What's in a name

Last night, Addie woke up around 1:30 AM and I rocked her for a few minutes to calm her down and help her back to sleep. When I returned to bed, I remembered what day it was, felt overwhelmed with a forgotten feeling of grief and quietly cried for a while.

Nine years ago today, along with her family and a small group of friends, we celebrated my dear friend Adrienne's 21st birthday. Two days later she lost her life to cancer.

Growing up I was no stranger to death. My parents never hid it from us and I attended funerals for elderly family members for as long as I can remember. Even though I understood what it was like to lose someone I was attached to, this was so different. This was my friend. She was my age. We chose to be in each other's lives. That following year was the darkest time I've ever experienced.

From that time on, I knew if I ever had a daughter, I would make sure that she shared Adrienne's name. As I lay in bed early this morning, my mind came alive with so many memories. I was amazed at how much I remembered and at how much I have forgotten. It is so important to me that Addie knows how incredible her namesake was and how much she meant to me. And so, it is for her sake that I am writing this post today.

Adrienne and I became friends in high school. She moved to Henderson, KY one year before me, so she knew what it was like to be a new kid amongst a large group of people who had known each other since kindergarten. What started out as sitting together in the lunch room quickly turned into getting together for dinner over the weekend with our growing group of girlfriends. Adrienne loved legal dramas and had ambitions of attending law school. Our friendship blossomed and grew stronger as we served on our local "Teen Court" together and strategized our cases over mexican food.

I had moved twice in two years and left many friends behind along the way. Adrienne taught me about having grown-up girlfriends and what it meant to be loyal. Adrienne loved books and she introduced me to the Sweet Potato Queens. Before the rest of the world caught on, we discovered Rebecca Wells and were our very own Ya Ya's. She was the glue that held our group together. We all stood in a circle in the street outside of my house the summer after we graduated high school listening to Michael W. Smith's Friends Are Friends Forever with tears in our eyes. Even though it should have been ridiculously cheesy, somehow it wasn't.

Adrienne was super crafty. She loved making thoughtful gifts for any occasion and sometimes for no occasion at all. She planned and sent out gorgeous invitations for our Christmas get-togethers after we all went our separate ways for college. Adrienne loved food and she loved giving dinner parties. Her favorite meal became one of mine--pina colada chicken with mashed potatoes, sweet peas and crescent rolls with rum cake for dessert--don't thank me, sweet babe, it all came from her.

Since we were sure we would outlive our future husbands, we made plans to buy one big house for all the Ya Ya's after our loves passed on, and share a nurse between us. We were going to sit outside on our wrap-around porch with our IVs, sipping iced tea, giving each other pedicures and talk about the good old days.

Adrienne had an incredible spirit and had amazing optimism, assertiveness and confidence. We always joked that if any of us was ever timid about returning an item at a store, just bring her along and there would be no trouble. Even after she became sick, I never remember hearing fear in her voice. She relapsed twice and reassured us all that everything would be fine, even when I think she knew it wasn't.

Something I always admired in Adrienne was her incredible faith. She was very active in her church and went on service missions whenever she could. Even when it was inconvenient, she worked hard to maintain ties with her church and keep God at the center of her life.

Adrienne had beautiful curly hair that eventually had to be cut short. She was nearly bald and at the mall when she saw some teenage kids looking at her and whispering that they thought she must be a lesbian. She looked right at them and said, "No, I have cancer!" Adrienne was hilarious. I miss her laugh and how when she really got going, she would squint her eyes almost shut and lean back so far it looked as though she would fall over. Sometimes she did.

One of my favorite memories of Adrienne was a night some of the Ya Ya's spent at her parents' house one summer. We had too much to drink and went streaking through the golf course out back. As I stood totally naked atop one of the greens singing the Star Spangled Banner, Adrienne and Lori stole my clothes and locked me out of the house. After a few minutes of exaggerated panic, I was allowed back in and was met with that wonderful laugh I loved.

After we lost her and people started sharing their memories of her, it quickly became apparant that I was very much not alone. Adrienne touched so many people and had a way of making everyone she cared about feel special.

Today, my lovely friend would have been 30. I still miss her more than I can say.

Grief is a funny thing. When you think you should feel it, or when you prepare to, you don't. And when you think you've moved past it, it jumps up and grabs you at the throat when you least expect it. Each year around these dates, I imagine I will feel empty and devistated, but that is not always the case. Instead, it's the random times that surprise me and suck the air out of my stomach, forcing me to remember to breathe--when I hear certain Jimmy Buffet songs, whenever I go into The Limited, when I accidentally take a gulp of sweet tea, whenever I read SARK, and sometimes even when I look in my sweet baby girl's eyes and think about why she has the name she does.

If you made it through this lengthy read, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Hopefully some of these stories made you smile and will remind you to cherish the moments you have with the friends in your life who really aren't just friends, but kindred spirits... Ya Ya's! 

One of the last photos I have of Adrienne before she lost all that gorgeous hair.

My very dear friend, and fellow Ya Ya, Carmen made this quilt for Addie and gave it to me at my baby shower. The center panel is a transfer of a framed quotation that Adrienne made Carmen when we were in college. This quilt could not be more precious and is one of my most treasured posessions... even though it's technically Addie's!


Jenn said...

Oh, sweetie. My heart goes out to you. It's so hard to lose the people we love. We lost my friend, Scott, 3 years ago and certain moments still bring back the painful reality that he's not here.

We were so blessed for every minute we shared with these special angels. So blessed.


Carmen said...

The only thing I can say is...

sara said...

That was a rough one to write. Thank you, ladies!

Carmen... ditto!

Tracy L. MacKenzie said...

sara...what a great post... love that you named addie after adrienne... i don't know if you ever met ayren ashby...she is my "adopted" daughter in lousiana... she and adrienne, too, were great friends... she named her first daughter (my first grandchild) after adrienne, as well. aly, alyssa drienne, was four in december. the story about the kids in the mall happened when adrienne and ayren were together...

thanks for thinking and blogging about adrienne... i know that were she alive, she would be a fb addict and blogger...

adrienne's aunt tra (there are few titles that i am more proud of than this)

ayren ashby friesner....drie's sweet friend from louisiana and mother to another angel named for an awesome peron!!! said...

Adrienne was also one of my best friends. i thank you for this post as i have been wrestling with missing my dear friend too!!! though i did not have as many memories with her, as she lived so far away, every memories i do share with my ya-ya sister is definitely filled with joy!!! she was also the todd to my copper (fox and the hound). my daughter is also named after her i and think that in itself shows how much she truly made an impression on so many of our lives. My Alyssa Drienne grows up every day knowing that my sister alyssa and her "aunt adrienne" are her guardian angels looking down and blessing us!!! in like you i am sure, sometimes when that little sassy 4 year old is debating something with me i just laughing and say "love you too sweet adrienne". thnaks again for your memories as i curl up on the couch my quilt of blankets made from shirts of hers throughout Adrienne's wonderful life!!! may God bless you and your family....i know Adrienne is looking down and loving her namesakes!!!