Why Her, Why Now?

3 min read

A friend of mine passed away last Tuesday. She was only 37.

I’m looking at those words and I still have difficulty absorbing them.

Few thoughts are as unnerving as knowing that someone you care about is no longer on this earth in their physical form. That all that’s left of them is your memories, which fade over time, and photos as digital proof of their once existence.

Her death didn’t come as a complete surprise. A cancer diagnosis six years ago was only the first of three. Three times my poor friend had to endure intensely draining – in all senses of the word – cycles of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. I saw her when she lost her hair and covered her head with baseball caps, generally opting out of wigs. As her hair spikily returned, she joked that she looked like a boy, which didn’t bother her. She dealt with her cancer with her unique, sardonic sense of humor.

We met at work in Los Angeles eight years ago. She was one of three people who interviewed me for the job where I’d spend the next five years. I remember how comfortable I felt with her during the interview. There was an openness and warmth about her even though she presented herself somewhat stoically.

Life is notoriously unfair. Bad things happen to good people while people who cause harm to others remain earthly.  Cancer took another soul way too early.  | Read more from "Why Her, Why Now" on The Girl Next Door is Black

At our company’s holiday party in 2010. (E is on the right)

For three years, we sat just a few feet away from each other, the backs of our chairs facing the other’s desk. Those chairs got a lot of swivel action as we talked to each other frequently. Our roles were somewhat interdependent, so we worked closely together. It was a partnership which I greatly appreciated. She was incredibly intelligent and hardworking. She didn’t like disappointing people so she sometimes took on more work than she should have. We had many conversations where I implored upon her, as did several others, to push back on some of the requests for the sake of her sanity. She’d nod and agree, but soon revert to her old ways, working too many late hours.

Life is so often unfair. Bad things happen to good people while people who cause harm to others remain earthly.  Cancer took another soul way too early.  | Read more from "Why Her, Why Now" on The Girl Next Door is Black

E- usually opted for no makeup, a t-shirt, jeans and sneakers. It was fun seeing her all dolled up for our friend and fellow co-worker’s wedding in 2011. She looked gorgeous. (She’s the one in blue next to the bride.)

Over time, we became friends and shared a mutual love of travel, dislike of people with no common sense, as well as the mundane in life. She was a person you could trust with a secret and one whose loyalty you never needed to question.

After her second battle with cancer, she decided not to return to work. The type of cancer she had has a 5-year survival rate of 30%. She decided to learn to relax and enjoy life: traveling, spending time with concerned and loving relatives in Korea, eating all the foods that were off-limits during her treatments. She’d wax poetic about red meat, sushi and good whiskey.

Life is so often unfair. Bad things happen to good people while people who cause harm to others remain earthly.  Cancer took another soul way too early.  | Read more from "Why Her, Why Now" on The Girl Next Door is Black

I was so happy E (R) made it to my farewell party back when I lived in Los Angeles in 2012. She hadn’t been feeling well and wasn’t sure she’d be up for it.

She came up to San Francisco for a visit earlier this year just before she was set to begin her third round of treatment. After the Bay Area, she planned to head north to visit friends in Oregon. I had the nagging feeling she was saying her goodbyes.

She was never a spiritual or religious person. She was also not a touchy-feely person. But, on this last trip, she seemed different, less cynical and more serene. I wish I’d recorded her speaking so I could replay that conversation and fill in the gaps in my recall. We talked about life matter-of-factly, not in soothing platitudes. She encouraged and greatly supported my efforts to change careers. I was surprised to learn she was a faithful reader of my blog. It really touched me because her opinion mattered to me.

We both agreed life is too short to waste time on things we don’t care about. It didn’t seem like she was afraid of death, she seemed to have come to terms with her potential fate. At the time, I didn’t want to spend too much energy considering her mortality.

Life is strange. It’s so often unfair. I have asked myself the question many before me have: “Why her? Why now?”

I would never truly wish death on someone, but I have to wonder why a cold-blooded, racist, white supremacist 19-year old man, who murdered nine innocent black people IN A CHURCH and who is adding no value to society, gets to stick around, but my friend who had a kind heart and meant a tremendous deal to so many people, has to go. It makes me angry.

