This essay on love, friendship, and the beautiful feminine energy is dedicated to Jamie Coronado. Jamie and I went to high school together. Last week, she was killed in a car accident. She was driving her daughter to a sports event. Jamie read and shared every one of my blog posts, asking her friends and family to pray for me. Please join me in praying for this beautiful mother of three and her family. She will be greatly missed.
It was a long day. One of those days that couldn’t end fast enough. W and I had returned home from MD Anderson the night before. We were still tired from the travel and doctor appointments. We had received a call from my oncologist that evening. His voice, which is usually steady and free of inflection, was tired and troubled. He explained that my scans showed that the cancer was “much worse” than expected. The scary phone calls continued until 8:30 that evening as we desperately tried to make a game plan to start chemotherapy and radiation right away.
Meanwhile, a beautiful brunette sat in a Delta 737, stuck on the Atlanta airport runway, waiting for the weather to comply with her travel plans. Just like me, this woman was 38 years old. She also had two children. She had also battled cancer after having her second baby.
She stared out the window of the airplane trying not to bite her fingernails—a habit she had fought since childhood. She was tired and worried. She was anxious to get to Zachary, Louisiana as fast as she could.
The last time I saw Kari was in 2011. We sat in a booth at Polvo’s in Austin, Texas eating carne guisada and drinking glass-bottled Mexican Cokes. It was a beautiful reunion with my oldest childhood friend. We laughed and hugged and promised to visit each other more often.
The years following that lunch date were busy. Three babies. Three moves. Three cancer diagnoses.
Our relationship had evolved over the years. From passing notes in middle school to college road trips to occasional grown-up phone calls and texts.
Kari and I met in preschool. We had our seasons throughout our youth. Then, we grew up and created lives on opposite sides of the country. Life got busy and we did the best we could to stay caught up, often relying on Facebook for pictures and updates.
As I received and processed the information from my oncologist, I anxiously checked my phone for flight updates. Though I hadn’t seen Kari in more than five years, I couldn’t wait to fall into her arms, like I had so many times before. I felt alone and terrified. I needed my friend more than ever.
I tried to stay up, but I had been crying and was fatigued. I went to bed knowing that in the morning, my best childhood friend and I would have coffee in my kitchen. It felt like Christmas Eve.
Just as planned, Kari and I spent the next two mornings sitting in the kitchen, drinking coffee, laughing those good-for-the-soul, deep belly laughs. We reminisced and daydreamed and attempted to scratch the surface of thirty-four years of memories.
“Veronica. Do you remember in the fifth grade, when Craig…
I completed her sentence. I knew exactly what she was going to say. “When Craig Stanson made fun of you for being Catholic?”
Within seconds, I was transported to my West Texas elementary school. The scent of cafeteria dinner rolls and crayons filled the beige and yellow hallways.
I saw Kari sitting on the playground bench. Her shoulders slumped over, knobby knees touching, her hands buried in her face. One of our classmates was bullying her because she was Catholic. He had accused her family of horrific actions. We were only nine years old.
I hugged her tightly that day. I have always been non-confrontational. But that day on the playground, more than anything, I wanted to tackle that Craig kid. I never wanted to see my best friend cry–especially for some bullying bull$hit based on her faith. (*I’ve changed the boy’s name for this essay. Hopefully, he has grown up and is teaching his children respect and compassion.)
Memories like these…some fun, some hilarious, some tragic…flowed out of us all weekend.
I remember the time she took me to her favorite grocery store in Austin. It was hippy-dippy and unlike than anything I had ever seen. The aisles were filled with uber-expensive “natural” products and all of the food was for special diets and looked very unappealing. Tofu-turkey. Wheat-free-cereal. Cardboard crackers…Keep in mind, this was 1997. At this point in my life, I was listening to Ashanti, wearing a Kangol hat on the daily, and eating fried burritos.
“Kari, what the hell is Tom’s toothpaste? And, why would anyone pay $5.00 for it? And, I can’t believe there is an entire store for vegan, tofutarian, vega-pesca-weirdos! This store is ridiculous. It’s a racket! It would NEVER make it outside of Austin!”
That store was the original Whole Foods. Yup–like the Whole Foods that was acquired by Amazon for $13.7 billion earlier this year. Like the store where I buy most of my groceries to fit my organic, gluten-free, peacatarian nutrition plan. Moral of the story: I’m a much better friend than financial advisor!
For forty-eight hours, Kari and I laughed and cried and reminisced. Remember your kindergarten birthday party… that time when we started middle school and I didn’t eat for a week… that time when we were listening to the radio and heard that Selena died… when we rode our bikes for miles to buy the Rolling Stone magazine with the (naked) Red Hot Chili Peppers on the cover…when that dumb boy broke your heart… when that dumb boy broke my heart… when you moved to Italy…when I moved to Spain… our weddings…our babies…your cancer…my cancer…my cancer again…
We talked about the day her father died—how chemotherapy was so hard on his body. She told me about how he made the difficult decision to stop treatment. Then, she cried and hugged me and thanked me, on behalf of my tiny daughters, for doing anything and everything (especially chemo) in order to survive.
Seeing Kari was like eating mama’s homemade cooking. Hugging her felt like home. Our friendship is one of those epic tales, a love story of two little girls trying to find their identities in a small West Texas oil town. When she moved away in the tenth grade, I felt abandoned and excited at the same time. Her family moved to a Texas beach town. She started going to a big new high school and made cool new friends. And, when she went to college at the University of Texas, I would hang on her every word. And, now she is in Ohio and I wish we lived closer.
Everyone should have a Kari. Everyone should have a friend that feels like family. A friend that will fly across the country to hug you and tell you that she loves you. She’s fiercely loyal. She’s a damn good mom. And, I am honored that she is mine.
Much of our formative years were spent together. And, when I recall my sometimes well-spent (oftentimes misspent) youth, Kari is in so many memories.
Here’s to those young and foolish and beautiful friendships. The ones that span across decades. Bad fashion decisions. Bad dating decisions. Revolutions and evolutions. Births and deaths. And, redemption. And, SO. MUCH. LOVE. So much love.
I’m not just fighting for them, Kari. I’m fighting for you too.