It didn’t feel real to me when she died.
It had been years since I had seen Anna, years since we had last spoken. Sadly, our last conversation had been a difficult one, and we had both ended up in tears. After that I had tried to put her and the high school drama behind me as I walked away, leaving her to be with the man I had given my heart to.
Five years later, it all seemed a bad dream, and it was far enough away that it didn’t hurt so much anymore to hear her name or his. And then I got the phone call.
It was from Amy, who had heard from someone else that we went to school with, that Anna had died.
I was in the study of the apartment I shared with Shannon when I got the news, sitting at my desk sorting a pile of paperwork. Amy didn’t have many of the details, but she knew this much: Anna had been sick and now – she was gone.
My mind wandered back through the time she wasn’t in my life, back to the day we’d spoken on the phone and I had told her something she didn’t want to hear. By telling her this something I was betraying him, but I chose her over him. I had to – because she was Anna and she was a wonderful person and she didn’t deserve to be lied to. And I deserved better myself – she and I knew we were both better than that.
That didn’t make it an easy conversation, however. And as we spoke, both of us crying, both of us sharing the same hurt – we knew we couldn’t deal with this together. It was the very nature of that same hurt that we had to face it separately. Neither of us were angry with each other – only with him. But as we hung up the phone, we would not speak again.
There was another year of high school to get through, and I kept my distance. I was never angry with her, but I envied her. They had worked it out – she got the guy. He was in college now, away from our small town, so that made it easier for me. I couldn’t even stay angry at him – Anna was amazing, and he deserved amazing.
Senior year I started dating a guy that … made my tastes appear a tad questionable, if I’m putting it nicely. I heard through the grapevine that Anna was “surprised” that I was dating him. I held my head high and acted like I didn’t care what she thought – but that was a transparent rouse. I very much cared. After I broke up with him, I realized she had not been commenting about my relationship for any reason other than genuine concern for me. That was Anna. And she had been absolutely right, of course.
And then college came and she was gone from my life until Amy called to tell me she was really gone. I felt like I didn’t deserve to grieve her, as I hadn’t kept in touch those final years. But I grieved anyway – how could I not?
Most of my good memories of Anna were from middle school – the makeovers, the time she gave me strength after my most embarrassing moment, sitting at her house with her family, which was always so full of love.
I remember the first time I heard “She’s in Love with the Boy” by Trisha Yearwood. It was at Anna’s house, in her bedroom, and it came on the radio and she sang along. I remember feeling so strong listening to those lyrics – that love conquers all. “She’s gonna marry that boy someday.” Of course, we couldn’t have’t known that Anna would never get married – she died a fiancee, from what I understand.
I remember watching “Dying Young” with Anna’s mom in her living room – and Anna refused to watch because it was too sad. That is an irony that will forever sit like a brick in my stomach, as none of us knew at that time that Anna would grow up to die young herself, and of cancer at that.
Of all the good memories, and then to have the final memory of she and I be a bad one, is not something I have been able to comprehend. But recently I found a journal from high school, and I stumbled across the part of our lives in which the boy was clearly having some trouble deciding. And I found a conversation in which I detailed between myself and Anna about the boy. In this, she told me that she thought he liked me and she would be happy to talk to him on my behalf.
I don’t actually remember the conversation or if I told her to speak to him for me or not. But reading my words, I know that it must’ve happened as I described. That was Anna – in a nutshell. Even if she liked him, she still wanted me to be happy, and if he and I would have been better together than he and she, well, then that would have been ok with her. It didn’t turn out that way, of course, but I am glad he got to be a part of her life, even if for a short time.
I am sure she touched his heart, just like she touched mine.
Anna died 9 years ago today. I will never forget her.