My friend Shawn died this morning.

I’m just stunned.  Then I cry, then feel surreal again.

I grew up with my friend Ann, Shawn, Jake and their whole family since I was 12…  I started in the 7th grade at St. Joseph’s in Swedesboro one day, and I wasn’t there 15 minutes when this other girl passed me a note.  A note!  Way to start off as the new kid to the school: get caught passing notes…. But we didn’t; the note said, “My name is Ann.  Welcome to the class!  Why don’t you sit with me and my friends at lunch?”  Just like that: taking in the new kid, making sure she had a friendly place to be at lunch.

And that was that.

We all got so close that they called my mother Mom, and I called her parents Mom & Pop.    They’d introduce me as another sister, which always drew surprised stares because Ann and her family are black, and if you know me, you know I’m what Jack Benny called “frog belly in the moonlight white”.  To the surprised glances, Ann, Jake, or Shawn would say that I was the white Webster or that I came from the light side of the family…  After the movie “Remember the Titans” came out, they used that line: of course she’s our sister.  Can’t you see the resemblance?

So many years; so many memories….

So many times in the past few years, we’d say we’ll get together and we get busy and you don’t…. I so wish I had been there more often for him.

I’m a bad friend.

He went into the doctor’s for test and they were going to do angioplasty on Wed; following that, they ordered surgery for yesterday.  That’s when Ann called me; the surgery had gone fine. Shawn was relaxing.  Without thinking, I said I’d go to the hospital today to see him and just say I was his sister so I could get into CCU to see him.  That brought back the old laughs: the white Webster.  And Ann laughed: Of course she’s our sister.  Can’t you see the resemblance?

Then I got her call first thing this morning; suddenly, at 2:30 this morning, Shawn was gone.

His mom and dad of course needed to collapse tonight; Ann’s blood pressure sky rocketed, so she had to lay down too.

And I sit and think: why didn’t I go last night?  Or any one of the hundreds of nights that I didn’t in the past years?

You’d think I’d have learned from losing my Mom…. say the things you should say; do the things you should do – like get together with the young man who proudly called you his sister.

I get mad at myself for crying and hurting, because I think what right do I have?  Where was I the last few years?  But my sisters and niece Jenna reminded me that if our positions were reversed, I’d be proud that I meant so much to Shawn still that he’d cry for my loss.  That if you had asked him just yesterday about me, he’d say I was his friend.

I’ll miss him.

And he’d better not tell my mom anything I didn’t want her to know!


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