OPEN LOVE LETTER TO MY FOREVER FRIEND

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August 24, 2013 by Melanie L.

Dear Ali,

***

“Happy Birthday, Girlfriend! Best wishes for a great year ahead! Love, Mel”

***

That’s what my birthday card would have said, had I sent one this year like I’ve done every year I can remember (except last year). I have no doubt that’s what many of my cards actually did say, it’s my standard birthday card greeting. But there are two fundamental problems with that card this year. The first is that – for the second birthday in a row – you are not here to receive it. The second and more important problem is that the sentiments above fail utterly to convey my sincere wishes and my deep admiration despite my claim to the contrary. I’ll blame social convention which seems to proscribe mushy protestations of love in favor of more breezy salutations. In your absence though, I’ve gained the courage to buck convention and tell you, in this open letter, just what my birthday wishes are and just how much I love you. Or, at least I’ll try. After all, you were the one with all the words!

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First day of first grade – September, 1983 (Pictured: me (center, left), Ali (center, right))

We met so long ago I have no memory of the occasion, but I know it had to be sometime in, or shortly after, March, 1980, at age 2 1/2, when the young families from various states coalesced into their new-construction homes on a singular street, you at number 71, and me across the street at 78. Perhaps we met when one mother brought a neighborly welcome package to the other. Perhaps we met when our big wheels collided while playing outside. While I may not know the exact circumstances of our first meeting, I am certain of the ordinariness of the occasion, which stands in stark contradiction to the extraordinariness of you, the person you were to become, and the friendship I would develop with you.

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Our Sweet 16 – August, 1993

When I think back to what that first encounter must have been like, I imagine our mothers’ delighted surprise in learning we each were born the same month and year and would eventually be classmates together. But as the years went by, it became evident our similiarities may have been rather limited, eclipsed instead by our numerous differences. Not only were we of different faiths all together, but I fiercely identified with mine while you were torn between two. I had a natural aptitude for English while you had a natural aptitude for mathematics. You really applied yourself in school while I lazily underacheived. You were a platinum blonde while I was a bronze brunette. You loved purple while I relished pink. I was socially awkward while you were ever ebullient. Your adventurous spirit lead you to try new things, while I preferred to stay in my comfort zone. I quested my future while you rejoiced in your present. I was pretty talkative, yet you were the most loquacious human in the history of humankind – ever.

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Figure skating recital – June, 1994 (Pictured: Me (left), Ali (Center), My sister (right))

Despite all the differences, or more accurately because of our differences, I love you. You pushed me to try new things with you, like figure skating or yoga. Even more impressive than gathering the courage to try new things, was your fearlessness in putting forth the effort to learn. You were never afraid of looking silly or falling on your ass. Consequently, you excelled at everything you tried. You dazzled me with your salchow and sit spin while I still worked on a hockey stop. You maximized the benefit from the yoga class while I tried not to sweat through my shirt. Perhaps your fearlessness was a bit extreme when you told me you accidentally skiied the black diamond slope and ended up with one arm in a hard cast and the other in a soft cast. (Kelly, what happened?!) But, I did admire your ability to laugh at the predicament of being a high schooler who required her mom to button her jeans in the morning. I also think I remember you got a concussion or two playing rugby in college. (College friends, help me out here!)  No doubt you were doing what you do best, giving it your all. You taught me what it looks like to try one’s hardest. And I love you for it.

***

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2006 (Pictured: bride-to-be (left), Ali (center), Me (right))

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I love you because you never sweated the small stuff. Whole books are written on how to but you were born with that ability. You valued strong relationships over trivial matters, and it was so effortless for you. If I failed to return a call, you never once stood on ceremony. If you caught me pretending to listen when I wasn’t, you didn’t get mad. If we drifted apart for a few weeks, you always reeled me back in. You nurtured our relationship and the relationships you had with everyone else around you. You taught me what loyalty looks like. And I love you for it.

