The quantity of friends you have doesn’t matter, it’s more important to have real ones. This is the story about finding one best friend, and then a second.
What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.
I loved that quote because to me it perfectly encapsulated how I felt about my best friend. She thought it was cheesy as hell. People say you can’t find yourself in other people, but others can unlock pieces of who you are without even knowing they do it.
My best friend Krysten did that for me beginning in the year 2001 when we became friends in Coach Broussard’s geography class.
I had an array of friends with varying degrees of trouble making streaks because the pot heads were too high to judge me, and the trouble makers wanted to use the disabled girl as some kind of weird scape goat.
Soon, everyone fell to the wayside including my best friend from junior high.
I was perfectly fine to be friends with in school but otherwise I was just too much work for sixteen year old kids.
And my parents weren’t impressed with them anyway.
So, needless to say, I was really damn lonely.
Then, I had a conversation with my Aunt that changed my life. I was lying in my bed feeling defeated as undoubtedly someone had ditched out on me, she came in and laid beside me and very gently told me I needed better friends.
Which was true, I told her she didn’t understand, the popular kids didn’t want to be my friend and my camp friends were too far away at least the stoners didn’t care either way.
She said something like one good friend is better than ten half ass ones.
I told her I didn’t know how to find new friends. She held my hand and prayed with me about it. That’s one of three of the single most earnest prayers I have ever said.
Then she told me to do what she did when she met her best friend Ashley. “Go up to someone who looks nice and just say Hi!”
That is exactly what I did, and that’s how God sent me my best friend.
My Aunt doesn’t even remember that conversation and it is forever burned into my mind.
I tell you all this because it wasn’t the last friendship that I’ve found that felt preordained by something higher than me and my own understanding of the vast complexities of life.
Krysten wasn’t lighting in a bottle because she could never be contained, she defied limitations, expectations, and societal norms.
She was living sunshine and rain clouds all at once, she was bipolar. You’d think that would scare some people off, because when the highs are high its mountain tops, and fast talking, and repainting bed rooms, and the lows were tears for no reason and sudden anger and frustration.
Those pieces of me I mentioned earlier that she unlocked, I was her touchstone, I could pull her down off the ceiling in mania, just by sitting with her til it ran out or reminding her to sleep, I could redirect her without her feeling as though she was being handled. Her lows were usually fixed with long talks or midnight car rides.
I had found a friendship where I had value, and equality and I wasn’t too much because, I was her person her, her family, her Meeeeeeeeeeeghan because that just annoyed me and she loved it.
And in return, Krysten gave me freedom, and normalcy. Knowing what it is to be truly seen another human being.
She loved me just because. That’s really powerful when you have been told you’re too much, and it’s not said through words but by actions.
The true definition of friendship, is someone who can wipe your ass or take care of you when you’re sick and not see it as a burden.
Friendship is toilet papering a house while carrying your TP-ing partner in crime because they can’t run away. Getting drunk and going to Walmart at 3 am then running into the displays with the scooter thingy. (We had a DD)
The most valuable thing Krysten ever gave me was trusting me to take care of her kids when she needed to go for a quick errand, or sleep some after working nights as a guard at the closest prison. It wasn’t that Krysten didn’t understand the challenges I faced watching them. It’s that she knew her children respected my authority and I very rarely had to wake the sleeping dragon to call in back up.
True friendship is keeping your best friend afloat when her little brother suddenly and tragically dies.
It’s knowing there’s nothing to be said and hugging someone tight when they feel they’re flying completely apart.
Our friendship, provided each of us with the balance we needed to function.
Two years after my brother passed, Krysten became deathly ill due to a virus that attacked her liver that put her into liver failure within days. She was also, unbeknownst to her, pregnant which further complicated an untenable situation as it was.
As her system tanked they took the baby via Caesarean section in an attempt to save her life, but her system remained in a downward spiral. “Sneakers” as he was dubbed for being a surprise. He died five days later of the same virus.
Krysten was put on the UNOS list and was given a liver within five days.
Though irreparable damage had already been done to her brain because of the toxins in her system causing her brain to swell, it caused countless seizures and enduring epilepsy. Later she had strokes that took her even further down the rabbit hole of brain damage.
