missing my friend three years later

It’s been exactly three years since one of my favorite people in the world lost his battle with cancer. Since I’ve posted about him many times in the past, I won’t bother to refresh your memories as to who he was, except to say he was my boss for almost two decades, only so much more. He was my closest friend for about ten of those years and probably the person with whom I spent the most time since we worked and had lunch together nearly every day. He was the person who made me laugh more than anyone else. He brought out the best in me, but accepted the worst in me. He was my sounding board, my words of wisdom when I needed them, a frequent shoulder to cry on, my figurative GPS when I lost my way, and my confidence when I struggled to feel worthy. His friendship changed my life and his death brought me to my knees.

I’d never experienced loss like this before and I had no idea what to expect. In all honesty, I never gave it much thought. Grief isn’t something that can be anticipated or prepared for until you’re immersed in it and by then, it’s too late. I legitimately never imagined a time when Alan wouldn’t be around, and so it never even occurred to me to gauge how long it would take to go on with my life without the near constant yearning to see him, talk to him, laugh with him, and simply exist on the same plane. I’ve read many books where a character loses someone she loves whether a parent, spouse, lover, sibling, or friend. Typically, the character is an emotional mess for approximately one-to-two years before coming to terms with the loss, accepting it and moving on the best they can. At that point, they are usually able to think about the person without crying. They can embrace the good memories without breaking down and asking “why?”

Where am I in the process compared to these fictional characters? I’m not even sure. I haven’t come to terms with the loss yet. Most days, I still have to remind myself that it’s real—that he’s truly never coming back. And I continue to ask “why” on a regular basis. At the same time, I’m frequently able to summon up a memory without crying. In fact, I mention his name in conversation each and every day because it brings me comfort. Usually it’s at work. My new boss, Deborah, adored Alan as well and we joke about him all the time and repeat “Alan-isms” often. I’m unbelievably thankful for those moments when we laugh about him (and sometimes “at” him) and grateful Deborah and I are in this together. His picture is in both our offices and we’ll point at it and say, “Isn’t that right, Alan?” or “Do you agree, Alan” and then we’ll predict what he would have said in response. These moments make me smile, but they also leave a lump in my belly and an ache in my heart when I remember (again) that he’s not really there. He’s not going to jump out of the wall and say, “It’s not a matter of if you’ll make a mistake. It’s a matter of when,” so we just have to say it for him.

I still think about him numerous times throughout the day, but I’m able to focus completely on my work, my writing, and whatever other activities I’m engaging in (exercising, socializing, marketing, reading, dating etc.). I couldn’t do this when he first passed away. At the same time, something will frequently be said that will drive my thoughts to him. For example, a phrase will be uttered that he used to say, or a memory will pop into my head, or a venue will be mentioned where we went together—it doesn’t take much. It’s anyone’s guess whether the memory will warm my heart or fill it with the familiar pain.

Random things make me sad. I wrote four books before he died. I’m writing my eighth now, which means at some point soon, I’ll have written more books after he died than I did while he was alive. That hurts even though I’m certain he’s proud of me and wouldn’t want it any other way. He bought me many electronic devices as birthday gifts. They all have a limited shelf life. Once they all break or have been upgraded, I won’t be able to say “Alan bought this for me.” I hate this for reasons that having nothing to do with buying my own devices!

Before he passed away, we texted to a ridiculous degree. Nearly every random thought in my head was shared with him because I knew he’d “get” it. If I was waiting in a doctor’s office and bored, I sent him a text. If I witnessed something funny, did something stupid, or just had time on my hands, I texted him. I honestly didn’t know what to do with myself when he was gone. I hadn’t a clue where to put those thoughts. Of course, I have other friends, but the esoteric nonsense we exchanged was so particular to our friendship. My solution was to write him notes on my phone just to get the thoughts out. I still write him notes, but with much less frequency. Rather than several a day, I can go entire months without doing it now. And then sometimes I’ll send three in a week again. But I’ve learned to live without communicating with him constantly. (I do talk to him sometimes and, no, he doesn’t respond…at least not the way he used to.)

Two years ago, I posed the question whether grief was a process with a beginning, middle and end or if it was a permanent condition. From my own experience three years in, it’s permanent. The severity varies from day to day, week to week, and sometimes month to month, but it’s always there. I can’t hear about someone else’s loss of a loved one without acknowledging my own ongoing pain. I know what these people are in for and my heart breaks all over again—for them and for me. I feel their loss deep in my gut because I know it’s an ache that doesn’t really have an end.

