My friend, Debbie, left this morning to drive down to Florida and start a new chapter of her life. It wasn't easy for either of us to say goodbye, especially given the circumstances of the last few weeks.
Debbie first came into our lives in October 2000, when we hired her to help with housecleaning. I was a first-time mom and working a lot of hours and made a decision that I just couldn't work and take care of a baby and keep my house clean. Having someone else clean my house felt like the most decadent luxury ever. It took about two weeks, however, to decide that paying someone to clean was the best money I spent every month. I felt like I had gained a big piece of sanity.
More importantly, however, in Debbie, we all gained a friend and a confidante. There is a bond you form with someone who knows where all your messes are hidden that transcends age or background. With Debbie, though, it was a different kind of bond. We quickly settled into a pattern of easy banter over the kitchen table, where she felt free to hand out parenting advice and we felt free to trade recipes and fitness tips.
Over time, Debbie stopped being someone we hired and started being a member of the family. She came over to help put the house together the day before Thanksgiving every year, staying after for sandwiches and drinks. We always invited her to join us for Thanksgiving dinner. She always said no, but she always showed up anyway, usually just after dinner, to hang out and drink coffee and nibble desserts.
She's been with us through all of our ups and downs, as well as her own. We've become "go to" people for each other. When my mom broke her leg and moved in two years ago, Debbie was there to be her friend when she was lonely and everyone else was at work or school. When Debbie had personal crises of her own, she would call and we'd be there for her. She shared my love of hard work, and valued wisdom, and she had proved to be one of the most trustworthy and honest people I've ever known.
In the last year, her sister and mother have moved down to Florida, however, and she's felt a bit adrift. About three months ago, she made the decision to join them. It was time, she decided, to move on and open a new chapter of her life. We've been dreading her leaving, sad to lose our friend and scared that we'd finally have to figure out how to clean this house! But we supported her and wished her well. And this year, on the last day my family as I knew it was still complete, Debbie finally joined us for Thanksgiving dinner. It is a day that will live in my heart forever.
In losing Kiersten, we all came to realize anew how very important Debbie was to us. She was there when Kiersten was born, and she helped up bury her when she died. She spent a lot of time with Kiersten. She was there to kibbitz with homework or to take time out to play Nintendo when K got bored. When Kiersten died, Deb was at the house at 8:00 the next morning, ready to do whatever we needed, even though her hurt ran almost as deeply as our own.
It was Debbie who ran interference with reporters when they arrived at my door unannounced. It was Debbie who sat up with me the second night when I thought I might never sleep again. It was Debbie who made sure the house was locked up and secure when we weren't there. I will be grateful to her forever for being there when I needed someone the most.
Our goodbye on Sunday was an exceptionally sad one. She almost tried to stay and I almost begged her to. I told her that, if she decided once she got down there that it wasn't the life she wanted, that she would always have a home with us. And I meant it. I doubt she'll ever come back; it's not in her nature. But I hope that someday we'll see her again.
Good luck Debbie. I'll miss you.