The gift of a last conversation...


Just before plugging my phone in and going to bed last night, I received a text asking, "Shari.... did you see Kelly passed away?" 

I had not been on Facebook. I hadn't seen anything. I have more than one friend named Kelly. All three of my closest female Kelly friends spell their names differently. And a male Kelly friend also came to my mind in that flash of seconds when I didn't know which Kelly. All four of these friends are dear to me. One of them I had texted with numerous times yesterday. I thought of her first. 

For the few seconds I waited for more information, I was unsure if it was Kelly (female), Kelly (male), Kelley, or Kellie. All four are mutual friends of the friend texting me. All too young to leave us. Three of them younger than me. My heart felt like it stopped.

My friend texted, "Sandra's daughter." And I knew it was Kelley. She had battled severe RA for ten years and she recently contracted Covid-19. She was hospitalized, intubated, and passed away 24 hours later. She was several years younger than me. 

I know I can't even imagine the shock and heartache her family feels. She was a much loved daughter, wife, mother, sister, and friend. You couldn't NOT love Kelley.

Shock is still with me this morning. Kelley and I were childhood friends growing up across the street from each other in South San Gabriel, California. Our parents and our families were close friends. Kelley's grandpa was a surrogate father and mentor to my dad in his younger years. He gave my dad a place to stay physically and offered him refuge emotionally when he left home as a teenager. The bond extended through Kelley's mom and uncle and connected Kelley and me as little girls. 

One of my favorite memories is "playing teenagers" together in her garage, where her dad kept a car that we sat in and pretended we were driving. I want to say it was a sports car. But I don't remember for sure. What I will never forget is Kelley's smile. Because it was the same all through her life. 

The first word that comes to my mind when I think of Kelley is vibrant. She had a radiant smile and personality. She had strong opinions. And she also exuded love. We hadn't seen each other in many years. But we connected through Facebook and sporadically had a private conversation on messenger.

In late August, Kelley updated her friends on her RA battle and a new treatment she would be starting. I sent her a private message in September to let her know she was really on my heart and I was praying for her. We had a warm, loving exchange. And she told me that my reaching out blessed her more than I could know, which blessed me. I never imagined those would be our last words to each other in this life.

Just like I didn't know the day I felt particularly impressed to go see my cousin Marcella that it would be the last time. Just like I didn't know the day I felt prompted to go see my Aunt Jeanie that it would be the last time. Just like the day my friend Sheryl drove away from my condo and I didn't know I was saying goodbye for the last time. I stood on the balcony and watched her drive away, thinking about how much I would miss her until I saw her again. But I didn't get to see her again. Two weeks later, she left us unexpectedly.

We never know what's coming from one day to the next. Many of my deepest disappointments and heartbreaks were not anticipated or even imagined. Many of my greatest joys and blessings have been unimagined as well. 

Kelley and I didn't hold all the same political views and convictions. Kelley was unapologetically who she was. And the same is true for me. I'm learning to stop apologizing for being who I am. And Kelley was a great role model in that area. 

I know she knew I loved her. I hope she realized I admired her. I was in awe of how strong and positive she was through her painful battle with RA. 

Life just isn't fair. And when I see friends suffer with their health, I feel unworthy of my healthy body.

If you know me, you know that I am raw, transparent and expressive. I say what's in my heart. And I use a lot of words. I am an over-communicator at times. It's not always a good thing, and I'm working on that. But I will tell you that it's a tremendous comfort to not leave words of love and concern unsaid. Even if we are healthy and strong today, our time is limited.

I get teased sometimes about being morbid because I think about how short life is and how limited our time is quite a lot. I always have. When I know I owe someone an apology, I can't rest until I communicate that. Sometimes after I apologize, I even critique whether or not my apology was good enough or worded correctly. It's miserable at times to be this way. But I have peace knowing I could leave tomorrow and not have left something important unsaid. Every time I lose someone, I'm reminded of how important that is. There are lots of things I would change about myself if I could. But not that.

I'm not going to end this by urging you to reach out to someone today. Only you know when you have done all you can do or the ball is in someone else's court, so to speak. The more books and podcasts I listen to, the more I realize how much we all struggle in our relationships for a multitude of reasons. I do want to share how thankful I am for the times I believed God was nudging me, and I not only listened but acted. Kelley and I didn't have anything to patch up. Our friendship was only positive and loving. But I am so thankful I got to have that last conversation with her before she left. I can't even begin to tell you what it means to me this morning.