When I heard that the wife of one of my brother’s oldest friends had lost a child, I sent a carefully worded email to her husband, asking if Stacey might want to talk to someone who had been through something similar. She did, and the connection was made.
That was approximately eleven years ago, and over the years, Stacey and I kept up our correspondence at varying degrees of frequency, never losing the special connection we’d created out of a mutual, almost desperate need for support from someone who understood. As we managed to have other children and move on to other subjects, that shared, profoundly visceral understanding of devastating loss has always been at the heart of our friendship.
Stacey and I have exchanged hundreds of emails, yet no opportunity had ever presented itself for us to meet in person – until recently. My brother and his family were celebrating the Bat-Mitzvah of their eldest daughter, which – conveniently for us – fell during my son’s Passover vacation. I was looking forward to seeing family and friends, but from the moment I decided that we’d make this trip, much of the joy I felt was in knowing that I would finally have the chance to meet Stacey, whose painful journey had been such an integral part of my own healing process.
I’ve had many opportunities to meet “virtual” friends in person, and my excitement and curiosity has always been mixed with hints of trepidation as I wondered whether we’d successfully make the transition to actual friendship. This was the case with Stacey, for despite the depth of our virtual connection, I was worried – for no reason at all, really – that we wouldn’t manage to connect as well in real life. I was excited and I was nervous, and to make things even worse, I didn’t know when the meeting would take place. I assumed it would be Saturday morning at the temple, and as we made our way to dinner Friday evening, my thoughts turned to the relatives we would see for the first time in years.
At the entrance to the private room in a local restaurant, I introduced my son to family members he’d never met and made friendly small talk with others in our party as we shuffled toward the doors. Before entering, I heard someone say my name. I turned around and there was Stacey, standing in front of me with her family. As we hugged, I was overwhelmed by an incredible rush of emotions – profound joy at finally having come full circle woven together with bits of the sadness that was such an inherent part of our dynamic, sadness that we’d never been able to share face-to-face. We fought back tears as we clung to one another, and any nervous anticipation I felt simply disappeared.
We didn’t have many chances to talk that evening, but that didn’t detract from my elation. I knew we’d find the time to do so, and in the meantime, the few words we’d exchanged so far told me that Stacey’s feelings closely mirrored my own. I couldn’t believe how overjoyed I was. It was so incredibly cathartic; I’d known it would be, but I hadn’t realized how much. I felt giddy and I felt blessed. Because of what we’d each been through, Stacey intuitively got me on levels that most people – even my closest friends – couldn’t really begin to understand. I have a very small group of friends who are allowed to see me at my lowest and most vulnerable, when I’m in what I often refer to as “crash and burn” mode and functioning at the end of my sanity. They’re amazing and there when I need them (which often leaves me feeling like I can never reciprocate enough), and I love them more than I can say. And yet, I know they can’t get it like Stacey does. As hard as they try to be there for me and as good as they are at helping me to pick up the pieces, they can’t completely understand what I’ve been through (nor would I want them to, because there’s only one way for that to happen and I wouldn’t wish this particular brand of tragedy on anyone).
Stacey and I spent many moments together during the course of the weekend. Every greeting and parting involved a hug (and those of you who know me know how out-of-character that is for me), and we genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. Toward the end of Sunday brunch at my brother’s house, I confided to Stacey’s husband how happy I was that she and I had finally met and how it was the highlight of my weekend. He noted that she’d repeatedly said the same thing as well.
Just as I tried not to cry when we met on Friday evening, I found myself on the verge of tears again on Sunday morning when we had to say goodbye. Even though we didn’t focus on the events that had brought us together eleven years earlier and the nature of our friendship probably won’t change much as a result of our meeting, that weekend will be indelibly marked in my mind as one of the special ones, as I think of the profound sense of joy and relief I felt over spending it with a friend who gets it all.
This entry was posted in Childhood Memories, Daily life, Family, Friendships, Loss, Pregnancy, Self-Reflection and tagged children, friendship, Loss, meeting for the first time, virtual by Liza Rosenberg