A few friends and I are planning to gather for an informal memorial in her honor. Fittingly, it will be in Koreatown in Los Angeles, site of many good times and fond memories in our group. I think, perhaps more than most people, our friend E- would want us to focus on living the hell out of our lives. We never know when we’ll get called out of the game.

I plan to honor her by continuing to strive to lead the best, most truthful and significant life I can. I’m not always sold on the benefits of walking this earth, but I’m here and I gotta keep living.

My friend, I will miss you. I hope you are at peace wherever you are.

Life is notoriously unfair. Bad things happen to good people while people who cause harm to others remain earthly. Cancer took another soul way too early. | Read more from "Why Her, Why Now" on The Girl Next Door is Black

At Korean BBQ in Los Angeles on one of my return visits in 2014. It was St. Patrick’s day, hence all the green. (She’s seated to my right)

26 Comments
  • A.B Mood
    July 21, 2015

    Such a beautiful woman she was :’) I’m so extremely sorry for your loss :'(

  • Savvy
    July 19, 2015

    I don’t get it either. Not at all. So sorry to hear about your loss.

  • Sandra
    July 19, 2015

    It is difficult losing a good friend. I too recently lost a very close friend of mine and am still trying to cope with it. Best wishes to you.

  • kalison0515
    July 14, 2015

    So poignant. I’m sorry you lost your friend. I’m glad she’ll continue to inspire you.

  • Kenya G. Johnson
    July 14, 2015

    Wonderful tribute to E. I am so sorry for your loss. Our lives seem too young to ever face this kind of loss no matter how old/young we are.

  • Linda Manns Linneman
    July 14, 2015

    She sure sounds like a wonderful person. I do not understand why things happen the way they do. I believe God puts us on this earth for a reason. When our job is complete He takes us home. It is for eternity. I am sure if you could talk to her now, she would tell you she is so happy and would not want to come back. I will keep you and her family and friends in my prayers. God Bless you all.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      July 22, 2015

      I am sure if you could talk to her now, she would tell you she is so happy and would not want to come back.

      This is a comforting thought; thank you, Linda.

  • Daydreams
    July 14, 2015

    She had to because some people are just too good for this Earth.

    Your story brought me to tears about halfway, through. Glad I stumbled upon your blog today. Thank you for sharing this.

  • elizainhollywood
    July 14, 2015

    I’m on the verge of tears reading this. I hope E- is at peace.

  • disastersofathirtysomething
    July 14, 2015

    Bless you – what a hard thing to have to deal with. I hope writing about it helped you in some, small way.

  • fromthestickstothebricksandbackagain
    July 13, 2015

    Sorry for your loss, Keisha. It sounds as though you were blessed to enjoy the friendship of E and I enjoyed reading about it. I think it is natural to ask why and why not. I’m sure you will honor E’s life by the way you live yours.

  • Jayne
    July 13, 2015

    When I was in my mid-20s, I had someone I had been very good friends with, who I thought of as my sister, just ghost out of my life when she went to a different church. She wasn’t rude. Or mean. We just went to cordial.

    I was talking about it to another friend…how it hurt because I didn’t know what I’d done.

    My other friend said that sometimes when people move forward in their lives, they don’t “take everyone with them.” Sometimes they don’t take anybody. And it hurt that I didn’t get to move forward with her but it taught me a growing lesson.

    How absolutely blessed you and your friend were that when you moved to something new, you took her with you. And she let you bring her along.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      July 14, 2015

      How absolutely blessed you and your friend were that when you moved to something new, you took her with you. And she let you bring her along.

      I really like this. It’s beautifully stated. Thank you for your kind words, Jayne.

  • Patricia @ Grab a Plate
    July 13, 2015

    What a great post. Sounds like you had a wonderful friendship and learned a lot from each other. I’m sorry for your loss, and love your comment, “I plan to honor her by continuing to strive to lead the best, most truthful and significant life I can.”

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      July 14, 2015

      We did learn a lot from each other. You don’t always think about that way because it happens so organically.

      Thank you for a lovely comment, Patricia.

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