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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The ties that bind.

I have not always been a good friend. In fact, I would say that I have been fairly selfish at points in my life and unable to relate to grave situations that my friends were in. I would stick it out until my emotions went past a comfort level I deemed acceptable before I responded in the only way I knew how.

retreat.

My close friend in college, Lauren, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer as we were moving into our Senior Year apartment together. She had to move back home while the other three roommates got used to the fact that one of our party was missing, for all the wrong reasons, as she battled aggressive, progressive and every possible form of treatment back home in Boston.

Times like these can bring out the best in people... or they can bring out the worst. In our situation, while the three remaining roommates were all good solid people in our own right, the weight of the situation coupled with other key transition points in our own lives created a really shitty and unsupportive environment as we all struggled to make sense out of what was happening.

We found ourselves arguing about inane things. We would gossip when there was no place for gossip and create alliances (easy to do when there is an odd dynamic of women), leaving the third one out. It was so "Survivor-esque before any such show existed, and while we may have been battling the gentrified battles of UVA, knowing one of our own was battling an obstacle with odds of survival so low, we should have been above that. This news we received the day before we went down to school hit us like a ton of bricks that none of us expected our 4th year of school.

I can't say that it didn't make sense that I ended up being the odd man out that first semester - I was going through a myriad of my own issues and was very self-absorbed. I will admit that, though I can't say that I was the cause of all of it. However, there came a point where a series of misunderstandings lead to this imbalance in the house and I just felt better off alone. So a cycle was created and communication reached new lows for all of us.

When Lauren returned second semester, dedicated to beat her prognosis and battle her cancer so she could graduate - a weight was lifted in our apartment, but not for long. Things continued to bubble beneath the surface and while we tried to shield Lauren from the tensions that had been growing in her absence, we did a shitty job of hiding it and she was more than aware.

When school ended that year, I could not run fast away from the University that I had adored from afar and that I had embraced with so much might when I entered its grounds 4 years earlier. Me, a little Indian girl from NJ who made it to Thomas Jefferson's center of excellence had kicked some ass for sure. I should have been proud. Instead, there was a stain on my soul and the experience I just couldn't wash clean - I needed to leave.

After graduation, we moved up to Arlington, VA. Lauren moved back home with her family in Boston. My ex-roommates (continued to live together still) remained friends and settled a few miles from me in Arlington, but our relationship had become so strained and I was neither mature enough or strong enough at the time to address it.

So I did neither.

At a time where I should have said, "Screw it. Let it go," I instead was proudly holding on to my place as a victim, in a situation where there was no place for a victim.

Because really, the only victim was Lauren and she never, ever acted like one. Not once.

And I started to avoid Lauren because of her ties with my ex-friends, pretending it was for selfless reasons. When she came to visit - I excused myself, saying I didn't want her to be caught up in our drama. It was best if I just disappeared and allowed her to seek comfort with them.

I ignored the other two if I saw them downtown. I would pretend I didn't see them as our hands accidentally brushed over the same sweater in Banana Republic. They did the same, but it didn't make me happy and it wasn't something I was proud of.

In 1999, I was told by a friend that Lauren had passed away and had succumbed to cancer. I was told that one of my ex-roommates wanted to get in touch with me but didn't know if I wanted to be reached.

I called her that same day. She picked up her end of the line.

"Rachel? It's me. Kiran." The phone was quiet and I was certain she was ready to hang up ...

"Hi. I am so glad you called me."

"What happened? How was she in the end? Was she in pain? What was...?" The tears started rolling down my face and Rachel answered all my questions as best as she could.

My questions were endless.

Rachel could have used this time to tell me what a coward I was. Instead she told me everything about Lauren's last few months and her ultimate rejection of later treatment so that she could live her last few days without needles and any more pain than her little body could bear.

While Rachel and I had lost touch on so many levels, one of the kindest things that she ever did to me was say that Lauren had picked pictures of her friends and family that she wanted to be buried with.

"Kiran, you were in two of her pictures. She did not have many. She always knew you loved her. She understood."

I don't know if that was the biggest load of crock from my former friend, semi-former frenemy and now borderline savior, but I took it that day.

