The goodbyes that hurt most, are the ones we never got to say. Those linger, dying on trembling lips, over and over again. 

It’s been six years to the day, but it still feels like yesterday…

She was 17, I was 19 when we began writing our story. We worked together. For the first time. In a clothing store. In the mall. We shared a love of books and fashion over an Orange Julius, or two. Went to aerobics. Had big hair. It was the eighties and we were young.

She was 23, I was 25 when we picked up where we’d left off. She was newly married. I was a mom. She was my supervisor. I was her intern. It was the second time, we worked together. At FSU. I was finally finishing my degree. We introduced our husbands. My daughter called her aunt. It was as if no time had passed. We simply fell back into our easy rhythm. Our stories intertwining for good.

She was 27, I was 29 when she became a mom too. He was the most beautiful little boy. She’d decorated the nursery in sailboats. I babysat. We went to movies, still. It was our thing. She’d bring the baby. He’d sleep the entire time. We shared popcorn. She still hogged the Butterfinger. The number of pages in our story kept growing.

She was 31, I was 33 the third time we worked together. She was the Director of Campus Communications at FSU. She recruited me. I left teaching. We started our graduate degrees together. I had baby number two. Another girl. Emma. She threw me a shower. She had baby number two. A little girl this time. Grace. We studied together, collaborated, volunteered, laughed, merged our families. Her kids called me aunt. I still babysat. 

Our story continued. The pages filling with love. Laughter. Tears. Milestones. 

She went on the trip of a lifetime. To India. Mine was all over Europe. We collected mementos. She loved old door knobs. I loved old books. Gift exchanges were easy. She recruited me again. The fourth time. We traveled together. Collaborated. Shared successes. Went on adventures. Adding to our story. She was there when my daughter was diagnosed with cancer. I was there when her marriage ended. We all remained friends.

She was 47, I was 49 when our story ended. Unexpectedly. Tragically. In the middle of the page. I was not ready. I never would be. The call came. On a Monday night. I’ll never forget the moment. I fell to my knees. I moved through the haze. We celebrated her beautiful life. Her kids spoke at her service. Standing room only. Images of her everywhere. My favorite, her in the blue dress by the fireplace. The one I took. We packed up her house. So much life. Condensed now in boxes. A story cut short. All that remained, blank pages and memories. Her absence. And the goodbye we’d never get to say.

JN Fenwick (© 2017-2023) | mothjournal14 | Image from Shutterstock| Licensed for use | Music: Games of Hunger from The Royalty Free Soundtrack Library, Vol. 3

There’s a fragile finality 

in words that must remain 

forever unspoken,

as the space between one breath 

and the absence of another 

remains forever unfilled. 

It’s those goodbyes, 

the ones unspoken, 

that stay with us,

no matter how much time goes by. 

And the grief rolls over us in waves.

The emptiness and longing,

lost in the unforgiving silence, 

that will always remain.

JN Fenwick (© 2017-2023) | mothjournal14 

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