... i am sure she watches over you every day.

much love,
gypsy