It’s not a role to be taken lightly.
Wednesday will mark the fourth anniversary of the death of my best friend, Jo. She was my dearest and closest friend for almost 20 years. She died suddenly on Friday, March 13, 2009 at the age of 38. We had not seen each other in seven years. She lived on the other side of the country. And yes, she was my dearest and closet friend.
I had talked to her on Tuesday. We had a nice, long conversation. She was actually in Seattle. Her brother-in-law was dying from kidney failure. Her husband, Allen, had gone to Seattle to be with him. After a few days he called Jo and asked her to come. She hopped on a plane and flew to Seattle. She had just arrived the day before I talked to her. Her brother-in-law was in pretty bad shape. Jo and her husband planned to stay with him in the hospital as long as they needed.
The evening of Friday the 13th I got a call. Not from Jo’s number, but from Allen’s. I quickly answered not sure who I would find on the other end; Jo or Allen. It was Allen. I asked right away how his brother was. He said he had died just a short time earlier. I began to offer my condolences, when Allen cut me off.
“It’s Jo” he said. “She’s gone.”
“What do you mean, she’s gone?”
“Ela, she’s gone.. she died.”
The only thing I remember after that was screaming into the phone… “No.. No.. Allen.. tell me no.. tell me no.. tell me no.”
I kept repeating it over and over and over again. As if I said it enough times it would become the truth.
How could this be?
She flew clear across the country to be at the bedside of her dying brother-in-law, and now you’re calling to tell me SHE IS DEAD? NO!
She was, dead.
Allen found her early that morning, unconscious, on the floor of the bathroom in her brother-in-laws hospital room. The staff at the hospital did what they could, but it was too late. She was gone.
She died from an accidental overdose of pain medication.
While her brother-in-law was fighting HIS battle with kidney failure, Jo was fighting her own battle. She had been fighting it for years. Sphincter of Oddi dysfucntion. Most days she couldn’t even get out of bed. She lived from pain pill to pain pill. There was not a doctor on the planet that was able to help her. This had gone on for years. She was living her own personal hell. And while she was in a living hell, I don’t think she meant to die.
Until Jo, I had never heard of Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction. And believe it or not, I actually have another friend who was recently diagnosed with the disease. I know she is in constant pain. Just like Jo. It makes me angry that with all of the so-called advances we have made in science and medicine, something can’t be done to help these people who are suffering. It’s not rocket science? Is it? Why couldn’t a doctor somewhere help my Jo? If they could’ve, she would still be with us today.
I miss Jo. I think about her every day. Every day! She was my dearest, best, closest friend. She is irreplaceable. She was one-of-a-kind. I miss being able to talk to her at all hours of the day and night. I miss having someone to talk to who I know isn’t going to judge me. I miss her great advice-giving. I miss having someone to share my dreams and my secrets with. I miss having someone to laugh and to cry with.
I miss my friend.
– J. Ela