I met Rebecca in January 1981. I was nine years old, in fourth grade. My family had relocated again. This time we had moved to California over the Christmas break. New town. New state. New school. No friends. My new teacher, Mrs. Jarvis, assigned Rebecca to show me around. It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. I was a shy bookworm. Rebecca was more adventurous and quirky. We didn’t travel in the popular circles. But that didn’t bother me. I didn’t need a lot of friends – just one good one.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back I can see so many of the ways we challenged each other. She helped drag me out of my shell. I helped curb a little of her crazy wildness. I went to high school dances because of her (she pretty nearly dragged me to my first one). She joined Girl Scouts because of me. We were in choir and band together and our families suffered through private, two instrument band concerts and ridiculous skits we performed for them. We had countless slumber parties – at her house and mine. We laughed together. We cried together. We complained about our pesky younger siblings to each other.
After high school, I went away to college. As time passed, we were in contact less and less frequently. I eventually lost track of her. In some ways, she was out of my life. In other ways, she was still right beside me. I still thought about her, and her friendship had helped me become who I was.
We reconnected years later through Facebook. It was immediately obvious that she was still the quirkier of the two of us. It was not long after that she encountered serious health problems. I was only able to be with her remotely as she faced the physical, mental, and emotional challenges of cancer. I watched and marveled at her undaunted spirit and optimism. Cancer eventually claimed her physical body, but it couldn’t take her life.
There was a certain pizzazz about Rebecca. We each have our own set of challenges to face in life, but the hand she was dealt may seem harder than most. However, she was brave enough to face them with friends who had her back. It makes me smile to know that she had touched and impacted so many people – others who were there to laugh and cry with her too; others she was able to challenge.
Now she’s gone from this earth – at least physically. But she lives on in the hearts and minds of her many, many friends. Friends who will smile with fond remembrance when they hear the phrase “yippee skippy” or see Betty Boop or unicorns farting rainbows.
So long, my friend. Once again we’ve been separated. But like before, I will continue to remember you.