I might not have come to terms with Alan’s death, but I have accepted that I’m never going to wake up one day and no longer miss him. I’m not really sure where that leaves me, but to borrow one of his favorite phrases, “it is what it is.”

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My late, great best friend and boss of almost two-decades. I miss him every day!

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What are you afraid of?

 

THE ENEMY IS FEAR. WE THINK IT'S HATE; BUT, IT IS FEAR.GHANDI

I was pretty fearless when I was younger. I went on all of the roller coasters, even the ones that went upside down! I would try almost any food and, according to my mother, liked just about everything. I auditioned for (and landed) roles in school and camp plays. I collected caterpillars and let them crawl up my arm. I went to summer camp not knowing a soul and came out with great friends. At nine years old, I had a crush on a boy in camp and so did another girl in my group. Despite rumors that the boy liked my campmate, I expressed my interest and it turned out the boy liked me back! My first boyfriend 🙂 Basically, I was up for any challenge. There were a few exceptions. I went through a weird stage where I adopted other people’s fears as my own, and I spent a couple of months terrified of bridges. I stole the fear from Jennifer Davidson during our sixth grade trip to Washington D.C. and my mom still brings it up on occasion. But for the most part, fear wasn’t really part of my vocabulary.

As I hit my teens, I was not quite so courageous. I stopped going on the roller coasters for a few years, became too self-conscious to follow my passion for acting, and was too afraid of what other people might think of me to express my true feelings or stand up for myself.

I’ve never recovered my bravery toward performing in public aside from Karaoke in groups, but I’m back to going on the “scary” rides (except for the REALLY frightening ones), learning to embrace speaking in public (kind of a necessity as an author), and I definitely do not cower away from defending myself when necessary. I care what some people think of me, but only the people whose opinions I actually respect. In short, I’m no longer afraid to be myself.

But I’m still afraid of a lot of things. For example:

My mother dying – She’s healthy, knock wood, and not exactly ancient, but whenever I think about it, I start to cry. I even had a panic attack in the shower the other morning. (I know you’re reading this, Mommy, and I’m sorry I brought it up. I love you and wish you the happiest of birthdays!!)

My sister dying – Apologies for the morbid trend here. I don’t worry about this on a regular basis at all, but when I do, it’s a doozy. I can’t imagine my life without her in it.

Driving – I had my driver’s license back in the day—only took me three tests—but I let it expire by accident. I was never comfortable behind the wheel and haven’t done it in close to twenty years. I probably should take lessons again, but I don’t want to. I have chronic nightmares about being behind the wheel and losing control.

Living without Alan – I’m panic-stricken over being forced to go my entire life without ever seeing, speaking to, or hugging my best friend/boss/mentor/cheerleader/shrink outside of my dreams. I miss him so much, it physically aches, so I can still only think short term—today, tomorrow, or the next day.

Never meeting “The One” – I’ve always assumed when the timing was (finally) right, I’d meet “The One” for the long haul at last—the man I want to spend the rest of my life with who feels the same way about me—but between the wrong guys and the unavailable ones, it’s like searching for cellphone service in 1979.

Meeting “The One” – As much as I want to commit fully to someone, I’m terrified I’ll feel smothered or find it difficult to balance the freedom and lifestyle to which I’ve become accustomed with my new coupled life. I hope giving up some independence will be worth it for the right person.

Losing my ability to write – Whenever I’m going through a tough time, writing makes me feel better. It’s really the one thing I can do that is guaranteed to wash away stress from my “real life.” I don’t know what I would do if something happened that prevented me from writing. What if I went blind or suffered from permanent writer’s block, or some other brain malfunction?

Cancer – Getting it, my family getting, my friends getting it.

Getting old – I’d much prefer aging to the alternative, but I dread the aging process—wrinkly skin, sagging neck, losing muscle tone despite working out five-six times a week, inability to stand up straight, people treating me like I’m a non-entity or a sweet old lady, losing my faculties. My grandmother told me after the age of twenty, life moves really fast and she was so right. Although every Monday, I wish Friday will come quickly, I don’t want life to pass me by!

Becoming invisible to the opposite sex – I’m not ashamed to admit I enjoy attention from men. I like being flirted with and checked out. I don’t know if I will ever get to a point where I don’t care what I look like or whether others find me attractive and so the aging process (see above) scares me.

