Goodbye Lydia

15 Jan

When I met Lydia, my very first thought was, “holy crap, she wears a lot of makeup!”

I had been hearing a lot about this girl Lydia from some close friends who met her at Dorion Bible camp. Lydia lived in Dorion and her dad was a pastor so naturally Lydia and her brother attended the Bible camp.

Apparently Lydia was gregarious, hilarious, wacky, and free spirited. I was told over and over that she and I were going to get along famously because we were so much alike. It was so much pressure for the worry-wort child that I was! I was actually really worried about meeting her; she seemed too wonderful for words and she was friends with teenagers! Obviously she wouldn’t find anything about me remotely friend-worthy.

Looking back, these fears were mostly unfounded because Lydia was willing to give anybody a chance.

I always wanted to tell Lydia about how nervous I was to meet her but I kept forgetting.

Now it’s too late.

I was friends with Lydia from grade 7 to grade 13: good friends at first, who then drifted apart into friendly acquaintances.

We never went to the same school but we spent years together in various Sunday school classes and church youth groups. When she started high school, the layers of makeup were phased out. Quoted, “One day I realized that I was suffocating my skin and I looked bad.” I guess everybody has these kinds of revelations as they get older.

I remember your bedroom Lydia. I was absolutely blown away by the posters and decorations adorning your walls. There was a picture of two sexy tattooed muscly guys arm wrestling. They were dressed like sailors. It occurred to me then that if Lydia could put hot guys on her walls then so could I. I think Brad Pitt went on my wall later that week.

I remember your cats Lydia. Nobody liked them. They were nasty. You loved them fiercely and screeched at anyone who said anything mean about them. But we laughed at you and you pretended to cry.

I remember your large movie collection. I was so excited to see The Sting and Butch Cassidy amongst the titles; so happy to find someone else who shared my love for Young Robert Redford.

I remember when you told me we were best friends Lydia. I remember it clearly. Church was over and we were sitting in an empty classroom chatting and laughing. We were sharing jelly beans. Suddenly, you burst out, “Leah, you’re like, totally one of my best friends!” She said it with such sincerity and emotion.

I didn’t say it back.

It was such an awkward moment. It was like when someone says I love you for the first time but the other person doesn’t want to or simply can’t say it back.

Donna Pinsiatti: I love you Eric.
Eric Foreman: I love….cake.

But it isn’t that I didn’t feel the same way about Lydia. I was just so shocked that she felt that way! I spent so many years feeling out of place in my church and feeling like an outcast. I called all the kids my friends and I seemed to get along with most of them…but I also felt as if they were part of an exclusive club and I was missing something, something that denied me membership.

I think I said something like, “Wow that’s so nice!”

And, unless I was imagining it, I remember seeing confusion and a slight hurt in Lydia’s eyes.

Leia Organa: I love you.
Han Solo: I know.

I didn’t know how to recover from that situation. We never talked about it again. I kept wanting to tell Lydia she was one of my best friends too but I didn’t know how to approach the topic. I was at a loss.

We eventually stopped being friends. Not out of malice, but rather the natural progression of two people growing up and apart. I have thought about that time in the empty classroom many times over the years and I’ve often wished I could have gone back in time to change what I said. Or didn’t say.

Now, of course, it’s too late.

We did reconnect several times over the years. Lydia was at my bridal shower and she came to my wedding. We shared some very pleasant coffee dates and we always had many laughs.

One day, when we were young adults and still attending church, Lydia pulled me into a corner and asked, “do you want to see my tattoo?” Of course I did. So she pulled me into a corner and pulled up her shirt to show me her back. I had no idea what I was looking at.

She explained that one day she just decided she needed to get her back pierced, but the piercer in town had no experience with surface piercings. But, undeterred, Lydia went to a tattoo shop and asked for a small surface piercing barbell to be tattooed so it would look like her back was pierced.

Whatever you do, do NOT tell my parents!

Upon closer inspection, it did look like a piercing. Thankfully she went on to get several more tattoos of better design and quality. But it was just so Lydia. And the fact that I had tattoos was a great opening to bring us back together: Reunited in common ground.

Lydia traveled and came back and traveled again and came back and eventually decided to stay in BC. She had many adventures and was planning many more.

Last year she had to return to Thunder Bay because of kidney failure and the need for dialysis and to be close to her family. She had big dreams and goals but was stuck in Thunder Bay, waiting upon a kidney and a pancreas.

Lydia was frustrated by her limitations and seemingly endless health problems but remained incredibly upbeat about everything; she could find humour in the darkest places and she knew sometimes laughing at life was the only option.

I didn’t get to see her before she died.

I kept meaning to but something always came up. Or she had to cancel plans last minute. Or she just never responded to my invitations. I wasn’t annoyed. I figured we would get together eventually because we had all the time in the world.

2014 was supposed to be your year Lydia.

Why didn’t I learn?

In 2009, my friend Jim was dying. I knew Jim from the moment I was born. He was getting sicker and sicker and pretending things were better than they really were. I kept asking to visit Jim and he would not commit to a plan. He didn’t want me to see him in his increasingly dependent and frail medical state. He denied me access but I should have pushed. But because he didn’t tell me it was serious, I decided to stop pushing and wait until he was ready. I thought, “It’s okay, I will see him when he’s healthy. Then he can meet my son.”

Healthy never came.

Not for Jim, not for Lydia.

I knew Lydia was on dialysis and that is serious. I knew she would get her kidney though and I knew we would see each other soon.

Soon soon soon.

There’s so inch thing as soon. Only too late.

You were a light in dark places, you brought joy to many faces. I will miss your beautiful smiling face forever and I shall think of you often.

I know you’ve made the heavens brighter, even if the earth has become a little more dull.

Thank you for the friendship despite my failings.
I love you Lydia.
RIP April 22, 1983 – January 12, 2014

Photo by J Westerback, taken in Bolivia 2005

9 Responses to “Goodbye Lydia”

  1. Southerngirl January 15, 2014 at 8:08 pm #

    So sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. You have given her a beautiful tribute. At times like these it’s important to always tell those you care for what they mean to them. So…Leah I hope you how much you mean to me, and of course, your family. I love you and am happy to have you in my life. I am truly blessed. xoxoxox

    • L.W. January 15, 2014 at 10:31 pm #

      Thanks you! I’m happy to have you in my life too, my southern cousin! Strange circumstances brought us together as family and we’re so blessed because of it.

  2. k-money January 15, 2014 at 6:07 pm #

    What a small world — we seem to know a lot of the same people. A very touching tribute to her.

    • L.W. January 15, 2014 at 10:28 pm #

      Oh right…from the magical world of the book store. Seems like so many people knew her, all over Canada and in other countries as well.

  3. Chrissie January 15, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

    I am so very sorry about your friend (and please excuse the earlier post I messed up by hitting send accidentally!) your post is such a beautiful way to remember your friend. Thank you for sharing.

    • L.W. January 15, 2014 at 10:27 pm #

      Thanks Chrissie.

  4. Chrissie January 15, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

    I am so very s


  1. Wonderful Women Part Seven | eating dirt - March 8, 2015

    […] F: another wonderful Sunday school and youth group friend who I’ve written about here and […]

  2. Remembering Lydia | eating dirt - January 12, 2015

    […] was reading what I wrote about Lydia last year, shedding a few tears while at the same time, being appalled by all the […]

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