Like so many of you, I lost a dear friend way too early in life, leaving a vacancy like no other in my soul. Today is her birthday.
A few years back I received that devastating phone call one morning telling me Kelley had passed away. Knowing I would never again spend time with the sweetest person to walk through my life left me paralyzed in sorrow. Before then, I had never cried so hard or felt a loss so deeply. Kelley was the rock in our group of friends. The one who organized and encouraged get-togethers. The life of every party, the compass when direction was lost. She knew the innermost details of my soul and still thought I was worthy of her time. Most importantly, she showered love and devotion on her family, keeping them close. Her three children being the center of her universe.
After crying out more tears than I thought possible, I started remembering everything Kelley and I, and also our many friends, had experienced in our time together. We met in middle school, at that painfully awkward combination of thirteen and seventh grade. Her beautiful smile and bubbly personality grabbed me, we quickly became friends. Throughout high school, I spent a lot of time at Kelley’s house. We thought her Mom was amazing, allowing her to host the whole gang, sometimes for an entire weekend. Now I realize it was likely so she could keep tabs on us, hoping to limit the trouble we found! The fun really kicked in when a group of our friends who started a rock band began practicing in her mom’s basement. We’d arrange concerts with 20-30 kids crammed in there some nights.
Kelley loved the band Journey, convinced Steve Perry was the sexiest man alive. The Frontiers album became the backdrop to our high school days. Now tears slide down my cheeks when I hear their songs, prompting me look heavenward and say, “Hello, Kel!” Her favorite color, purple. She had a gentle approach to whatever came her way. She was not easily rattled, could think through any situation to come up with a plan. She hugged everyone, never judgmental, always reminding you she loved you. As I went through a divorce, she was my confidence to go forward. She helped me see that better days were coming on the other side. She was right.
My favorite memory has to be the night Kelley, our friend Cass, and I got together after too many years apart. We both lost track of Cass, not seeing each her since high school graduation. We all had husbands, kids, two of us divorced and remarried, and so much to talk about. We had dinner, then at Cass’ urging, went to a karaoke bar. Not a challenge for Cass, as she and her husband run a karaoke business. I wasn’t sure at first, but with Kelley and Cass by my side, I conquered my fear of the stage. The three of us sang “I Love Rock & Roll” by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. We were drunk, but there are pictures to prove it happened. We laughed and enjoyed each other very much. I am grateful we did, as the chance to make this memory never came again. Cass and I again sang the song together in Virginia Beach at her husband’s show when my husband and I visited there in 2012, a tribute to friendships that last forever.
Life goes on here on earth, but anyone who knew her cannot forget Kelley’s smile. She and I often joked that we would know we were getting old once Cindy Crawford started looking a bit long in the tooth! Well, Cindy is still stunning, and so my dear, sweet Kelley, are you. Your smile now lights the heavens, forever young and beautiful.