Today is, or would have been, my friend Tsafi's birthday.
After six years, I no longer almost pick up the phone to call her. I don't think anymore, "Oh, I need to tell Tsafi this" before remembering I can't. I don’t cry anymore. But I still miss her. I still want to tell her things, and sometimes I do—talking into an empty room, no one around to hear me ramble, the walls echoing back my words—but not very often anymore.
Sometimes I think about what I want people to remember about me after I am gone, and I think about her, how she left her mark in me and her other good friends and her daughter, forever and for the better.
In honor of her memory, I want to post an excerpt from my memoir of a conversation we had long ago that helped steer the course of my life:
Preston and I ended up together in large part because of Tsafi, who had twelve more years of wisdom than I did. When Preston and I had just started dating, I began anticipating why we would not work. This is what a person does who abhors loss, who is in her late thirties and divorced, who wants to suss out any barbed truth before getting tangled in it.
First, it was that he lived too far—four hours away, in Tennessee—from Chapel Hill. “I don’t do well in long-distance relationships,” I said.
“Just see what happens,” Tsafi told me. “Be open.”
Then it was: “He’ll want children, and I don’t want them.” I had decided in my twenties that raising children was a weight too heavy for me to bear, that too many things could go wrong, could flail out of my control. “What are the chances he won’t want children? Every guy seems to want children.” I was good at having conversations with myself, a morose account of how things would break and crumble. “I need to ask him about this. Might as well bring it up now before we go any further.”
“Stop it,” Tsafi interrupted. “Are you going to end this relationship before it’s really begun?”
“Well, it’s more that—”
“You’re not going to ask him anything about kids right now.”
“No. You need to just get to know each other right now, let yourself see what is possible. That’s it. Do not bring up children unless he asks you about it. Just be for a while.”
(In case it isn’t obvious, I did take her advice, for a while at least. Long enough to realize she was right.) Sometimes our friends know what we need better than we do. Tsafi was that kind of friend.
I am still trying to figure out how to just be, but some days I get it right. I hope she knows that all those years ago, I was listening, I was paying attention. I still am.
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(photo by Elijah Macleod)