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(The names in this story have been changed for personal reasons.)
It was a hot, Southern California summer day, I was waiting with some of my friends to go to to summer camp with some friends from my local church. Surprised, I see a good friend of mine and her husband at my church's book store (she didn't attend that church so seeing her there was out of the ordinary). "Hey, what are you doing here?" I said, "We're just here to buy a couple of books we've been meaning to read, what about you?" I let them know I was on my way to camp and that I'll be back by the next "family night" with all of our friends at their house (we were a tight-knit group). "I guess I'll see you Thursday then." Those were the last words I said to her.
Camp came and went, I made some new friends and had a great time. I was sitting at the computer at home, getting ready for the upcoming school year when I got a phone call from my mother. "Hi, Carlitos," she said. "Guess what? Ally died..." I don't know if she said anything after that. I sat back with a blank stare at the wall. This wasn't happening, my mother wouldn't call me to tell me a big part of my life was suddenly gone. I was angry. Angry at her for dumping news like this on me over the phone, angry at myself for saying something stupid like, "I guess I'll see you Thursday then," as my last words to her, angry at the world and the irony that right after the single best weekend of the year would come some of the worst weeks for me and the absolute worst years for her husband.
Thursday came, we decided to keep our family night to meet with each other and have a sort of memorial night for her. The weight of what happened didn't hit me until I walked into their house, now missing something. She wasn't there to greet me like she usually did. Her normal spread on the table that she lovingly made for everyone wasn't there, her voice wasn't yelling out excitedly with each new guest arrived. The house was cold. I walked in and walked right out. I couldn't bear the sadness, the reality of what had just happened. I cried silently outside for a minute before returning inside. It was a silent, somber time, nobody really said much, we just tried to recount to each other how great of a friend she was.
The night of her wake arrived, the usual group gathered along with some of her close relatives. The night turned from solemn to joyous as those who knew her best recounted how great of a friend she was and how much she changed our lives. There were smiles and tears all the same, but when the time came for the viewing, I couldn't bring myself to go to the casket. I wanted to remember her as when I first met her, happy, lively, quick to encourage or tell you what you need to hear. She will still always remain that friend in my memory.
The days won't soon be forgotten when I got that phone call or when I first went to her now empty house, but I will always remember the bond we made over the years and the lasting memories I made with one of my best friends.