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She Talks to Angels

It’s become somewhat of a tradition for me to re-post this blog on every August 19th. I have been asked why I do not let my friend “go”, as if remembering her and continuing to celebrate her life and love her is keeping me from leading a full life myself. This saddens me. The very least we can do for the people we love is remember them with fondness when they’re no longer with us. I, for one, will never forget. Love you, Darbi.

Good morning, dear readers,

Today is a very sad day for me. It’s been twenty two years since I lost my best friend.

I guess most people don’t expect to lose a friend, but when you’re only seventeen years old, it’s even more tragic and shocking. It was the summer before our graduation, so Darbi never got to go to college. Or celebrate that last year of high school with us. Or leave our little town and see the world, something she desperately wanted to do.

Being a teenager is tough enough without having to survive it minus the person who made you laugh the most. There were times when Darbi was very sad, but she laughed often and with abandon. And, to this day, no one has ever hugged me the way she did. I would give anything to hug her one more time…or to be able to say goodbye. For the rest of my adolescence and early twenties, I carried the weight of survivor’s guilt. Why did she have to die while I got to live? Why didn’t I see it coming? Why wasn’t I able to protect her?

You never knew what to expect with Darbi. One day she’d give us both vampire names and insist we were glamorous bloodsuckers; the next day we had to speak in terrible British accents. When the movie Stand By Me was released, we adopted all the lingo and gestures, which included singing the theme song at full volume as we walked down the street, and endless requests to “Give me some skin, man.” She was always changing her look–chopping off half of her hair on Monday, and shaving the entire back on Friday. She stayed in touch with the latest music and was always making mixed tapes for me. We played Monopoly until four in the morning, and whenever she stayed overnight, my parents knew they weren’t going to get any sleep.

One of the things I really loved about her was her kind heart. While other friends fought viciously with their siblings, Darbi treated hers with tenderness, always. She had two little sisters, and she always let them play with us. The older of the two would stand on one side of a sliding glass patio door with me, with Darbi on the other. Whatever crazy dance move Darbi did, the two of us had to mimic. Her mother would come down to watch us–I’m sure she thought we were nuts. The littlest sister always wanted to play unicorn, and Darbi never failed to indulge her. Because she loved her sisters so much, her friends came to love them, too. And we still do–they’re amazing, beautiful women now, and she would be so proud of them.

Darbi worked two or more jobs. She took care of her two sisters often, becoming a second mother to them. She never complained, and she had endless energy. Whatever she had, she shared, and she always saw her friends through rose colored glasses. There was a fierceness to her love.

I learned a lot from losing her. Seventeen is an early age to find out that we never know how much time we have on this earth, but I’ve never taken my life for granted, thanks to her. I’ve tried my best to live an extraordinary life, always thinking at each new adventure–be it spending a month in Africa, where we were supposed to go together, or interviewing Kiefer Sutherland from Stand By Me–‘this one’s for you, Darbi’. I’m sure I’ve embarrassed friends with my declarations of love or spontaneous bursts of affection, but I don’t care. That’s another lesson she taught me. Tell the people you love that you love them. Never assume you’ll be able to tell them later. Tell them today.

Darbi’s death affected people in very different ways. I’m sure it was the hardest on her family. There were people who were mean and spiteful to her when she was alive, only to become her “best friend” once she passed away, like having a dead friend was some sort of prize. Trust me, it isn’t. I’d much rather have Darbi alive, living in some exciting city with a fabulous career and maybe a family of her own, even if we lost touch over the years. Darbi should have had a chance to make her mark on this world.

Today is always difficult. It has gotten a little easier over the years, but since it seems like only yesterday that we were skipping down the street screaming “STAND BY ME!” at the top of our lungs, it still hurts. A college classmate once frowned upon this sadness, asking “Don’t you think you should get over it?” But as anyone who’s experienced this kind of loss can tell you, you never really do. The sadness and pain evolves over time, from a sharp stabbing jab to a hollow ache. And you remember the good times. There were a lot of them with Darbi, and I for one will never forget.

Rest in peace, my friend. I love you.

This one’s for you.

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  1. Kim

    Great write up. I think I understand now. I agree with your life philosophy of say it now or regret it when you can’t. I’ve gotten better about that but still lots of work to go. Well said.

  2. TS

    Great posting!

    I remember someone who was in a small class with me in high school. I didn’t care much for her, and vice versa. But we were civil with each other, which is all that really mattered.

    Beyond our class she had her select group of friends, but most of the high school crowd didn’t really know who she was.

    She died suddenly in a car crash, and suddenly everyone was so emotional. Really? They hardly knew her, and some wouldn’t even give her the time of day, but it somehow became cool to be part of it all.

    Meanwhile, I was honest with myself and chose not to go – even though I was in a small class with her and actually knew her and talked with her. But because she was the new cool, a lot of people went to her funeral.

    My lesson was how fake and fickle people can be. Death certainly comes packed with some amazing lessons!

  3. clayton

    HI J.H.

