Thursday, 18 July 2013
Reflections: On my friend Elizabeth Walker
I met Elizabeth Walker at 82 Queen. I remember when we first hung out beyond the walls of our job. It was on her 21st birthday: February 9, 2000. In between the cocktails consumed that night, she blurted her number out to me, and it was etched in my brain from that point forward. I don’t know why, but those seven digits just stuck. Not the simplest phone number really to recall, but I somehow always did, which we always thought funny.
That night her infectious laughter and mission to make life as fun as possible became part of me forever. I had no idea how meaningful it would be later on, to be able to recall so many details about Elizabeth and our friendship. Little things I remember her doing and saying have become part of my makeup and the solution to keeping her alive in my everyday life despite losing my sweet friend to lymphoma last September.
Take yesterday, for instance. I walked along King Street and smiled remembering her endearing inability to walk a straight line. I shook my head recalling how often we snuck into a fancy downtown Charleston hotel’s swimming pool. I wondered how many chocolate martinis we had together at High Cotton. And I resisted the temptation to go sit on our old Kirkland Lane front porch out of desperation for more memories to bring my friend back to me.
At Whole Foods recently, I passed through the breakfast section and saw that 365 housebrand on a cereal box I distinctly remember Elizabeth keeping in her Manhattan apartment years later. I stood there staring as if it were too much to see her cereal box in this store. I concentrated on the memory so hard, as if doing so would transport me back to living and laughing with her years ago when nothing could touch us.
And then at the gym last night, I was so tired. But I remembered how long she would spend at the gym, and I was resolute to stick it out. She never took for granted that she was alive and healthy. She was always alive as could be. She pushed herself to complete the NYC half marathon a few years ago, and then qualified in 2010 for the 2011 marathon that she never ran because of her diagnosis. So now I run for her, because that is what she would love to be doing if only she were still here.
Her absence is a change I will never get used to, but I hope to cope with it better as she continues to teach me about life and how to enjoy it and prolong it. How to shake off the silly stuff. How to persevere through the unimaginable. How to make life a relentlessly fun adventure.
I remember when she changed her Charleston phone number four years ago. It was surprisingly distressing for many who, like myself, had grown attached to those reliable digits. But she was ready to embrace her life as a New Yorker, never afraid to shake things up a little and teaching me yet another lesson that would (who knew?) help me through these hard days without her: You can disagree with change and fight it tooth and nail, and though it may be absolutely none of your business to ever understand it, there comes a time when you have to trust that this is how it has to be, and that everything will be just fine. Eventually.