We can't change the past. We CAN change our future. I feel that I failed Lauren at a time when she just needed constant love and support should have said, "grow a pair" to my own discomfort at the situation.

I will tell you this. There are days, where I think I am a pretty crappy friend to the Carmicals. I don't always know what to say or how to comfort them and I feel like maybe I am not the best to give advice, especially when I was tested before and failed, failed failed so freaking miserably.

But I try - and sometimes that just means accepting quiet silences, drinking a glass of wine and enjoying the sunset together or watching our children run us ragged while still keeping each other laughing.

I think of Lauren's smile and I believe she knew what was in my heart though I feel I failed her. And for the angel she was, I have to bless her heart and take that as my own inspiration.

I will NEVER retreat again. Journey4acure.org is my journey now. It is not just for Declan or the other children I mention every day. It is for my beautiful friend who still haunts my dreams every so often with her long flowing brown hair and gorgeous grey eyes and all the serenity in the world.

She was a child when she developed cancer, at the point they detected it, she had been living with colon cancer since she was 14 or 15 given the rate of metastasis. She used to joke with the 1 in a million odds she had to get this, why hadn't she tried a tad bit harder to have tried to play the lottery, with potentially better odds. After all - couldn't it work both ways?

Lauren is one of the lost children and she is part of my journey.

Lauren if you can hear me in any way, I love you old friend, and can never forget your smile. I still think of you often. Please comfort Declan if you see him and all the others who are gone too young. Tell them that they are still so very loved.

As are you.

Love,
Kiran

8 comments:

Heather M said...

I am voting every day!! I'm doing this for Declan, but also my friend, Brian. Brian also fought and lost his battle with cancer too young. He was just shy of his 18th birthday. Thank you for doing this, Kiran. Your posts and reminders keep this at the top of mind, which is so important.

400 Wakeups said...

Some days, what keeps me sane...keeps me from shutting the blinds and just lying on the bathroom floor with a bottle of bourbon in one hand and a baby blanket in the other, is knowing that Shepherd and Declan are up there together. And when Chad was killed in Afghanistan last year, I have to think that the boys are up there...doing what boys do. Looking down on us and knowing that one day we will be OK.

Maybe you were a crappy friend to Lauren. I can say that I was a crappy friend to many people in college and they weren't even dying. But we can either grow from that or stay the same. You've grown more through it all and that is something to be proud of.

I still vote everyday for Journey 4 A Cure. And I put it on FB so friends can see what I support. And how lucky you are to have each other because I can't imagine the Carmichals would recognize Lauren's "friend" as you.

Ruth J said...

kiran: i'm glad you are back to writing your blog. you write so honestly and beautifully.

i'm sure lauren understood. you have learned from your mistakes and that is a good thing.

Anna See said...

oh kiran, your blog posts are so wrenching and beautiful that they hurt. thank you for sharing your journey with us.

Masala Chica said...

Heather - thank you so much for your voting - I am sorry for your loss with Brian - I hope that we kick this thing in our lifetime.

Allyson, I believe that Shepherd and Declan are, in fact, in a better place. I know you have been supporting the cause - I have seen your posts - thank you so much for your friendship and support!

Ruth and Anna - thank you for your always supportive words. I feel more humbled than beautiful, more ashamed than proud of any of the words in this post - but I guess that appreciating that I am far from perfect and that no matter what, we do have second chances in life and ways we can correct our previous wrongs.

Thanks again.

Lemon Gloria said...

Kiran, you just made me cry - for you, for those you've lost, for those I've lost...

You're a beautiful person, very kind and loving.

Moomser said...

Hi, just found you through Lemon Gloria's post on Journey 4 a Cure. My husband's fighting leukemia so I'm an emotional wreck, pediatric cancer is something I strongly try to avoid thinking about, but I voted and will continue to do so. And then I wrote a post about it, because it's just one of those things that when brought to your attention you just can't ignore. So just wanted to let you know... spreading the word...

http://moomser.blogspot.com/2011/07/things-wed-rather-not-think-about.html

Islam said...

Thank your for sharing
Allah
Islam
Muslim
civilization
Dajjal
Sura
Qur’an
Tawheed
Hadith
Messenger
Messenger of Allah

 

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