As we draw closer to the joy of Christmas, today has actually proved to be bittersweet for me. Yesterday marked the two year anniversary of my best friend Rebekah’s near-death and the start of her continued convalescence. Even though she collapsed and was rushed to the hospital on December 16th, I didn’t find out about her brain aneurysm until the 17th. That phone call changed my life in a way that not even the deaths of my grandparents could.
I’ve known Bekah since we were eight-years-old. She has been my best friend from the Second Grade and beyond. There are photos of us in my family albums holding hands as we skate around the roller rink with bows in our hair. In every one of my birthday photos, Bekah is there—always smiling at the camera in between bites of cake and ice cream or laughing at my strange jokes.
As we grew past the hair bows and into teenage troubles, Bekah and I cried on each other’s shoulders many times. She was the first person to whom I would tell my secrets and from whom I would ask advice. Bekah never would believe it, but she was one of the smartest people I knew. She always envied me because I was so academically savvy, but I always envied her because she had so much common sense. Her straightforward logic trumped my problems every time.
Bekah understood me and I understood her in a way that few other people ever have. We were both dyslexic and school was a shared nightmare for us. I handled the pain of reading, writing, and mathematics by burying myself in my studies of the arts and sciences, hoping to get enough good grades to go to a top-ranked university one day. Bekah buried herself in her horse, teaching herself to ride as well as some of the best equestrians in the business. When Bekah was on the back of a horse, she felt free. I, meanwhile, just felt saddle-sore.
As much as Bekah loved children and horses, I suppose it was inevitable that she would end up volunteering to do Turf Therapy during high school. She loved teaching mentally and physically handicapped kids how to ride a horse. She loved watching their confidence in themselves grow as they mastered the art of directing these 1000-pound steeds.
We graduated from high school and continued on with our lives: me to Texas A&M University and her to South Plains College. By freshman year’s end, I had come close to suffering a nervous breakdown thanks to dreaded Chemistry and being 400 miles away from my family and friends while Bekah had met the love of her life. By the end my sophomore year, I had switched majors and Bekah had dropped out of school to get married. As she and her husband Cody danced the night away, I had to flick a few tears from my eyes. I had never seen her so happy.
While I continued to work toward my bachelor’s degree, Bekah and Cody made a life with each other. It was difficult at times, but they always came out on top together. Bekah worked hard to help put Cody through college and then he did the same for her. It had taken Bekah a few years to figure out what she truly wanted to do for her life’s work. She knew she wanted to help kids, but she wasn’t sure in what capacity. After a stint working as a special education teacher’s aide, she had firmly ruled out being a teacher.
Although she liked the academic setting even less than I did, she was deeply intuitive about children’s needs and extremely passionate about teaching them to succeed. Bekah finally decided to pursue being a Children’s Occupational Therapy Assistant, so that she could continue to help kids in her own way. Her COTA course load made my head spin. Bekah fought through and eventually aced every single course she was thrown from basic biology to anatomy and physiology. School had finally proved a triumph for her.
By this point in our lives, Bekah and I barely saw each other three or four times a year owing to the fact that we lived across Texas from each other. When we were together; however, our time spent apart suddenly didn’t seem to matter. We had become more than friends; we had become sisters to each other—enjoying our similarities and differences with equal enthusiasm. We laughed and cried together about everything: from the sweetness of our husbands to how frustrating our respective families and friends could sometimes be.
A few weeks after she’d taken on her first full-time job as a COTA, Bekah and I met for lunch. It was to be our last normal meal together. My 29th birthday and her 30th birthday were fast approaching so we treated each other to a Mediterranean style lunch complete with dolmas, hummus, pita bread, and chicken shawarma gyros. Bekah has always had an adventurous palate, but she had yet to try any of these dishes. We had a wonderful time talking and eating. I think I had definitely convinced her to try more of the gyro sandwiches.
It would be at another lunch a month and a half later that my world would collapse. My husband and I were just finishing our seafood meal when my mother called. I picked up the phone expecting to hear news about my ailing grandfather and instead almost dropped it when Mom uttered “Bekah” and “aneurysm” in same sentence.
Matt and I drove over seven hours that night to find Bekah lying in a darkened ICU room with her head bandaged and her face swollen past identifiability. I thought—all of her loved ones thought—that we would bury Bekah within the week, but that was not to be. Bekah is a fighter even when she shouldn’t be. She fought to live; she fought hard and she won—sort of. Within days of her sudden, inexplicable brain trauma, Bekah’s mind showed more electrical and blood flow activity than the doctors thought possible. Within weeks she was breathing on her own. Within months she could move her head and the tips of her fingers.
As the months went by, though, her improvements slowed. Now she stares and smiles silently at me in between bouts of sudden sleep. When we were younger, I was sometimes frustrated by her tendency to be a motor mouth when excited. Now I can’t stand her silence.
This morning I dreamed about her. We were sitting in her room at the special care facility where she now lives and Bekah’s roommate was griping at the two of us because we were being so loud with our talking and laughing together. Time had once again stood still to listen to the sounds of our mutual joy. As I awoke, the echoes of the dream faded and I realized once again that our time with each other had been cut too short.
The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the desk of Alycia C. Cooke and/or Alycia Christine Sears with love, fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!