My best friend was and continued to live my worst nightmare, she was locked into her body with no way out and her brain was locked on to constant aggravation. She was no longer verbal, and could no longer walk. I wasn’t even sure she knew who I was as her disabilities progressed.
If being disabled has taught me anything? When things get hard weak people leave. If they don’t have the emotional tool set to deal, they bail.
This is what happened to Krysten. I’m not shaming anyone, but it’s what happened.
Every shitty, one sided, half-assed friendship I had ever had prepared me for this moment. The tides turned, the tables flipped and I was the more able one. I was strong enough not to bail. Because I knew what it was to be left behind. I was made to be her friend good, bad, or otherwise.
Once a month I would make the trip to her house with it’s now long ramp. I’d emotionally steel myself and roll into her room with the biggest smile and happiest tone I could muster and say “Hey Kryssy!” Not to be fake, but because I’d seen a TED Talk by Jill Bolte Taylor who’d had a massive stroke and said she remembered nothing except that she could feel the energy in the room. She didn’t know who or what a Gigi was but man her positive energy made her happy. Gigi, she later remembered, was her mother.
Krysten may not have known who was at the end? But I believe, on a soul-deep level, she knew I was someone who loved her.
I would talk to her and fill her in on my life and then I’d talk to her mom too. Who I became friends with through it all. I was already family, but now she’s my friend too.
After a visit I would leave feeling a little drained. She was my person though, so you show up for your person. Sometimes, I’d call my sister crying because I missed my old friend, and finding ways to love the new one wasn’t hard but could be painful. Katie would always talk me down, reminding me I wasn’t alone and my mother would remind me that without the pain, the joy and happiness means less.
And I wouldn’t trade a second. Not even the hard stuff.
May 23, 2015 Krysten died.
I was both broken and glad her soul had found peace simultaneously. There aren’t enough words in the English language to describe what she and our friendship meant to me. I honestly never thought I’d find a true friend again, aside from my online best friend Jodi and my sister Katie.
God proved me thunderously wrong.
When Krysten’s mom Denise talked me into going to a grief class in a local church. And along came Aubri.
Aubri is the complete opposite of Krysten and I thank God for it. Because she’s stable, there’s no pulling her down off ceilings or heading off melt downs.
Because they’re so different I don’t feel I’m betraying the thing I had with Krysten.
Aubri was initially there for pregnancy loss and she revealed she had lost her best friend Krista years before. I automatically felt connected to this pretty girl who seemed to have all together. She had been my shoes. She had lost her best friend too. And though I hadn’t lost a baby, I had dealt with the reality I’ll never have one. The pain undoubtedly is different but pain is pain and I think, our conversations surrounding the topic helped Aubri to feel less alone.
Aubri jumped right into our friendship with no net the same as Krysten and I felt my heart rise with hope.
I knew without a doubt we’d be friends when we drove together to the next grief class eating fries and talking shit.
I looked at her and said. “I think we may go to hell.”
She shrugged “We’ll be there together.”
We have a shared obsession of various TV shows and food is always part of our bonding moments.
We’re a lot alike, Aubri is honest, even keeled, hilarious, and protective. She’s brave and strong and willing to follow her man anywhere.
Our friendship didn’t grow from childhood but from common ground and maturity and it provides us both with the equilibrium we need and can’t find anywhere else.
She’s a coach’s wife living that Tami Taylor life and has moved to Kentucky so our friendship has changed in distance but not in bonds.
Both of my best friends have made my life infinitely better by being in it.
I started this as a way to show how disabled and abled bodied friendships are important but really it shows if all friendships hold value if you’re conscious of their importantance.
I think Aubri I both feel a bit like we were preordained to be friends or that our best friends moved us together like chess pieces on the earthly board.
My definition of friendship is no longer two souls one body it’s deeper than that.
It’s truly indefinable.
So to Krysten…I miss you. I love you. I always will. Thank you for being unapologetically you.
Aubri, girl, we ain’t done yet. Can’t wait to see what life holds for us. I am beyond ready to hold your rainbow baby in whatever way God gives them to you. I love you. Thank you for always proving to me the world isn’t as shallow as I’m prone to believe it is.