Losing a friend is much like losing a sibling. You feel as though you're walking around missing a piece of your heart.
This is her story of the loss of her best friend to pancreatic cancer:
I'm 31 years old, and while I've been through a lot, I've experienced one thing that not many people my age have; a thing that no one should ever have to: the loss of a best friend and mentor.
I first met Gita when I was 19 and working my first hospital job. I'd started working at a pharmacy to decide if I really could stomach hospitals before I went to nursing school. Gita was so smart, so funny; she had the most infectious laugh and smile I've ever seen. She was always after me to go to pharmacy school, even as she remained encouraging during my pursuit of nursing. She even came to my graduation and gave me a Dallas Mavericks watch as a gift.
In addition to our love of medicine, we also shared a love of basketball, New Kids on the Block and dogs. She was always impressed that I, in my five-feet, ninety-eight pound glory, was not the slightest bit afraid of her three German shepherds - each well over 100 pounds. If I could impress her that much over something so "small," I felt honored.
To say she was "mad at me" when I moved three-and-a-half hours away was the understatement of the year. I thought moving would be the best way to handle a difficult situation. She thought I was crazy - especially because I was moving alone to a place where I knew no one; where I had no support system. However, when I flourished in both career and life, I don't know that anyone was more proud than she.
She was always one of my biggest cheerleaders.
Eventually, I got an advanced certification as a diabetes educator - a role I was born to play due to my own experience with diabetes.
Life came full-circle the day I received a phone call from her asking if she could refer a patient to me for some help with initial teaching. She said I was the best educator she knew. I couldn't believe it - a published expert pharmacist was referring someone to me.
I can't tell you how honored I was.
Over the next few months, I kept in touch with Gita often over Facetime, texting, phone calls and email. She'd update me about how well she was responding to chemotherapy, telling me that she felt bad that I had to wear an insulin pump after her experience with an indwelling port.
I didn’t bother telling her that she had the raw end of the deal.
I went to see her at home about four months after her diagnosis, and she looked great! I noted some weight loss, but overall, she looked fantastic.
I felt so encouraged.
I spent my 30th birthday in New Orleans. I remember the texts she sent me on July 2, 2012 to wish me a very happy birthday. I saved those texts, too. I asked if I could bring her anything, she said all she wanted was for me to eat some beignets for her. I dutifully went back to Café du Monde and ate another three beignets. I sent her a picture of it, and she responded with happiness. I could see her smiling.
On July 5, I received a Facebook message from a friend I hadn't spoken to in awhile asking me to call her immediately.
I didn't want to.
Sure enough, Gita had passed away at 3:30AM. I was sitting at Sonic when she told me.
I tried calling Gita. She didn't answer.
Her husband called back, saying, "I guess you heard." I learned that she'd started to decline on July 3, and eventually drowned in the fluids filling her lungs. I don't remember the rest of the conversation. I just remember wailing. I managed to call someone to come get me: I couldn't see straight.
The next few days were a blur.
I barely remember the funeral. I only recall dreading going, because it wasn't fair. It wasn't fair that one of my best friends was dead. It wasn't fair that I didn't get to see her after New Orleans. It wasn't fair that she knew the end was near and she was trying to save me.
But that's how she was. Always worried about everyone else. In hindsight, I see the gift she was giving me. I'm convinced part of what made her hang on was to wish me a happy birthday. She was telling me goodbye in the most special way.
I've struggled with writing this, mostly because I've wanted to make sure I give Gita a proper send-off, and that she - and you, The Band - would understand how much I loved her (still love her).
I've worried that I wouldn't write enough to really capture her essence, and most of all, that you wouldn't want to read it.
I still miss her, and there are days I still want to send her pictures of my dogs to get her happy responses back. My heart bleeds as I write this, and I know I'll go back and read this, and say to myself, "I need to write one more thing," or, "I forgot this detail."
The fact is, memory isn't linear, especially when you've had a friendship and professional relationship as long as we did. However, I can be thankful for this: that we had so many memories to even be non-linear, and she is permanently cemented in my heart.
I hope she knows that.6 Comments