Dying – I don’t want to! Maybe if I knew what happened after we left the physical world, I wouldn’t be so afraid. Experiences I’ve had in the last year have convinced me that there is something else, but I don’t know what it is and hope not to find out for a long, long time.

Those are the major things on my list. What are you most afraid of?

 

Youth is wasted on the young

I had to attend a wake on Friday night. A close friend’s father passed away. At eighty, he wasn’t a young man but I don’t consider eighty very old anymore, probably since my parents are both in their early-mid-seventies. I’m sure my friend’s dad had much more living to do, and his family/friends were not ready to say goodbye. I know from recent experience that my friend has a long grieving period ahead of her and it breaks my heart. This post is not about the wake or the passing of my friend’s father, but I will get to my point soon—I promise. Between his five daughters, my friend’s father had many grandchildren—at least eight, maybe more—and they probably range in age from about fourteen to twenty-two. All were in attendance at the wake and I couldn’t help but observe them with more than a twinge of envy—not for the loss of their grandfather, obviously, but for their youth. All of the grandchildren were extremely respectful and supportive of their parents’ loss as they greeted mourners who came to pay their respects but I got the feeling that while they were saddened by the passing of their grandfather, they didn’t quite grasp the full-meaning of death. I get that, as I was there once. To most young people, death happens when people get “old” and is not something to be concerned about for a very long time. I was much younger when my grandfathers died and while I cried and missed them very much—I even imagined they lived on the clouds in the sky and could look down upon me—I didn’t give it much thought under the assumption that death is what happens when someone gets old. It never occurred to me that neither of them were very old yet or that my grandmothers’ lives would be irrevocably altered by their death and would grieve the loss for years (decades) to come. While at the wake, I looked at the many collages surrounding the room of photos of my friend’s parents when they were younger and when my friend and her sisters were really young. It made me so sad to think about how those same people who were once young and healthy and just beginning their lives came to be grandparents and how one had passed away and the other was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and probably had no idea her husband had died. And it scared me that the cycle of life happens to everyone and one day I, too, would be old with an entire life behind me. I know with almost certainty that those thoughts did not cross the grandchildren’s minds because I vividly remember being their age and never once worrying about things like that. My mom reminded me this weekend that I’m not “old” and I have a lot of great years ahead of me, but I’ve lived long enough to have regrets and to have made mistakes I cannot fix. The best I can do is learn from them and try not to make the same ones again. It made me wish to be seventeen again, with a clean slate and my entire adult life ahead of me. On a more superficial note, I also envied their shiny hair and plump smooth skin. Even though I look younger than my age, my skin does not compare to that of a teenager and I pay about $1000 a year to cover my gray hair! I hated being a teenager and it never occurred to me that one day I would look back on those years with yearning. I’m pretty certain the kids at the wake do not grasp that someday they will look like their parents and later their grandparents. I just hope that, unlike me, they know how beautiful they are and don’t waste too much time wishing they looked like someone else. I look back at old pictures of me and want to shake my younger self for not realizing how freakin adorable I was! I couldn’t locate my photo album with photos from high school but I found a few from my college/early twenties that I have posted here. I can’t go back. I’m not sure I’d want to go back—at least not that far—but I do hope to better appreciate this stage of my life —how I look, how I feel, and the opportunities available to me—so that I have less regrets ten years from now.

Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog, click here: http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hop-july-2015

no gray hairs to speak of!

no gray hairs to speak of!

check out my skinny legs :)

check out my skinny legs 🙂

not a care in the world

not a care in the world

plump, young skin...

plump, young skin…

an anniversary to honor but not celebrate

Over the past year, I’ve peppered my generally upbeat, happy blog with some very sad posts due to the death of my boss/mentor/best friend, Alan. Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of his death. This time last year, I couldn’t begin to fathom the pain that would result from losing someone who was such a constant in my life for so many years and someone I loved unconditionally. For more than a decade, barely a day would go by when we didn’t communicate—whether in-person, by phone or by text/email. So to say going cold turkey was a shock to my system would be a gross understatement. I found myself reaching for my phone to text him at all hours of the day from different locations. Not for anything important. Just because. And then without warning, or perhaps a warning I didn’t heed, I couldn’t.

