I woke this morning like I do every August 16–thinking of my friend Melissa Rodrigue. Today would have been her 47th birthday. Melissa (or Missy Bow-Head, as I used to call her) and I had a very complicated friend ship that spanned two decades. We didn’t really end things well, and our last interaction was a fight.
I’m going to share something with you that many of you might find horrible. When Melissa was diagnosed with cancer, she reached out to me through a mutual friend. That friend advised me that it might be the last time I got to talk to her.
I’d like to offer many valid reasons in my defense (and there were valid reasons), but the bottom line is I made a choice. Melissa and I had made our peace months earlier via email, but I had also determined I needed to draw strong boundaries.
So I said no.
I did not reach out to my dying friend when she asked me to. I dug in my heels and called it self-preservation.
Many years later, I still feel ambivalent about the decision I made. While part of me is horrified that I shut out my friend in the time of her greatest need, another part of me knows that I made the right decision.
There are simply times when you have to take care of yourself. There are simply times when it’s no longer compassion but co-dependence, and you have to be strong in yourself. It’s not pretty, and I’m not proud of it. But it’s life, and I own my decision.
So, every August 16, I wake up and think, “Today would have been Melissa’s (fill in the blank) birthday.” And I think about her sense of humor, her scary smart math skills, her voice like an angel, the son she left motherless, the LiveJournal that will never go away and sends me reminders each August that her birthday is coming up. I think of the drama and the fights and the emotional blackmail. I think of her obsession with celebrity and how she always wore bows in her hair back in college.
And I think, she was a good friend. I miss her.
Good morning, Melissa. Happy birthday.