May 28, 2006
Losing a friend
I got a call this afternoon...the sister of NJ, an old friend from high school, was on the line. In tears. Right away I knew why she was calling. I hoped she was calling to tell me that NJ was on her way here to Minneapolis to get another pancreas transplant (the first transplanted pancreas held on for two years, but gave out a few months back...NJ had been diabetic since age 4, but with the transplant she was off insulin for awhile). I hoped that she was calling to tell me that NJ had a successful surgery on her ankle, which she broke a few months back. But, I knew she was calling for a different reason. NJ's sister has NEVER called me, so I knew it had to be bad news. It was--NJ died this morning of some kind of complications related to her lifetime battle with diabetes. She was 35.
We met in high school. She was a friend of my cousin's--well, sort of. Their dads were friends, but NJ wasn't the kind to hang out with my cousin. She had an infectious smile and the brightest eyes of anyone I've ever known. We became fast friends. We both liked similar things--drama, playing the flute, words. We were competitive. I was so jealous she got to go to the National Science Fair. She was jealous of me when I won the Louis Armstrong Jazz award.
Our friendship grew in college, but was tested when I fell in love with C. Nonetheless, we stayed friends over the years and across the miles. I talked to her a month ago, and she was in good spirits in spite of a broken ankle and a need for a new pancreas. We talked about many things, and as always, she gave me the practical wisdom that only she could give. She told me how much she was tired of living in Texas, and how much she was looking forward to moving back north next March. For a moment, we both thought about what it would be like to live closer together, something we haven't experienced in over ten years.
She didn't make it. Somehow the complications caught up to her at a time when I think we all didn't expect it.The sadest part of it all for me is that her husband is stationed in South Korea right now. She stayed in Texas, and he wasn't there with her when she died.
She endured a lot in her lifetime. I don't want to remember NJ in the hospital bed at Fairview after her pancreas transplant. Or, in the hospital when we were in college, when she had a metabolic complication that caused her to have low blood pressure and dramatic weight loss. I want to remember the girl who liked green. And Madonna and Prince. Who was good at languages and Scrabble. She hated pizza and popcorn and when people snapped gum. I already miss you, NJ. I miss you a lot.