Emotional numbness is draining. I’ve spent two days in thought. Now I want to write. I want to be witty and charming, tell stories that leave you breathless from laughter, but I’m struggling to find the words. I wish I could turn back the clock and make more visits to San Antonio, return one more long-distance call or send another email. I want to memorize every curve of her face sitting across from me in the late afternoon sun, sipping freshly squeezed margaritas while we eat her favorite pork tacos on the patio of Soluna.
My friend Roxanne died on Sunday.
I had no idea that the last time I would feel the warmth of her smile or the comfort of her embrace would be in October of 2011, my 20th high school reunion weekend.
More than fifteen years ago our paths crossed at a Mary Kay meeting. Roxanne was a director. I was a new consultant. Although she wasn’t my director, our groups met in the same building each week. It was a beautiful building in a small high rent shopping center. We called it our Mary Kay Training Center. There were several directors sharing the space, leading leadership meetings, as well as cross-training and teaching for one another. Roxanne’s joy and energy were infectious. She could lift your spirits, soothe your fears and breathe optimism into your soul with one smile. And when she wrapped her arms around you, she embraced all of you with genuine compassion and acceptance, blocking out all of the negative energy you might have been hanging on to that day.
As I moved up the Mary Kay ladder, earning my car and becoming a Fabulous Fifties Sales Director, I became part of the leadership team at the training center. This meant I spent more and more time with Roxanne. Over the four years we worked together, I made many changes in my life, reevaluated priorities and goals. While at times, it would have been easy to wallow in doubt and self-pity, Roxanne kept me accountable. She never allowed me to whine or complain. In fact, she reminded me that although we can’t control other people’s actions or many of life’s situations, we can control how we respond to them. We can control who we want to be and where we want to go. My circle of friends dwindled during that season; only a true few remained. And of course, many had varying opinions of how to “fix” life’s disappointments.
However, some of the best advice I received came from Roxanne.
She said, “You can either be the victim of your life, or the victor. You decide.”
When it was time to re-qualify for my Mary Kay car, I decided to go back to college full-time. I found myself a single mom and unsure of my future plans. And although Roxanne was an unexpected gem, and a picture of success of sustaining a full life in direct sales, I was not mentally prepared to take that leap of faith.
Sometimes circumstances and situations are what bind us together, but sometimes it is purely the heart connection we have with one another. When I was no longer in Mary Kay, many of the women I had previously spent time with moved on. We each went our separate ways, focusing on the road we had to travel. Thankfully, I discovered that my relationship with Roxanne was not bound by Mary Kay, but by the friendship we had built. Moving to Michigan twelve years ago made it harder to stay in touch, but the phones calls, emails and occasional visits when I came to San Antonio were enough to sustain us. And each time we talked, it was as if no time had passed.
When I found out she had died, I felt numb. I knew it was coming. Rationally I knew she was no longer in pain and her family and close friends could begin to grieve the loss of such an amazing woman. Desperately I dug through boxes of memorabilia looking for even one picture of us together, but I came up empty-handed. More than fifteen years of our lives had over-lapped, and yet I could find nothing tangible linking us together.
That made me angry.
I was angry she was gone. Angry I hadn’t kept in better contact and angry I didn’t make sure I saw her last Christmas when I was there for the holidays. Most of all, I was angry I live too far away to go to her memorial service. I spent Sunday and yesterday reading all of the thoughtful posts friends and family had written on her Facebook page.
Then I watched a You Tube video of Cups by Kurt Hugo Schneider and the anger and numbness turned to tears. My heart finally broke down and crumbled in the memory of my sweet friend, and as I listened to this song, I remembered all the weekly late night dinners we had shared, afternoon cocktails, and fitness advice. I remembered learning by Roxanne’s example how to balance faith, family, friends and work. I pictured us laughing until we cried, comparing hair colors and fashion trends. I remembered her incredible sense of humor. I remembered how she would never get caught up in gossip or pettiness but always found something good to say about people. I remembered that I could always trust her and I could always count on her to be honest. But most of all, I remembered how much you couldn’t help but love the world a little more, have just a little more faith in people, and see more joy in everyday moments when you were around Roxanne.
I’ve written over 1000 words here, and yet I feel like I have said nothing. I realize now there could never be a picture to capture the years of feelings surrounding Roxanne’s friendship. I guess the only impression that really matters is the one she left on my heart.
I will miss you, Roxanne.
“When I’m gone
When I’m gone
You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone
You’re gonna miss me by my walk
You’re gonna miss me by my talk, oh
You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone”