Two weeks ago today I was in Virginia, about to say my final goodbye to my friend.
We smiled, we laughed, I cried. I hugged her one last time, and then as I left, I felt the grief hit me.
I honestly don't even remember the drive to the airport, or my flights home. It's all a blur.
One week ago today I was in New York, getting ready to attend the memorial service the next day.
The grief was still with me, still sharp.... but dulled a little bit because I was back "home" and with my mom. I don't care if you are a toddler or a grandmother - there is nothing like a mother's love.
I got in a quick visit with my dad (who was doing really well!) and got my fill of New York pizza.
At Trudy's memorial service, I stepped way out of my comfort zone. I knew in my heart that I wanted to say something to honor her, and our friendship. I just didn't know if I could do it.
Teary-eyed from her husband's eulogy, I stood up and gave my own. In front of a lot (a LOT!) of people (Trudy was something special) - people I didn't know, friends I haven't seen in decades, family I've known most of my life - I spoke from the heart and thanked Trudy for a friendship that nourished and refreshed my soul.
I met Trudy on the first day of junior high. We were instant friends, inseparable from that day on. I have so many memories that Trudy was a part of.... passing notes in school, sleepovers, trips to the mall, Friday night roller skating, cruising in her mom's blue Camaro, going to baseball games with her dad and Uncle Joe, so many different concerts over the years. We went on beach vacations with each other’s families. We even got our first jobs (at the same store) on the same day when we were 16. We were at each other’s houses more than we were at our own. We celebrated marriages (and I don’t care what Rich Sperl says, I take the credit for getting Trudy and Todd together!)
We celebrated babies. Being a wife and mom was all she ever wanted to do. I’m so blessed that even though life took us in different directions, we ended up back in some of the same places, too. I only lived a few hours from her when she had Zachary. Two years later they were stationed in Abilene when I had my son. I went to San Antonio to be with Zac when Jenna was born, and Trudy came to visit me the next year when I had my baby girl.
I've never used the term "best friend" regarding anyone except Trudy. We may have lived far apart, but she was never far from my heart. A few years ago Trudy gave me this necklace I’m wearing. It says “Wherever you are, it’s your friends that make your world.” Trudy’s friendship has made my world for most of my life. She's the Thelma to my Louise. We've shared love and heartache, fun and excitement, laughter and tears. We even fought cancer together.
The name Trudy means "universal strength". That’s so fitting. Trudy is my hero. She showed me the way when I had to walk in her shoes. She never complained, she was never dramatic.... she’d just take what life threw at her and then move on. She was the strongest, sweetest, funniest friend with the most beautiful heart.
Trudy left us far too soon, but hers was a life well lived. This is a celebration of that life. Military wife, school volunteer, Girl Scout cookie mom, swim team mom, walking partner, listening ear…. Whatever hat she wore, she was always the same amazing girl who was my best friend for 33 years. Trudy was someone you could count on, and she was always up for anything. So many things about her deserve to be celebrated: her strength, her compassion, her loyalty, her fun-loving spirit, her faith, her love of family. Sometimes you don’t realize how the little things in your life may impact someone else. I will never think of Pepsi, Jolly Cow, popcorn at Target, Disney, road trips, scary movies, Carvel ice cream cakes, chocolate cake at Denny's, Ocean Isle Beach or the movie Top Gun without thinking of Trudy. The 4th of July in Saugerties will never be the same for me, and I promise to toast her at Pizza Star every summer.
I went to visit Trudy in Virginia last week. It was my honor to spend some of her last days with her. Late one night while I sat there watching her sleep, I made a promise to her. The only way I could think to honor her was by doing what she did…..so I promised to live a life well lived. I promised to make the most of every moment, like she did.
When i walked into her hospice room last Friday morning, Todd asked her if she knew what that day was. Trudy smiled and said "It’s Michelle's birthday". Of course. Of course Trudy would remember that it was my birthday. Then she and Todd sang Happy Birthday to me. I will never forget that moment. It was the best birthday present I’ve ever gotten. Before I had left the night before, I’d put my phone up to her ear and played Wind Beneath My Wings. She was sleeping, but the next morning, my birthday morning, she told me that she heard it.
There has never been a time, since I was 11 years old, that Trudy was not a part of my life.
I want to smile because of all of the years I had her in my life, not cry because there won't be more.
Trudy, you are the wind beneath my wings... Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for being you.