The urge to text him was so strong. I had so much to say! One afternoon, about a week after he passed, I made an impulsive decision while watching Huey Lewis perform at City Field that if I wanted to write Alan, I would! Rather than send him texts, I began writing him notes using the notes application on my iPhone. And I’ve been writing these notes regularly for the last year. There is no schedule to the “when”—during work, before bed, while out with friends etc. And there is no pattern to the “what”— I tell him how much I miss him, I recall a private joke, I express a fear etc. I thought after a year, I would read the notes back and see how far I had come in coping with my grief and accepting the permanence of his death – character development so to speak. The truth is I’ve read through them more than once because it makes me feel close to him and whenever I do, I cry because each note brings me back to that moment in time and is a reminder of what I was feeling in that moment. The notes are more hysterical at the beginning mixed with a lot of anger, both at the situation and, yes, with him too but even a year later, there is a lot of repetition. A lot of asking why he had to die and whether I’d ever fully recover it, I’ve come a long way but I’m nowhere near “healed.” I told my sister time doesn’t “heal” all wounds but hopefully it will “soothe” them.

It has been suggested to me that I publish these notes and I do wonder if others would appreciate such honest and raw expressions of grief. I also considered the possibility of donating much or all of the proceeds of sales to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. After giving it, admittedly, not much thought, I’ve decided it’s just too soon. I’m not ready to share my inner most emotions as they were expressed in real time with the world. Additionally, I’ve decided to keep writing them whenever the mood strikes. It does strike me less often than before. As Alan used to say, “Baby steps, Merrybeth.” However, in honor of the one year anniversary of his death, I’ve chosen to share a few of them:

I’m so pissed that the drug worked on 6 of 7 people and then killed you. Angry!!! You are so wonderful. Why? I’m sorry. I know you’re thinking: don’t dwell; being angry doesn’t change anything. I know. I know. I always hear your voice in my head. But I’m just so fucking sad. I miss you almost every minute of every day. I hope so badly you’re here with me- someway, somehow. Please jump in my head so I can hang with you in my dreams.  7/15/2014 10:41pm

“The mornings are the hardest. Knowing I have to go an entire day without hearing from you by text, phone is unbearable and the thought of no Alan for a lifetime is breaking my heart. I love you and hope you’re ok wherever you are.” 7/17/2014. 8:24 a.m.

You were in my dream last night! You were responding to tweets on Twitter which is weird since you weren’t on Twitter. I didn’t get any direct interaction with you which was disappointing but it was so good to see you. You were still dead (ugh I hate saying that!!!) but you were ok. Come back again please! I’m so sad. Dragging myself to spin class. I also got a weird vision that said “you’re prettier when you smile” and wondered if that was a sign from you. I hope so. 7/27/2014 9:34 a.m.

So, I went out to dinner with Abbe, Hilda and Jules tonight and actually had fun for the first 2 hours. I cracked jokes and everything. And then we had a drink somewhere after and it hit me that you were dead and I just wanted to go home. I keep thinking I can text you or you’re going to visit me somehow. I do believe you will but knowing I can’t control the when or how is so hard. And so is knowing that it won’t be the same. It will never be the same. I’m so sad. 8/1/2014. 11:15 p.m.

Today was a toughie. Alice is coming this week to start packing up your office. I don’t think I can stand it. I’m afraid I will lose it. Why can’t they just retire your office like Jeter’s number 2?? I miss you so much. It still aches. I still don’t underarm why you died. I feel like a child. People die. But I loved you. I wasn’t ready to lose you.  Spell check changed “understand” to “underarm.” I’m keeping it. It’s funny. Like you. Like me when I was with you. 9/29/2014 11:02 p.m.

I miss you. I’m scared I’ll forget your voice. I still can’t quite accept that I’ll never see you or talk to you again. I get through each day at a time but when I try to think long term, I panic. I know I have no choice but to deal with it but I keep thinking it’s all a big misunderstanding. Like Three’s Company. I hope you’ll visit me again. Please be with me tomorrow when I go to the doctor. I’m very scared. I remember last time I did this. You asked Rachael Benz to come with me. I bet now you would come with me yourself if you were still here. I love you and always will. XO. 10/12/2014 8:33 p.m.

Happy almost birthday. I was walking to the subway and got this urge to text you and I realized that, for me, texting you was like breathing. I didn’t think about it. I just did it. Sounds silly but it’s true. That’s why I can’t breathe sometimes when I think about you. 10/26/2014 10:48 p.m.

