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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rest in peace, Stephanie... my best friend ever...



I met Stephanie in August of 1992.   She was tired, and looking like she was in a bad mood.   Because she'd not slept much in three days, was not in the mood to be at work, and was having to train a new employee.  Me.

I didn't like her at first.  I thought she looked snobby, and she acted grouchy.  I noticed she was wearing a U2 concert tee shirt.. Achtung Baby, to be exact.  Oh!  A U2 fan?  Well now.  How bad could she be?  She wasn't!  It took us about a week, but we started talking.  Before I knew it, she was a friend.  Not just any friend.  One of the best friends I would ever have in my life.  

Even my family loved Steph.  When she came over for dinner at my parents house, my dad made grilled barbecued chicken leg quarters.  She swore for years it was the best barbecued chicken she'd ever eaten.  And Mom's potato salad was "better than" her own mothers.  That was saying a lot, since her mom was an excellent cook also.

Stephanie and I were sisters in crime.  We shared our most secret stuff with each other.. I told her everything.  Never did I hold anything back from her.  She was awesome.   At times we laughed so hard we had tears streaming down our faces, and couldn't even breathe we were laughing so hard.   When I got pregnant with my first child, and was so scared, she was there for me.  She threw me a baby shower at work, and bought a ton of decorations and brought a huge basket full of beautiful gifts for my baby.  

We'd spend the night in her house, lying side by side in her huge king sized water bed with black crushed velvet top and bottom sheets AND a goose down comforter comforter.. and lay there and watch videos and Tales From the Crypt and we'd laugh and talk until we fell asleep.  

When I had my baby, she was there through the whole thing.  I always joked and said that Stephanie "delivered" Amy.  She didn't really. :)  But she was there, holding my legs as I went through contractions, trying to put chapstick on me..  LOL... and ended up sitting on the tiny couch next to my bed, white as a sheet, clutching my mothers hand as the doctor delivered my baby.  She nearly fainted.  But as Amy came out, my eyes were on Steph, and I watched the joy come into her face as she saw my baby for the first time.  She LOVED my children.  Both of them.   Kept pictures of them on her bedroom wall.  Sent them balloon bouquets from Kuhns for their birthdays.  

Before Stephanie married, she had dinner with my hubby and I in our tiny apartment about once a week.  He would cook us dinner, and we'd sit back and talk and laugh and be silly and let him wait on us like we were Queens.   Funny.  She was there for my wedding.  The birth of my first child.  I was there, 7 months pregnant with my second child at her wedding.  She sat me, my daughter Amy, my parents, AND my sisters at the closest table to the Bride & Groom (and their parents) table.    I still have the video tape of her wedding.

Memories of Steph are so numerous.. I wish I could write them all out and show you all what she was like.  She loved U2 music.  U2 was her very favorite band of all time.  She crushed on Bono as much as I did.  Matter of fact, we saw them together in November 1997.  Sixth row on the ground in front of the stage.  I'll never forget it.   

She loved Starburst candy.  And beef and broccoli from The Golden Egg Roll.   Except she hated the "trees" in it, and would pick them all out.  When I asked her why did she order it if she hated broccoli so bad, she'd smile.. and say it was the sauce on them she loves so much.  She loved Larry's Giant Subs.  She loved my hubby's Chicken Parmesan, and the color combination of shiny black and white.  She wore white all the time.   She had a pearl ring that was a favorite of hers.. and her mother had one just like it.  She loved spiral sliced ham, and ate barbecue sauce on her string beans.  She knew all about flowers, and could name all the exotic ones.  She considered most flowers just "grocery store flowers" and only loved the exotic ones.  She loved the symphony.  She loved pearls.  And she and I called each other "Heifer".  We'd yell it across the parking lot, or say it in front of people and then laugh like crazy.  "Heifer" wasn't an insult.  It was a term of endearment.   Honest!! LOL

Stephanie wore glasses almost her whole life.  She got laser surgery.  It was amazing.. all these years of glasses.. now these big blue eyes, looking at you.  :)   She was funny, snarky, sarcastic, loving, sweet, and never forgot things.  She had beautiful nails she kept very shaped and filed all the time.  And she loved Reebok sneakers.. high tops with the straps.  She loved base ball, and she loved hockey.   And she was beautiful and full of life.   Even though I was blessed with two sisters in our family, Stephanie was like a sister to me.  We shared so much.   

Stephanie struggled with her weight.  She gained, and she gained.  I understood.  I was gaining right along with her.  She had gastric bypass surgery.   And she lost weight.   A LOT of weight.  With weight loss, came body changes.  Some good.. some... she hated.  Health problems developed.  And, after a few years, Stephanie's poor, tired little body couldn't handle it anymore.  She took a nap on her mothers couch..  and passed away peacefully in her sleep.  She was only 36 years old.   My beautiful friend only wanted to be thin..  and it killed her.  She died Friday, November 18, 2005, around 2pm. Exactly 8 days before my birthday, actually.  Her husband came to our house, and told my husband first.  They held my hands, and told me together.  I was in shock... it felt like someone had ripped something out of me.

Funeral... I've never cried so hard in my life.  We went early... so I could talk to her.  Alone.   Her parents and brother.. other friends all came.  My family came..  She was all dressed up in a "little black dress" and her rings on her small hands with her fingernails perfect as they always were.  Her sweet parents ... I just didn't know WHAT I could say to them.  We were all in shock..  I know I talked to them.  I remember hugging them, and her brother.  I remember the faces.  The shock, and the feeling of disbelief ... we were all in the same nightmare together.  Those days.. and for literally a few months.. were a blur.  I couldn't focus.. couldn't think.

I will never be able to put into words the depression I went into for a few months after she died.. and how... even a year later I'd burst into tears if I heard a song she liked.  How I am crying now, writing this.   I will never be able to express the guilt over words unsaid.  Over deeds undone.  I can never begin to explain the anger at God, at her husband, at doctors, and at anyone else I thought should have prevented her from dying.  

Stephanie has been gone for 5 and a half years.   But she came to me in a dream, twice.  The first time she was behind a huge, HUGE, gate.. so tall you couldn't see the top of it.  And she was smiling and laughing, and calling me "Heifer!! " And telling me "I'm FINE!!"   I woke up, and I KNEW I'd seen her.  Best of all... maybe a year later... and her grave STILL without a marker on it..  (don't get me started GRRRR!) but I was horribly upset that she, my beautiful friend was lying in an unmarked grave, and I swear to you all, she came to me in a dream again, even more vivid than before.  I could HEAR her voice, but couldn't see her.. and she told me she knew I was upset, but not to be.  Because she said she was no longer in that body, and she was with Jesus and that it "doesn't matter".  I tried to argue and tell her about the lack of marker.... and she lovingly told me that "I'm okay, and that part is over... it doesn't matter.... because I'm not 'there' anyway."  And that was the end of the dream.  It was so vivid, I woke up and looked around expecting to see her, smell her, anything.  I will swear to this day that Stephanie came to me.  I have even shared with a priest and he agreed with me.   So, I'm not nuts. :)

I think about Stephanie all the time.  I miss her so much, still.  It comforts to me to know she is in Heaven, with loved ones, and with Jesus.  I can't wait to see her again one day.  



Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Everything remains as it was.
The old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no sorrow in your tone.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without  effort
Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was.
There is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.
All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting,  when we meet again.

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