I lost my dear friend, Gretchen, this week. My heart aches. I have 11 days before I “cross the midline.” She had just crossed it. Our birthdays always marked time for me. Growing up, my two best friends (Gretchen and Kerrie) and I had our birthdays within four weeks of each other. We hit all major milestones together…. one right after the other. I was the “youngest” and was often told I had to sit in the backseat of the car for this reason–joyful ribbing only best friends can dish out.
I am devastated by this loss. Childhood friends are a special breed. They are more like family than friends. When you grow up with someone, the set of shared roots and experiences is a base which feeds the rest of your life.
Some of my favorite memories, in no particular order:
- Running miles and miles and miles and miles and miles together in Cross Country and Track
- Throwing a Danger Mouse party (no one really appreciated Danger Mouse the way Gretchen and I did)
- Naming our fetal pigs in biology class (Ham and Cheeks) and building our science poster on Idiot Savants (I was the idiot and she was the savant)
- Game nights through the years
- Sleepovers, MTV and Atari at Kerrie’s house
- Weaning her daughter, Hannah, to a bottle when I took care of her for several weeks (Gretchen needed to finish up the school year after she had run out of official maternity leave)
- In 8th grade, after Greg Chavez broke my nose with a hockey stick, Gretchen accidentally realigned my nose while swinging her track bag around in circles. It was a direct hit. Ouch. Saved me from surgery, though.
- Dancing and singing on stage in our various school musicals and choir events
- Crying on each other’s shoulders at the loss of our beloved Cross Country coach, Don Osse
- Road tripping to see our friend, Kerrie, in Texas to get our crew of children together (poor Hannah was stung multiple times by multiple creatures during the trip …bees and jellyfish)
- Cruising to the Bahamas and running around Disney World after high school graduation
- Singing karaoke with Gretchen and Hannah and dancing with Lee to Just Dance WII on many a New Year’s Eve night
- Campus Life events and Chinese fire drills
- Belting out Total Eclipse of the Heart (among other songs on the radio) while driving around Lakewood in the cars we had nicknamed
- Receiving Gretchen’s Math Analysis (pre-calc) notes as my birthday gift
- Calling her by my term of endearment: Gretchy Wetchy Wootchy Cootchy
Staying in touch with friends is not easy after high school and college…even when in the same state. I was fortunate to have a standing date with Gretchen every New Year’s Eve. If we didn’t catch up during the rest of the year, we both knew games and pizza awaited us on December 31. And like family, we picked up right where we left off. I treasure those moments.
Life is fragile and it feels far too short. Fifty years…and I knew Gretchen for 42 of them. She told me just last week how “fifty didn’t hurt too much” and I didn’t need to worry. Gretchen told me she was happier now than she ever was in her 40s. We chatted about her Tesla, her tiny house construction, retirement plans, her kids and Bob…an awesome future ahead. I am grateful for that conversation. Gretchen was an authentic, competitive, fun-loving, faith-filled, “say it like it is”, and forever friend. I mourn the loss of this life for us all.