    That was great! Thank you for posting this. It was very hard especially since I saw her on my birthday, she served us at the restaurant we were eating at. She gave me apple pie (my favorite) and was looking forward to getting back to school. She was always fun and made me laugh. Leah, you and Darbi were the first to make me feel welcome and I appreciate it and it made my days in Ft Nellie a lot better.

    thank you


  4. J.H. Moncrieff

    Oh, dear Clayton–you always were such a nice guy. I know that it has been hard on you, having your birthday followed by this anniversary. I’m not surprised that Darbi made you feel welcome–that was who she was, but I’m glad to hear that I did, too. You are so welcome, my friend. Much love to you.

    @ Kim, thank you so much. That philosophy gets easier every day–like anything else, it takes practice. I’ve had uncomfortable silences from people who just aren’t as free with saying how they feel, but I’ve stopped needing a positive reaction. As long as I know that I’ve told them what I’ve needed to tell them, I feel good about the exchange.

    Another philosophy I forgot to mention is: it doesn’t matter what you say about people after they’re dead. What matters is how you treat them when they’re alive.

  5. J.H. Moncrieff

    Hi TS,

    Thanks for your comments. I can certainly relate. In Darbi’s case, I think a lot of people felt guilty for the way they’d treated her. They were the ones who tended to be the most over the top, like they could make up for how they’d hurt her by showing remorse over her death.

    It made me pull back a bit, and not be as involved in her sisters’ lives, because I didn’t want to be seen as using this sad event as an attention grabber, as others were. I regret my lack of involvement with those girls now. I love Darbi, and we were friends, but I don’t love her more because she died.

    The Doors were right–people *are* strange.

  6. Ev Bishop

    Dear J.H.:

    You’re so right-the pain never really goes away, but it does lose its teeth a bit when it mellows with age enough to let you recall the good things too, not just the searing loss. Darbi sounds like a WONDERFUL person and I can imagine the crazy fun dynamic duo you two made. I’m sorry for your sadness without, but happy that you have the guts to still remember her and share those memories with others. I’ve always thought one of the most tragic elements of death is that people seem to forget those we loved so much.

  7. J.H. Moncrieff

    Dearest Ev,

    Thanks for your kind comments and empathy. So much of the time, people are afraid to reach out to those who’ve lost someone–especially the families, because we’re afraid that we will cause them more pain, or remind them of a loss when perhaps they were having a great day. But it turns out that the families always feel this pain, and they’re already reminded, each and every day.

    I didn’t really get this until one of Darbi’s sisters said that she was glad to know that people remembered Darbi’s birthday, that it gave her comfort. Until that point, I avoided mentioning Darbi’s birthday and the anniversary of her death, because I didn’t want to cause the family more pain. Now that I know her sister appreciates these memories, I am more than happy to share them.

  8. Stephanie Baffone

    Hi J.H.,
    What a moving tribute. Death should be outlawed. I’m writing a memoir about the loss of my Mom. Death morphs our worlds into a place we don’t readily recognize in its wake.

    God bless, Darbi and you too.

    PS I LOVE the quote from your writing guru so much, I’d like to borrow it and post it on my blog next week, giving full credit of course if that’s ok. Best of luck with both of your endeavors.

  9. J.H. Moncrieff

    Hi Stephanie,

    Thanks for your kind comment and for “friending” and following me. I stopped by your blog for a quick visit, and really liked what I saw. I’ll definitely be back for a longer look.

    So sorry to hear about your mom. Losing one’s mother is such a terrible thing to go through…I’ve had nightmares about it since I was a kid, and I dread the day it happens. My heart goes out to you.

    And of course you can use the quote! I think Liz would be tickled. She’s an amazing person, and as she said when I asked, she “loves to be quoted”.

    Take care, and welcome to my little corner of the blogosphere.

  10. Laura Best

    A few months back, a friend I grew up with died suddenly in a car crash. These things bring so many memories and feelings to the surface when they happen. It is not easy. Neither is it easy to let go.

    This is a wonderful tribute to your friend. In the end, Holli, all we are ever left with are our memories and it sounds as though you have your share of those! So nice.

  11. J.H. Moncrieff

    Thanks so much, Laura. I’m very sorry for your loss. Car accidents are so horrible, because there’s no opportunity to say goodbye, and you feel so incredibly helpless. That’s what happened to Darbi as well.

    I wish you all the best in dealing with the grief. It does get a little easier over time, and like you said, you always have your memories.

  12. Anonymous

    I really liked your blog! It helped me alot… Awesome. Exactly what I was looking for. Thanks!

  13. J.H. Moncrieff

    Thank you for the kind words, Anonymous. I only seem to get spam on here lately. Your message was a welcome change.

  14. Anonymous

    Hello, I simply wanted to take time to make a comment and say I have really enjoyed reading your site.

  15. mnavonod

    It has been awhile since I had been able to sit and read your blogs. Today I was able to enjoy this one as well as others! Thank you 🙂 from the bottom of my heart

  16. J.H. Moncrieff

    You’re very welcome. She would be (and is, I’m sure) very proud of you.


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