One Year

One year.
Twelve months.
Three hundred and sixty-five days.
Eight thousand, seven hundred and sixty hours.

On July 26, 2016 I received a short text message from my mom that changed my world forever.
"She's gone."
Such simple words that carried so much weight. So much finality.

I hadn't seen her since February that year - almost 5 months to the date. That was the longest I had gone without visiting since her diagnosis in 2011. She wanted it that way. She had taken a turn for the worse and wanted me to remember her stronger, and as my adventure buddy. She didn't want me to see what the cancer had done to her body in her final days. We pretended it wasn't the end, but we both knew deep down, and we both knew it was too hard to face straight on.

I thought it would be easier. I thought knowing she was no longer suffering would make the reality that cancer had taken my best friend less painful. But I was wrong. The finality of it hit like a ton of bricks, and has continued to hit multiple times over the past year.

Today though, I am choosing to focus on the good memories I carry with me. I am choosing to focus on the concerts we experienced together. I am choosing to focus on the concerts she saw without me, but would call to describe in full detail right after it ended so we could still create a memory around it. I am choosing to remember our visits to Disney during the holidays. Saleen's favorite place in the world. I am choosing to remember our visits to the coast. My favorite place in the world. I am choosing to remember our road trip from Portland to Palm Springs. My heart had been shattered by a boy, and she placed the pieces back together for me one mile at a time. I am choosing to remember the (many) conversations we had about embracing life. I was scared to step out on my own, and she was my biggest champion. My biggest support. So much of who I am today was forged by an unwavering love and a refusal to let me settle for anything less than what I deserved.

One year later and I still pick up my phone every couple of weeks to send her a text. I have these flashes of, "I haven't heard from Saleen in awhile, I wonder how she's doing?" Or see something online and think, "Saleen would get such a kick out of this!" Or see that a band or play is coming through town and want so badly to share that experience with her. It's so painful each time to remember that I can't. That she's not going to be on the other end of that communication. That I won't hear her laugh again. But part of me hopes I never stop thinking of her first. Part of me hopes that when I encounter large milestones in my life, I still think to reach out to her and ask her to share in my joy, or when necessary, my sorrow.

This past year has had many ups and many downs. There has been great struggle. There has been great joy. I am choosing to focus on the growth. I am choosing to hold her memory close. I am choosing to carry her in my heart, and when it's all over, I will tell her all about it in detail so it can be like we experienced it together.

I love you Saleen. Forever.

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