Today marks a year since I lost my best friend, Pam. I can’t believe it’s been so long. I can’t believe it’s gone so fast. I can’t believe I’ve made it 12 months without blabbing on the phone with her and laughing until my diaphragm rips in two. She held and helped me after my husband’s suicide. She talked me through moments of profound loneliness and aching doubt and crashing, crushing guilt. She told me that good things would happen, they would. That I’d find love again, I would.
After she died, I did. And I couldn’t call her up and tell her. I still can’t. Her absence felt like a rupture in the cosmic order of things. It still does. Several times a week, my brain howls at me to JUST PHONE PAM, and I explain to my brain that sorry, she’s unreachable, but the damn thing doesn’t ever listen. Instead it howls again, DIDN’T YOU HEAR ME? I SAID JUST PHONE PAM! And I can’t it shut it up. So I talk to her anyway, telling her about all the crazy joys and heady milestones that have come my way since her death.
I wonder what’s been happening at her end, these days. I wonder if she’s looking down at us, tracking everyone’s movements, whispering little directives to help us all along. Could be. Could also be she’s reading a book or singing a hymn or kicking a soccer ball around Somewhere Up There. Or doling out a few words of counsel to someone in her gentle, calm, comprehending way, which always felt less like advice than some humbly revealed wisdom of the ages. Or unleashing that high-pitched madhouse giggle of hers. Or smiling that beautiful, face-consuming smile, which spread the width of her cheeks and squinched up her eyes to slivered crescent moons. I used to wonder how she saw out of them. I used to wonder how she managed to see so deeply into me. How she saw so deeply into everyone.
I know she’s not far away; I believe that. I know she’s still Pam, only more so, and that we’re still friends; I believe that, too. To borrow a phrase from another dear friend, Toni, who lost too many sons: Pam is my permanent gift, just as everyone I love, in this life and in that one, is a permanent gift. And so she’ll remain, no matter the years that slip past in her absence, no matter the phone calls that fail between here and there. I’ll never stop talking to her. That’s part of the gift. For that, and for her, I’ll always be grateful.