I know I have written about first impressions and we all know how important those and first encounters are. The way I met Ashley wasn’t the usual way to meet your soon to be best friend. It was freshman year in high school and her boyfriend was causing some issues in English class. I called him out in front of everyone for picking on someone, and lets just say the craziness started. This was not something that was typical for me, as I was shy and timid, but was necessary at that moment. Through this event I met Ashley. Once we got to know each other we were inseparable. We made sure to have as many classes together as possible. I remember one of our Science teachers begging us to listen and stop talking, we would just sit and giggle. We were always staying over at each other’s house and if we weren’t together we were on the phone talking.
Ashley was a sweet and kind person, beautiful on the outside as much as she was on the inside. She was very soft spoken and the only major downfall she had was a terrible taste in boys. I always had nicknames for them. The worst one of them all I would call “Fish Face”. We would still laugh about that years later. Ashley was raised completely different than me and her mom was relaxed and a little on the wild side, to say the least. I went with them on a couple of trips and those memories were ones we would talk about 10 years later.
It came down to our Senior year and I was planning on moving to Nashville for college, but that would mean saying goodbye to her. I remember that evening when she came over to my house to say goodbye. We cried and talked and then cried some more. To that point, that was one of the hardest goodbyes I had ever said. She was my best friend and like a sister we did everything together and now I was leaving her behind. I felt so guilty for leaving. I was also so scared to do something this big without her. I went away to college and tried to stay in touch as much as possible. Her and her boyfriend came to visit a few times, but I started realizing something that I never wanted to admit; we were drifting apart. She was living her life here and I was making a new one there. Over the next four and a half years the miles between us became not just literal but figurative for our friendship. We both got married a few years later and were in each other’s wedding, we wouldn’t have had it any other way. My husband and I moved back to my home town and we stayed in touch at first. With the busyness of life, work, and then I had two small kids staying in touch became less and less.
Over the years it became very obvious that the multiple tragedies and horrific events that she had gone through were surfacing and became this mountain she could not climb. Her depression became a black hole she could not escape. We would each reach out to the other from time to time. Those calls seemed to always come when we needed it the most; like we were still connected. I loved talking with her and trying to give her hope and reassure her that she could make it through all of this. She had dreams and plans for what she wanted her life to look like, but it seemed at every turn something or someone would knock her back down. Her struggles were overtaking her and to be honest I only knew a small portion of the demons that she faced. This was very hard for me to come to grips with, how could I have not know it was this bad, I was her best friend.
To be honest, and this is something that was really hard for me to admit as well, we weren’t best friends anymore. We had drifted so far away due to life and other issues. But just because we weren’t as close anymore doesn’t mean that she wasn’t a special person in my life. All the memories and growing together is something I can cherish as being a major part of my life. Being able to reflect on our friendship made me notice that I saw so many red flags, and there was so much more I could have done but I never wanted to upset her. We called each other best friends, but honesty was never apart of it. Honesty should have been apart of it and maybe that would of helped her out of her black hole. When you love someone you should always be open with them even when the truth hurts, it may end up saving them.
It will be three years this April that my friend left us. I still have such a hard time thinking about her being gone. I always wonder if I could have done more, and I could have to be honest – everyone could have. Ashley was a wonderful and beautiful person whose simile would light up any room. She had such a compassionate heart for others. It was a beautiful life gone way to soon. I thought the night I left for college was the worst goodbye I would ever say to her, but at her funeral I wrote her my last letter. The final goodbye.
Goodbye my friend – I love you and miss you