Dear John

Dear John:

You and I weren’t supposed to be friends, remember? Remember the days when you were my client, and “protocol” said happy hours and improper jokes were not to be shared between us? I remember being so (stupidly) mindful of that, and yet, I couldn’t deny that you were awesome and that, were it not for the fact that you were, in fact, my “client,” we would likely be the closest of friends. That you and Sean would probably nerd out over too many things in common. That we would probably share one too many meals and stories about our favorite chefs and dishes and techniques (only fellow foodies can relate). That Abi and I would be friends, no doubt. That Bindi and Summer would love each other (that’s still TBD, but I’m looking forward to finding out). And yet, it didn’t quite become apparent until our first work trip – when we were sitting in a hazy bar exchanging stories, respectively hating on the Buckeyes/Gators and being walked through our first game of Waah (or is it Waa?) by Allison – that we were already friends, despite my best efforts.

I still remember how you spoke about Abi, and about your wedding, how amazingly happy you were, as you showed off your new hardware in our first meeting after becoming a husband. And I’ll never forget the day you accompanied her to the doctor for the first time. You had to cancel one of our content planning meetings. I stayed tuned for updates, not because you were my client, but because I cared. And nothing could’ve prepared anyone for the news you were about to share with us. If there was any doubt then, there would be none of it now: we were friends. And your most difficult times would reaffirm it so.

In your hardest, most trying and darkest days, you’ve continued to nurture our friendship. For that, I’m eternally grateful (and also in awe of you). You made time. You made invites. You shared your beautiful, brave, beloved Abi with Sean and me. You welcomed us into your home, your family and your longtime friendships. All of this while you could’ve been your most selfish and most withdrawn. It’s true what they say about seeing a person’s true character in the face of adversity. You’re in every way a gentleman and a true friend. It’s also true what they say about friendships in the face of adversity: they are proven, strengthened and solidified. For yours, I’m grateful. And I’m thankful we didn’t let “protocol” get in the way of it for too long.

 Today, as your friend, I feel helpless in the presence of your pain. I wish I could do or say something to help erase it. I wish I could do something to change its cause altogether. I actually started writing this letter with hopes of providing you with some productive perspective, some comforting word, perhaps some insight into grief. But the reality is that while I’ve stared grief in the face, while I’ve slept with it, lugged it around like a backpack and tried to make sense of it, I know nothing about it, John. Not about your grief. Not about the one that’s nestled its way into your heart, the one that’s robbing you of sleep, the one that will inevitably lug you around for a bit. I know nothing about what it’s like to lose the one you love, your best friend, the person with whom you envisioned a long, beautiful future (the one you deserved). I know not what it’s like to try to make sense of your spouse’s young, vibrant life cut way too short. I don’t know what it feels like when you miss her laugh or her kiss, what it must be like for you to celebrate her with all of us, who also loved her but not like you, and to do so for her but without her.

I am so sorry for not having the words to ease your grief, my friend.

What I do have, however, is friendship: unfiltered, unconditional and yours to call on whenever you need it. It comes with the freedom to be as you are, to feel what you feel, to be sad or joyful or a mix of both. To give into the emotional ebb and flow of the months to follow. To accept the dinner invite(s) or to cancel last-minute. To cry, to hug, to simply hang out. To spoil Summer rotten with cuddles, or to ask us out for a last-minute play date with Bindi. You have the promise of total comfort – to just be you and allow us to be here for you.

Perhaps that’s the one thing I do know about grief: it’s so deeply personal, and yet, its load is so much better shared, if only in bits and pieces, if only for a moment.

And after all, isn’t that what friendship is for? I’ve no doubt it’s what ours (once reluctantly) was intended for.

Valeria (and Sean and Summer, of course)