I lost it today. Some corny Dan Fogelberg song made me think of you and I cried. It’s ok. I’m used to it. Flying to Kentucky tomorrow. First time flying since you’ve been gone. No one to text “landed.” So pitiful. 12/10/2014 6:20 p.m.

“The dead can hold a grudge better than most scorpios.” Line from American Horror Story. Made me think of you because you were so damn proud of being a Scorpio. I hope you aren’t holding any grudges. I got a 3 star review from a reader who said she enjoyed Blogger Girl from the first page to the last and would read my other books. Go figure. Oh well 🙂 LOVE you. 1/2/2014 11:17 p.m.

I’m on a date. I kinda like him…1/9/2015 10:33 p.m.

Remember when we used to thumb wrestle? You always won and I always tried. We were so cute! I have a cold, tomorrow is my ultrasound AND my first book reading. I’m scared. I miss you! 2/11/2015 10:35 p.m.

Today is the eight month anniversary of the worst day of my life so far. 3/8/2015. 6:31 p.m.

OMG everyone on that show Nashville is so good looking! Like Sawyer times 50!!! I miss you L ./11/2015 11:38 p.m.

You used to make this silly sound “ba joobie joo.” I make it sometimes and think of you 🙂 Like now. 6/23/2015 12:34 p.m..

My late, great best friend and boss of almost two-decades. I miss him every day!

My late, great best friend and boss of almost two-decades. I miss him every day!

blogging in darker times – guest blogger at Chick Lit Club

I was asked to do a guest post for Chick Lit Club, a fabulous blog with news and reviews on some of the hottest novels in chick lit and women’s fiction. With the death of my dear friend, I’ve been having trouble writing “light” posts and when I confided this to my fabulous book manager, Jennifer Gilbert, she suggested I use my grief as inspiration. This is what I came up with:

Darker Times

 

A friendship stolen

On July 8th, 2014, I lost one of my favorite people in the world to blood cancer.  I am not the only person who experienced this loss. Cancer stole Alan from a wife of over thirty years, two sons, parents, a brother, and a slew of friends, clients, and colleagues who loved him. Since this is my blog, this post focuses, not on Alan in the general sense, but on my relationship with him. It would be impossible to compress the entirety of our friendship in a single blog post, but I’ve tried to paint a picture of this wonderful man and the enormous influence he had on my life with this very long blog entry. Anyone who has spoken to me for more than one hour knows about Alan. I talked about him all of the time and he was a point of reference for almost everything—Alan said this; Alan told me that; One time me and Alan…—and so on and so on and so on. Seriously, I idolized the man. He was a rock star. But more than that, for me, he was sunshine on a rainy day; a hot fudge sundae after a breakup; a white flag after a brutal war.

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On July 16, 1996, I started a job as a junior trademark paralegal at a law firm. Alan was my boss. I was a single teeny bopper practically right of college, Alan was almost forty and married with two children and, at the time, the age difference seemed enormous. Our conversations rarely developed beyond those that were work-related. As years went by and his associates and other paralegals left the firm, Alan began relying on me for more substantive projects and for assistance on the more administrative tasks related to his trademark department. This required us to spend more time together and, as a result, we got to know each other beyond boss/employee and became friends. Eighteen years later, I considered Alan one of my closest, most trusted friends and I loved him like family.

Alan had a sharp, witty sense of humor and perfect comic timing. Often times when I hung out with people at work, I was the quiet one. I think I was afraid to crack a joke and have it met with radio silence since the other members of my department were extremely funny. Alan would sometimes laugh at something I said and comment, “funny girl!” and it made me feel validated. Like I, too, was funny even though I was more subtle and shy than my colleagues at the time. Making Alan laugh made me comfortable about my ability to make others laugh and I slowly became more confident cracking jokes and not playing the shrinking violet. After eighteen years, I think I made Alan laugh almost as much as he made me laugh.

I remember the first time I confided something personal to Alan. It was regarding one of the many men who would come into and out of my life and who ultimately was not “the one.” Alan’s advice was logical and never sugarcoated, yet he communicated it with such understanding, humanity, sincerity, depth, and humor that I began to turn to him for “the male” perspective almost every time I got involved with someone moving forward. It started off slowly, but by the time he passed away, with the exception of more serious boyfriends whose privacy I respected, Alan could have probably recited my love history since 2003, along with all of my relationship “issues.” (But, of course, he was my trusted friend and he would never disclose such information!)

