Somewhere between the second and third grade, I was sitting at Grandma’s gigantic IBM electric typewriter playing “office” inside the Funeral Home she and Grandpa started in 1939 when I spotted the school bus outside and two girls in matching green jackets get off.
“Hey Grandma, who are those two girls that just got off the bus across the street?”
(Grandma knew everything and everyone)
“Those are the Sedlock girls, Barry and Kathy’s daughters. Nice girls. You should become friends with them and you’ll have someone to play with while you are here”
And so it began one of the longest, most endearing, authentic and truly blessed friendships I’ve had in my young, almost 40, life.
Lori and I were thick as thieves and forever dreaming up new ways to play in our small town neighborhood. When we got bored with running around the Funeral Home, copying our hands in the copy machine, eating Grandma’s “buckeyes” out of the freezer or investigating the casket room…
“oh my gosh Lori, feel how soft these are on the inside, dare me to get in?”
We’d run across the street to her Mom’s dress shop, The Julia Shop, the nicest and only place in town where Grandma did all her shopping (and why I’m a huge proponent of supporting the locals) and run a muck around the dress racks, mannequins and cash register until we got bored and went upstairs to their residence to bug Roberta, Lori’s older sister.
“MOM! Jennifer and Lori are running around here like a bunch of wild Indians!!! Will you tell them to leave me alone!!”
(we still tease Roberta about this)
Lori and I were like FINE and we’d hop our bikes to my other Grandma’s house to see what kind of sugar we could land there or jump in my pool and when that got old, run across the street to Uncle Lee’s and jump in his because Uncle Lee had unlimited supplies of Coca-Cola (“pop”) and he’d let us drink as much as we wanted and eat all his peanut M and Ms. Back then, we couldn’t call ahead on a cell phone to let them know we were coming! They were the best of days and why I cherish my childhood and return home every Summer in hopes my children get a tiny taste of what life was like growing up Mom, where the sidewalk never ends and running into an old classmate is like running into a long lost cousin.
All through elementary school, middle school, high school, college, I stood up in her wedding, she in mine, babies, you name it, we’ve been there for each other. When Mom passed away, she was right by my side the entire time, back at Grandma and Grandpa’s Funeral Home but under an extremely different set of circumstances (but still motoring through the buckeyes). Just knowing that she was there when I needed her the most, was when I truly realized that I could count on her 24/7. There aren’t many people who I can say that about, so I’ll treasure her forever. She even told me about some fundraising ideas that I could look into if I needed any extra funds. I found it hard to pay for the funeral service, as they’re so expensive these days. I told her that I appreciated the gesture, I could feel more comfortable that I had everything covered to mom’s standards! She would so hate to know I was stressing over this. Grandma knew the thought of all these finances troubled me, I wanted the funeral to honor her, and it was so hard to do this through all the grief. She helped me look at some caskets too, we managed to find companies online like Discount-Caskets. They meant I could buy her something that represented her in her final state, and it didn’t completely empty my pockets at the same time. It’s definitely worth taking into consideration in the future. She was amazing to me and my family during one of the toughest periods in my life. She stood there right next to me when I took a comb from Grandma and tried to fix Mom’s hair while she lay in the casket because it just didn’t look like her and I thought oh no Mom will never forgive us!
She never missed a birthday and never ever forgot to call me every. single. year. on the anniversary of Mom’s passing to tell me she loved me and that she was thinking of me today. Regardless of where, when or how much pain she was in. She was always there for me.
I’m so going to miss those calls.
Because last night, as I was walking out the door in ponytails and leg warmers to an 80s Birthday Party for another beautiful friend (remember my post on the “season of yes”) I got the worst call of all. My dear sweet friend of thirty plus years had gone home to God, so much sooner than Doctors had predicted. It was only a few short months ago we learned that Lori’s Lupus had lead to pulmonary hypertension and her lease on life was two, maybe three years. I didn’t want to believe it. The eternal optimist thought certainly they’ve got the stage wrong. Can’t be stage four, maybe two or three -damn it- and she’ll beat it. Her cardiac cath was scheduled for this week and I was praying that Lori would defy all the odds and be kicking it in the backyard with the kids and I again this Summer. Who’s going to go with me to eat our favorite Maurice salad and cheese soup? I texted her a picture of it every time I went when she couldn’t make it…”look what I’m about to dive into! Wish you were here!!”
December 2nd was Lori’s 40th birthday and NO WAY IN HELL was I going to miss it. We were planning a party, that then turned into a lunch, that then turned in to just Lori and I’s family (my second family) having lunch because Lori was still in the hospital. She was later discharged that night and Thank you Jesus, spent her actual birthday at home with her family in her own bed.
I saw her every chance I could that weekend and it was as if she was not sick at all. I’d hit the new Starbucks on West Road for her creme brulee latte, roll the chair to the end of her hospital bed, prop my feet up and we laughed, were loud (shocker), cussed a little, talked about everyone on facebook, our marriages, kids, my budding design career. She was so proud of me and never hesitated to let me know. I can’t tell you how excited I was to send her a copy of my first published project in Atlanta Magazine that hit newsstands this week. I was going to be all silly and sign it, like I was somebody famous but most definitely take another opportunity to let her know how much our friendship meant to me. She knew.
I remember waking up that weekend at Dad’s house feeling compelled to update my facebook status (something I rarely do anymore) with “day three of one of the best trips home ever…no place like it” and not give a rip if anyone “liked” it. You have no idea how grateful I am to have had that time with Lori. We knew what was at stake and made a point to always tell each other I love you. Its the one thing keeping me upright. Of course I wish now I’d stayed all day and all night, naturally. We made all sorts of grand plans that weekend, a cruise for just the girls, she was finally going to come to Atlanta to see my home, I was going to redesign her bedroom this Summer. She had the beach or Torch Lake anytime she wanted it. “I only want to go if we can go together” she said.
Last Tuesday night I was driving home late from a friend’s birthday when an old song that Lori and I had many laughs and memories over came on the radio. I took a quick picture of the screen and sent it to her with comment. Her response…
OMG I just peed my
jammies from laughing so
hard…tomorrow is heart
cath…will let you know
results after…love you
I love you too Lori. Thank you for being such a wonderful friend to me and exemplifying what real and enduring friendship means. You were such a gift and I thank GOD for that day I just happened to be looking out the window when you got off the school bus. Give all my love to Mom and I promise to continue to be kind and kick life’s
ass honoring you both! My sweet angel stars in heaven.
A very sad and broken Jenny from the rock.