losing kin

As if the recent deaths in Tucson didn't allow me sufficient reflection on losing kin, a very dear friend, whom I’ve known for almost twenty years, called me this week to tell me that her younger brother had died—her only sibling and the last of her blood relatives. Her words were almost imperceptible through sobs and shuddered breaths, which I have heard from her only once before.

I met my friend during a fire alarm in our downtown San Francisco apartment building. Our small studios, complete with cockroaches and Murphy beds, shared a wall. At the piercing sound we both peeked out of our doors wearing robes and slippers and said simultaneously, “do you think we need to leave?” then we laughed at ourselves and headed downstairs out onto the cold, dark street in our housecoats. "Pretty," we said, and laughed again. It was the beginning of a long and adventuresome friendship.

Later, we traded in our cramped studios for a large dreamy Victorian flat where we shared a multitude of good times and a few bad. While we were roommates my father died after a long battle with Cancer. My friend was lovely, and helped me get through my grief. She spent countless evenings sitting with me in front of the fire on an ivory Flokati rug drinking wine, telling stories and staring into the glowing flames. Even though she didn't know what it was like when a parent died, she still knew what to say. For a time we were inseparable.

A few years passed then she moved to the East Bay. Her mother had fallen ill with another form of the same wretched disease—cancer. She watched her mom, who was only in her fifties, waste away in a nursing home while she tirelessly kept vigil every day after work. To this day I regret that I wasn’t really there for her like she had been for me.

And so now she finds herself alone. No mother’s bosom on which to cry, and no brother to lean on or shoot the shit with over the phone. Her distant adoptive father, who she hasn’t lived with since she was nine, is two thousand miles away. She’s really on her own now, at least when it comes to kin. Her loss causes me to think, once again, about losing Calvin or about him being left alone in the world without a father, mother or siblings. Those thoughts, in turn, compound the sadness that I feel for her.

But this friend of mine, whether she knows it or not, has extraordinary tenacity. She is lithe but has Amazon strength, a bright beautiful face always looking toward the sky, and the ability to overcome any obstacle that impedes her. And, too, she has friends—loyal, longstanding, compassionate friends—friends who love her as much as family. I tell her that she will get through this. I will tell her everything that she told me when my dad died. I will tell her that I will be there for her this time. I will tell her often that I love her, and that she will survive.

flowers for my friend


  1. I just left you a long reply but the blog police swallowed it. Essentially, I said that I am sure your friend knows that she has a sister in you. You bring so much light to those around you. Every time I rock with Jacob, we snuggle under the quilt you made him, and I am filled with gratitude and warmth towards you. Just know that there are so many people who treasure you, Calvin and Michael and hold you close in their hearts. Now that I am a mother, I understand a little bit more. I love you, Shell

  2. I really felt that this was a very powerful post, Christy. Great writing, as always-straight to the heart.