Yes, Alan was there for me in the big moments, including September 11th, the death of two grandmothers, my own cancer scare, three (unfortunate) World Series wins by the Red Sox, transitions to two different law firms, and serious family dysfunction. He even held my hand when I blocked an abusive guy on Facebook. But he also became my go-to person for the little things. I used to joke that Alan was always right because, well, Alan was always right! Because of this, I began to rely on him for even the most mundane things on the assumption that he would have the correct answer readily available to share. Some people utilized the Internet, I had Alan. Can you mix cold medicine with Excedrin? Ask Alan. What brand Netbook should I buy? Ask Alan. Do I look prettier in pink or purple? Ask Alan. I can’t reach around my neck to clasp this necklace. Alan will do it for me when I get to work. I can’t put together this desk-top calendar. Alan will do it. Should I call this guy or wait for him to call me? What does Alan think? My cable is broken. How do I fix it? Call Alan. I was such a pain in the ass, but Alan insisted he enjoyed helping me. I often apologized because I was afraid I got so much more out of our friendship than he did. (I still feel that way.) But Alan consistently argued that point. He said, “this is the balance of our friendship. I like it. It works. It is what it is.”

When Alan left our first firm, he took me with him. When Alan left the second firm, he took me with him. He negotiated my salary and benefits and told me that any firm that wouldn’t bring me along was a firm he would not be going to. I am a hardworking and talented trademark paralegal but I’m not indispensable, but Alan was incredibly loyal to me and me to him. Even after I discovered my passion for writing, and the paralegal gig became more of a way to keep up my NYC life style than a career I wished to cultivate, I enjoyed coming to work every day. I was the rare employee who hated when her boss went on vacation. Sunday nights weren’t so bad because I would have my Monday morning chat with Alan, and we would undoubtedly make each other laugh at multiple points during the day. We had lunch together almost daily and on those weeks when we (mostly him) had too many outside lunch plans, we would schedule a late afternoon “coffee date” to catch up. He’d drink hot chocolate, I’d drink cappuccino, and we’d share a piece of cake and catch up. Alan always made time for me.

Random information to give you a bit of insight into our banter. I have a thing for hats and one of them is a beret. The first time I wore it in front of Alan, he called me “Rerun” (from the television show What’s Happening for those of you born after 1990…) and continued to do so whenever I wore it. At first, I made him insist that my ass was not as big as Rerun’s. After a while, Alan started calling me Rerun whenever I wore a hat, even if it was a winter hat or a baseball cap. The first time I visited him at the hospital, I wore the beret purposely to make him smile and hopefully elicit a “Rerun” comment. A client once mistakenly referred to me as “Merrybeth” in correspondence. It could have been a spell check issue, but from that day on, Alan called me Merrybeth (when he wasn’t calling me “Rerun”)! He also called me Merry Tyler Schorr. He teased my lifetime habit of “twiddling” my hair and did a silly impression of me that left me in a giggling fit. I would often say, “Do the twiddling impression of me. Please!” And he said when I tried to wink, I looked like Popeye and he would do a mean Popeye impression that also cracked me up. If in the course of his day, he came across a really funny name, he would send me an email with just the name on it: Bernadette Scubblybutts was one of them. (If you are reading this Bernadette, I apologize for laughing at your expense and for your unfortunate last name.) Part of our job requires us to work with attorneys all over the world. We are lucky in that everyone communicates in English, but one time our German associate sent us an email with a German sentence embedded in the text. After determining that it translated in English to, “that was fast,” whenever I completed something quickly, Alan would say, “dass das so schnellging!” It seems silly, but sharing these inside jokes (and there are literally hundreds of them), with Alan was priceless to me.

The day my first novel Just Friends with Benefits was published, Alan choked up and expressed how unbelievably proud he was of me and how he thought I was underestimating the accomplishment of writing a book, much less getting it published. He would joke about me forgetting all about “my old friend Alan” once I became a famous bestselling author. It goes without saying that I will never ever forget him. If I win the Pulitzer Prize, guess who will be the first person I thank? Alan. I haven’t won the Pulitzer Prize and I’m pretty certain I never will. But I will still thank Alan for…everything. We used to talk about writing a book together. We actually started one close to a decade ago. It was a “He said/She said” type of book about the differences in the way women and men think and act in certain circumstances. Most recently, we discussed writing a trashy romance novel. I’d write the book and he’d insert the naughty bits since I don’t like writing sex scenes. Alan was an amazing writer and it was initially his compliments on my business writing that gave me the confidence to write fiction. He was a beta reader on my first three novels and a source of inspiration for all.

