I think I just took the deepest breath I've taken since I first learned you had cancer. I'm not sure I've fully processed it all until now. Now that it's over. Now that you're finished with your chemotherapy and planning for life in the future. Moving made it easier for me ... I didn't have to face it - not the way you did - and not the way those living near you did. I didn't have to deal with the reality that I couldn't just pop in any time - that you might not be able to pop over and visit the way you used to - that our conversations would be less about me and more about you.
But now it's over. You're alive - and that simple truth has me on my knees in tears today. Tears of thanksgiving. Tears of repentance. Tears of love.
My biggest regret moving was knowing that I wouldn't be there for you through this hellhole time in your life. You have been my rock so often during my earliest mothering times. You taught me how to mother - how to practice self-care while at the same time sacrificing myself for the sake of my family. You taught me what it means to truly be a friend. You taught me that it doesn't matter what your house looks like when you invite someone over - all that matters is that you let them into your heart. It helps if you always have coffee or tea on hand - but it's not necessary. The only thing truly necessary is to provide a safe place. A safe place for happiness and joy. And a safe place for tears, for fears, for anger, for real and raw emotion.
I'm sorry my friend. I'm sorry for not being there for you more during this time. I'm sorry that your family had to live through this - and that I couldn't really live through it with you. Everything inside me hates that I'm in New England while you are in Atlanta ... and yet at the same time I totally used that as my escape from your reality. I was so angry that you were having to deal with cancer. I was angry that I wasn't there to walk alongside you. I was so consumed at my own pain and fear of moving to a brand new place that I just didn't allow myself to feel the pain and fear I had in my heart over you.
You taught me to not dwell on regrets or past failings - but to move past it and vow to do better.
I promised you I'd be there in November to run a 5K with you in remembrance of your cancerversary. I guess that means I should start training - so I don't get left in the dust. Man - wouldn't that be embarrassing ...
I love you so very much my friend. I know you know that - and I know that you don't need this apology, and for that I'm so grateful .... but I need to say the words. Not just to you, but to the world. Because the world needs to know what I'd do differently if it happened again. Maybe someone out there reading this is where I was six months ago.
I'd bring you food myself before moving 1100 miles away. I didn't get to say goodbye ... because I'm no good at goodbyes. I was a total wreck leaving Atlanta - and I knew seeing you would make it worse. But you know what? I should have. I should have come to hug your neck. I should have come to tell you I loved you. I should have come to say "You will survive this. And even though I won't be here physically, I will be here from afar." Because physical presence means something. And I know that now in a way that I didn't understand then.
I'd send you packages once a month. Maybe it would be a thoughtful package. Maybe it would be a ridiculous one. But I'd send you something - just to let you know I was thinking of you. Because if I can't physically be with you, then at least you can touch something that I touched. My sweet Autumn Grace draws people pictures and makes me send them - "so they don't miss me mama" ... and I never really understood it until I watched that video of you dancing out of the chemo unit. But it's true - having something you can hold on to makes a difference.
I'd care for your family better. That's so hard to do from far away - but I would figure out a way to do it. Maybe it'd be a gift for your amazing husband, or for your incredible children. Maybe it'd be sending a video - or a picture - or a coupon for a good, healthy meal. I'm not sure what it would be ... but whatever it is ... I would do it.
I can't turn back time. And I pray it never happens again. But I want you to know just how cherished and loved you are. Just how dear to me you, and your family, are. You are so special. So loved. So cherished.
And I am so very glad you are alive.