“We became friends because we had babies at the same time. There was no other connection; I was much older than her.
It was the beginning of June and I was driving home. I saw the ‘new couple’ who had just moved to the neighborhood. I noticed that she was also very pregnant. I said, Hey, when are you due?’ We were due within a couple of weeks of each other.
A year later, I drove by her house. There were all these cars there in the middle of the day. I texted her and said, “Is everything okay?’ She said, ‘It’s not.’
When I was in high school, a friend of mine got cancer. It scared me and I didn’t know how to deal with it. So I kind of disappeared. I always felt bad about that, and I promised myself that if I ever had the chance again, I’d do it differently.
So when Leah said, ‘I have cancer,’ I thought, ‘I can do this.’ I remember texting her, ‘Listen, if you ever need someone to talk to, I’ll be there for you. I won’t hold back, I’ll ask questions, but I’ll stay emotionally detached. If I’m being too intrusive, tell me and I’ll step back.’
She said, ‘Okay.’
That was the beginning of the most intense friendship I’ve had. Sharing fear and hope, the stresses of marriage and family—all of it—became a deep well of emotion for us.
I still have that first text on my old phone, ‘Is everything okay?’ I’ve never deleted a text with her over three and a half years. The last one says, ‘I will miss you, my friend.’ There are thousands in between.
At her funeral, I told the story of how we met and that first text ‘Is everything okay?’ I mentioned the promise I gave her to stay emotionally detached. Everybody laughed. There were tears rolling down my face.”