***

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2012 – less than a year after Ali’s passing, Ali’s mother (front row, left) organized a balloon launch from her backyard.

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I love you because you forged bonds between the others around you. You found not just friends, but BEST friends, wherever you went, be it elementary school, high school, or college, and you were not content until we each formed friendships with each other. You made your favorite people favor each other. You glued all your friends together and we’ve now created a bit of a sorority in your absence. You’ve taught me what acceptance looks like. And I love you for it.

***

I love you because you listened as intently as you talked incessantly. You heard, acknowledged and validated anything I needed to express, at any time of the day or night (I just had to wait long enough to get a word in). Whatever advice you offered up was always the best advice. You had a sixth sense when it came to giving relationship advice. It was almost as if you could divine it. You taught me how to listen. And I love you for it.

***

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2006 – Our best friend’s wedding

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I love you because you cared deeply. Even when you were at your sickest and needed your friends to be there for you, you were still there for me. You continued teaching, trying, supporting, validating, listening, gluing, forging, advising and loving me and everyone around you even from the confines of your hospital bed, and at the very end, even after your words failed you, you conveyed your lessons with gentle pats and kind gazes. You taught me what selflessness is. And I love you for it.

***

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***

I love you because you saw me, the real me, flaws and all, and loved me back. You taught me how to love what you saw. And I love you for it.

***

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My wedding – 2008 – when I became lost

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But, at one point after all this teaching and loving, Ali, at one point (my family will recognize that I mean 2008), I wandered away – not away from you, you made sure of that, but away from myself, from what defines me, from what made me who I was. And some years later, in the midst of being so lost, when I was in the thickest of Nowhere, I turned to you for guidance but you were gone. Poof. Like that. Or so it felt. And there I was on November 7, 2011, lost without you, my beacon. I now believe it was the shock of your disappearance that jarred me into noticing my surroundings. Your absence from this world was so sobering that I could suddenly see how lost I was and I started to run like hell out of the woods. I’ve made it home now, though I’m still shaking the twigs from my clothes and scraping the dirt from my shoes. But, now that I’m home, I have remembered all you taught me and have begun to make efforts to finally, after all these years, apply what I’ve learned. In so doing, I’ve found myself again. And I love you for it.

***

I hope I have conveyed, better than I ever have been able to do in your lifetime, just how much I love you. My birthday wish for you, my true birthday wish, is that I never, ever forget what you’ve taught me nor the beautiful, lively, chatty, WISE soul who taught it.

***

Happy Birthday, Dearest Ali!

With all my love, Mel

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7 thoughts on “OPEN LOVE LETTER TO MY FOREVER FRIEND

  1. […] her that I posted to Facebook on what would have been her 36th birthday and again on my new blog: https://myownchampion.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/open-love-letter-to-my-forever-friend/. I felt much better, not just because I had gotten some closure, but also because the love I had […]

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  2. […] This post is inspired by the weekly challenge: a story in 50 words, and by Ali herself.  https://myownchampion.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/open-love-letter-to-my-forever-friend/ […]

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  3. gapark says:

    “I’ve made it home now, though I’m still shaking the twigs from my clothes and scraping the dirt from my shoes.” Welcome home. Love your writing! Gail

    Like

  4. […] confidence.  Confidence that, in hindsight, came in handy over the course of the next two most challenging years of my life to […]

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  5. […] to him, Ali, oh sweet ebullient Ali, sheds her effervescence for this particular picture and instead stands where the sun incited a […]

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  6. […] swell brewed beneath Ali’s furrowed brow.  She was disappointed over spending her 34th birthday in a hospital.  Although, the nurse allowed some cake, it was an unfinished […]

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Behind the Blog

Melanie L.

Melanie L.

I'm a happily re-married, full-time lawyer, and full-time mom raising two adorable vilde chayas (Yiddish: wild things) named Monkey and Peanut (not their real names!). I am often seen in public counting to three. In addition to parenting and writing, I also love photography, cosmology, evolutionary anthropology, and all things Israel.

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