Alan was truly the one thing in my life I never worried about. It never occurred to me that our friendship wouldn’t continue on for decades. I never worried that Alan wouldn’t be at my wedding someday. I even imagined asking him to be my “Man of Honor” and giving me a pep talk on the big day. The one thing I dreaded was Alan retiring before I was ready to write full-time because I couldn’t imagine working for anyone else or anyone else putting up with me. Like I said, I’m a hardworking and skilled paralegal, but I can also be a brat. Sometimes I speak before I act. On many occasions over the last eighteen years, I sent Alan emails that I was overwhelmed; I couldn’t take it anymore; I needed help; I couldn’t finish whatever assignment he gave me until much later. And then ten minutes later, I’d email him the completed assignment and hope he wouldn’t mention my earlier outburst. He never did. When we’d talk about it, he’d say, “I know you Merrybeth. When you overreact, you’re just being ‘Meri.’ It’s all good.” That was my relationship with Alan. I did/said stupid things and he just shrugged and said, “That’s Meri.” If he was here, he’d remind me that I also did really good work and had a lot of goodwill in the bank. But sometimes I shake my head and think, “Why did he put up with me?” We made a deal that I would work towards writing full time when he was ready to retire. That way, I wouldn’t have to work for someone else and he wouldn’t be without his favorite paralegal and “work wife.” Sadly, he didn’t live up to his end of the bargain.

The last year was very rough. How could Alan, the strongest most solid person in my life, be sick? And why would God, if there is a God, choose to do this to him of all people—truly the best person I’ve ever known? How could anyone be so cruel? I hated that he had the power to ease my pain in so many situations—just a month before his diagnosis, he had talked me off the ledge when I had an abnormal mammogram—yet I was powerless to help him the one time he really needed it. I did what I could. I visited him at the hospital and at his home, we had Google “Hangouts,” we talked on the phone and texted daily and I made sure to tell him how much I loved him regularly. I tried really hard this year not to rely on him so much because any problems I had were frivolous compared to what he was facing. But Alan saw right through me and said, “It’s one thing to be sick. It’s another thing to be treated like I’m sick.” He said he wanted me to be “me” around him and allow him to be “him” and if that meant coming to him with what I considered silly problems, I should. And so I did. The only thing I didn’t share with him was my concern that he was never going to get better. I could not imagine the world and my life without him in it. I still can’t. I’m not going to go into details about what happened and how everyone thought he was getting better until he…didn’t. It’s too painful and I still haven’t wrapped my head or heart around it and I don’t think I ever will. But I will forever be grateful that Alan knew me so well and truly loved me unconditionally. He was so incredibly unique, special, intelligent, hilarious, knowledgeable, goofy, loyal, warmhearted, intuitive and sensitive. And he never failed to tell me that I was one of his favorite people. Me! How I won such a special place in his heart is beyond me. I always joke that I became Alan’s “work wife” by default because everyone else quit. Alan used to tell me I would meet the right man for me when all of the planets aligned. Well, Alan was not my husband or my lover, but his influence on me is probably the most significant of any other relationship I’ve had to date. The planets must have aligned just right when we met. His friendship changed me and added value to my life that cannot be measured. I am a better, more confident, gentler, wiser, funnier, more interesting person because of the time I spent with Alan. I’ve laughed harder in the last eighteen years than some people do in a lifetime. The pain I feel over his death is worse than anything I’ve ever experienced and I had no idea I was capable of such grief. Not a moment goes by when I don’t miss him. Alan hated seeing me sad and I can almost hear him telling me that my sadness causes him pain and I am so much prettier when I smile.

As overwhelmed as I am with sadness right now, I am well aware of how incredibly blessed I am to have Alan in my life for eighteen years as my boss, friend, mentor, therapist, comic relief, cheerleader. Alan was taken away from the living world way too soon, but he will always be with me. He has bestowed onto me enough advice to last a lifetime and I will always hear his voice in my head telling me I’m on the right/wrong track. In this world, I will never stop loving and missing him and I know he will continue to look after me from the afterlife. Friendship never dies.

One person in the U.S. is diagnosed with blood cancer approximately  every four minutes. For more information and to find out how you can donate towards a cure, please click here:

http://pages.lightthenight.org/nyc/Manhattn14/AlansAngels