Warts and All

img_0644Yesterday, after balking on a night out the day before due to tireless grief, I spent the day with my bestie and her family.  Beth is my sister by choice. We became close when my son and her middle child attended preschool together twenty years ago. We stayed close when we realized our similarities, our differences, our humor, our priorities of family and embraced them all. We remain close today, even after she moved away to Michigan because our friendship never budged.

A few years back, maybe about ten, in a phone conversation, I thanked Beth for her unconditional love for me. It came after a pretty rough time during which a few people very close to me turned on me.  She thanked me for some support I was giving her during a difficult time. I ended the conversation with “love you, warts and all”.  And that has been our friendship’s tagline – warts and all.

Beth is one of the friends who dropped everything for me when Peter died. She cut short her trip with her daughter on the east coast and caught a red-eye to Chicago to spend five days with me and my kids. She helped me move those first few days, and more importantly, became a rock for my children as I had already crumbled.  She was also the one to organize everything from meal deliveries, to visits, to setting up at the memorial. And although she tells me “there was no choice” every time I thank you – see why she is my bestie? – I will never forget her sacrifice, her strength, and her kindness.  Ever.

Beth came into Chicago on Peter and my wedding anniversary canceling any and all plans to be with me on this hurtful milestone. Again, there was no question for her in this selfless act. She drove in at one o’clock in the morning, on the heels of a concert already booked months ago just so I wasn’t alone too long. It was not a comfortable weekend. I had some huge breakdown moments. Yet, she allowed me to feel my feels and then helped me moved with her.

She knows me all so well and she calls me when I am having horrible moments or texts me with “are you doing okay?” often.  She is there for me and I am constantly reminded of that from the statue Beth gave me a few weeks after Peter died. The statue, pictured here, is of two women holding hands, a representation of us, Beth said when I opened it. I have it displayed at Discovery, on an end table next to the place on the couch I always sit. If I ever doubt I have no one, I see the statue and realize, I have everyone.

This past Saturday night, she and her two daughters came over to see my apartment. Beth invited me to go to a party for her nephew a few weeks back. A few weeks back, that seemed like a great idea. Saturday night though, after being whipped around Grief’s unstable ship, I couldn’t. My belly had heaved with despair, my bones ached from sadness, and my exhausted body could not hold up from the exertion of pushing through the week before. I cried when I hugged her, telling her I felt so bad bailing on her,  and she held me telling me “it was alright”, she understood.

Yesterday, however, was a different story. Having sat with Grief for a night, I was ready. I met Beth, her husband, her brother, sister-in-law, nieces, and nephews, for lunch. Beth’s family, like her, are warm, welcoming and kind. It was an easy meal. I continued the day with Beth, her immediate and extended family, feeling almost good, pleasant perhaps. We talked a lot, laughed, gossiped and walked probably the entire downtown area. I did cry. I do that often, out of nowhere, or because of a certain direction a conversation takes. And Beth was unfazed by my display of tears, giving me comfort every time they sprung free. Her husband told me my tears only showed my deep love for Peter. (Yeah, she’s got a great husband too.) At the end of the day, with a belly full of wine, pizza, iced tea, and ice cream, I came back to Discovery, bone-tired weary….and relaxed.

Yesterday, during an introduction from Beth’s daughter -the daughter who is the cause of our friendship – I was called an “almost Aunt”. It warmed me because I’ve always thought of Beth as my sister, almost or otherwise. My own children look to Beth as their “almost Aunt” as well. They have a deeper connection, appreciation for her since Peter died. She has been there for them, more than some of those considered “family”. They value her and her support of me, of them. When Peter died, she came running, not only for me but for them too.

Beth is one of those people who is a rare gem in a pile of cubic zirconias. She is precious, authentic, kind, giving and selfless. There is nothing to dislike about her and, honestly, I don’t know too many people who are not drawn in by her tenderness. She is accepting and has showed me, taught me, so much.

For over twenty years, Beth has been my steadfast, my understanding, my unconditional and my accepting friend and soul-sister. Since Peter died, she has stepped up, held me up, and kept me going…warts and all.