I have several people who I call my “best friends”. It would be hard to choose just one. They are all the “best” for different reasons. I’ve known them each for differing amounts of times, but each one has found a way into the deepest parts of my soul. Losing any one of them would be like ripping out a part of my heart. They’ve been woven into my life in such a way that I’d never be whole again.
I’d like to think that everyone has such people in their lives. I’m troubled to find out that not everyone does. If you’re someone who doesn’t have friendships like these, I urge you to seek one out. Open up your heart. Open up your arms. Yes it leaves you vulnerable and subject to injury, but it’s so worth it.
I’d like to share with you the story of one of my forever friends. It’s not something I tend to think about all too often, because it brings me great grief. It sometimes feels like my heart is torn and broken like I described before.
I met Jeremy in 7th grade. He was in my math class and I think my English class as well. But most importantly, he was in choir with me.
Our passion for music, our faith in God and our similar score on the popularity scale (about a 10….on a scale of 1 to 100), brought us together. We quickly formed a friendship that grew throughout the years.
When I was diagnosed with cancer the summer before our freshman year, Jeremy was one of the first to know. He supported me in prayer and in any other way he could.
When I was able to return to school the second semester of my sophomore year, Jeremy and I had Spanish class together. It was the only time that I’ve ever sat in the back of the classroom. Jeremy sat beside me, and we laughed so hard almost every day at our strange teacher. I gave him a hard time in class (and in life in general), knowing that he wasn’t trying very hard. I tried to push him to be a better student, but I let him copy my work sometimes because honestly the class was a joke…or at least our teacher was.
Fast forward to senior year. By then, Jeremy and I had been friends for almost half of our lives. Whenever I wrote a new song, I’d always let Jeremy be one of the first to read the lyrics and I’d always get his feedback on the music. I wasn’t so good at playing and singing at the same time, so he sometimes would play guitar and I would sing. He always encouraged my songwriting and praised my singing. He helped me grow in that sense, because I never saw myself as being that gifted.
When I relapsed in September, Jeremy stuck by me, came to visit me and called to check on me.
I had been looking forward to the spring musical since the theater teacher had basically promised me a lead role the year before. With my relapse, I felt that nearly guaranteed I wouldn’t be able to perform.
Jeremy encouraged me to still be involved.
He pushed me to accept the role I wanted and even rehearsed lines with me outside of play practice. I was very sick that entire year and maybe attended school a few weeks out of the entire school year, but that musical kept me going. Something inside me of me needed to prove that I could still do it.
I had several musical numbers to perform, and as one of the leads I had a LOT of lines to learn. My best memories that year were of play practice with Jeremy and my other cast members.
I am happy and proud to say that I had the entire script (not just my lines, but everyone’s) memorized long before dress rehearsal. I appeared in all three performances as Reno Sweeny in Anything Goes. In part, I have Jeremy to thank for that.
When I moved to Wisconsin in 2009, I recall numerous occasions when Jeremy would call and we would talk for hours about anything and everything. I came home for a visit one summer and we spent a lot of time together. We decided to give dating a try, but it didn’t work out. We decided we were meant to be just friends. Things weren’t ever quite the same between us after that, but we kept in touch.
I moved back to Alabama in late 2011. Several months later, Jeremy got married. And in May 2012 I saw a post on Facebook about Jeremy. He had fallen from a ladder while on the job and had sustained a brain injury. I feared the worst. My heart was breaking, slowly part of me was tearing away. For days and weeks I prayed for my friend.
Not knowing his wife, I didn’t feel comfortable contacting her. I stayed updated on his condition via Facebook. For months that turned into years I followed his story. I watched from a distance as my friend that had helped me through so much, experienced his own medical trials. His memory wasn’t good. He couldn’t walk. He couldn’t speak. He couldn’t sing.
But I watched as he improved. I couldn’t bear the thought of him not remembering me, but I didn’t expect that he would. So when I got a FB message from his mom, saying that he had called and asked that she invite me to his birthday party last weekend, I literally sobbed.
He remembers me.
I went to his birthday party on Saturday at his parents’ home. I stood in his kitchen where I have memories of us eating sandwiches before play practice. When he arrived, I stood at a distance, still afraid that he wouldn’t recognize me. I was nervous to see him in person, afraid that he wouldn’t be the same person I knew and loved since 7th grade. But as I observed him interacting and talking with the other party guests, I realized that my friend was still there.
He is still Jeremy.
Funny and warm. Humble and loving.
He will still crack a joke at his own expense.
When I spoke to him, his wife said that he talks about me all the time. I said I hoped they were good things. He laughed and said “Of course.” I told him he was always a talker, and I reminded him of all the times he would call and talk and talk and talk. He said, ” And you would listen…”.
Yes. I would.
I miss my friend. Seeing him this past weekend brought my heart great joy. He is doing so much better than my pessimistic mind had pictured. God has brought him so far and I have no doubt in my mind that he will continue to heal Jeremy’s mind and body. Before I left, I asked if I could have a picture with him:
I have witnessed so many extraordinary things in my life. Miracles have happened all around me. I feel unbelievably blessed to have the friendships that I do. All of my “bests” are gifts from God and have taught me lessons that I could not have learned without them. Jeremy taught me that there is great value in persistence and perseverance and that a bright smile and a bear hug are sometimes worth more than a million words. Oh and he taught me one more thing. When asked if he had any advice to give us on Saturday he said,
“Yeah….don’t fall off a ladder.”