“The Last Best Friend,” Creative Nonfiction, in Five on the Fifth

When I lost my best friend to pancreatic cancer, the news came like a sucker punch—but it shouldn’t have. The signs had been unmistakable for many months. They eluded me because I didn’t want to see them. I wanted her to continue in the role she’d played in my life for so long, the person who was calm when I was frantic, who modeled patience when I was impulsive, who told me the truth when I was lying to myself. I could trust her. In childhoods like mine—marked by poverty, alcoholism, and domestic violence—trust has a hard time taking root, no matter how well-meaning the grownups are. For me, trust was an acquired taste. I’d learned to resist it. But from the start of this bond, which continued more than thirty years, I knew something was different. And I was right. Ours was a connection that withstood time and distance and all the inevitable misunderstandings that can undermine a friendship. It was a vehicle for celebrating our gifts and our good luck. She passed away on my son’s birthday, in May 2001, before the towers fell, before I could brace myself for how callous life can be. But the years passed and a freedom tower finally rose from the sadness, shining in the sun, and grief comes now in fits and starts, rarely strong enough to spoil a memory, never mean enough to make me lose my trust. https://www.fiveonthefifth.com/vol-9-issue-2-story-1