A lesson learned in losing a friend

Researchers have revealed that we make nearly 400 friendships in a lifetime – but maintain only a handful. We form an average of 396 personal relationships but only 33 will stand the test of time.

Friendships end for varying reasons. I asked a few of my colleagues why they’ve lost friends over time and the responses pretty much fell into the following categories:

  • There were no longer in the same environment (school/work/country) 
  • They simply grew apart, and felt as though they no longer had anything in common with the other person(s)
  • There was some sort of drama/betrayal in the friendship that caused the friendship to break down

In my 30 plus years of life, I can say that I have experienced losing friends through all three scenarios. Life tends to have a way of bringing about change at such a rapid pace that keeping up with friendships can be hard. However, I take comfort at least, in knowing that despite the way a friendship may have ended, the other person is alive and hopefully, doing well.

One point that was not brought up in the responses was: losing a friend through death. This is one topic that many people tend to skim over, so looking back, I’m not surprised that it wasn’t brought up. However, after recently experiencing the death of a friend, I have found myself mulling over it a lot, not so much in the scope of what happens after death, rather, how we live our lives now. 

My story today is about Melissa (not her real name). Melissa and I attended primary school together. We later attended different secondary schools and lost touch, only seeing each randomly through the years when I started taking lessons for CSEC, then Advanced Level. We lost contact again, only to be reunited this time through social media, and subsequently, through Whatsapp. For the past two years, we would touch base with each other regularly, sending each other words of affirmation, silly quotes, pertinent work information and then some. 

Late last year, Melissa mentioned to me that she was having a health issue and in the months that followed, she was hospitalised. I lived near one of the hospitals where she was warded, and I reminded her that I’m only a few minutes away if she needed anything, and, I meant it. She called me a few times, especially outside of visiting hours to take things to her – food and medication. Many times, I found myself walking through the corridors of an eerily quiet hospital after 9 or 10pm. 

While I spent time with her during regular hours, looking back, I reminisce about the times when it was just the two of us in her hospital room. We were able to share a few light moments, catch up with each other, laugh at some randomness, cry about her frustration and pray with each other. I was also able to just give her a hug to remind her that I was always a few minutes away. 

As I walked out of the hospital one particular night, I couldn’t help but ponder on the fact that it took her getting sick for us to rekindle our friendship, but at the same time, I was glad to be able to help her, even in a small way, fight this battle. I smiled at how close we had gotten in such a short space of time. Seeing her persevere through all her trials gave me hope. I was hell-bent on believing that she would overcome all her challenges, that the root issue would be found and everything would be okay. However, life tends to have a way of bringing about change at such a rapid pace.

Melissa died a few days after. 

I can’t recall much of the morning when I heard of her passing, outside of some of our friends reaching out to me as I was one of the first persons to share the news in our network of classmates and colleagues. Everything else was a blur. Looking back, I didn’t think it was possible to experience such a myriad of emotions all at once. I’d quickly flip between anger and sadness, mixed with shock and disbelief. Then I’d feel numb and then, angry again. 

On the day of her funeral, I felt numb. Her death was a hard pill to swallow, she was my age, we’re not supposed to just get sick and die within a few months. We’re supposed to be living our best lives, having amazing careers, getting married and having babies, doing whatever we set our hearts and minds to. Instead, along with classmates, friends, and family, I was saying my final farewell to Melissa. 

Despite the sadness of the day, I was able to reconnect with many primary school friends, and other friends whom I now communicate with regularly.  The plan is to put aside some time to meet up with each other. I hope we can make it happen.

In her passing, I have learnt a few lessons about life:

  • Live your life in the best way that you can to make God smile
  • Cherish all your loved ones and let them know you love all the time
  • Do not let illness, death or any grave situation be the catalyst for the rekindling of a friendship 
  • A kind word can make a huge difference. 

While these were things I’ve always adhered to, it took her passing to really make me stop and reflect. I’ve since made a conscious effort to be a better friend, daughter, wife and woman. My wish is that you can become the best version of yourself but I hope that it doesn’t take losing someone for you to really stop and think about if you are truly living, or if you’re just existing.  

The WE Team

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