This guest posting by Kalev just arrived in my mailbox. Kalev is trying to make me cry! So I’ve bumped the posting I was working on until next half hour, ‘cuz I needed to post this one right away!
The funny thing about me and Beth being friends is that we don’t quite remember when we became friends. I mean, we know when we met and under what circumstances, and then we know we kinda bonded when she was in San Francisco for a conference and I was there with a friend for SF Pride and I took her to the best veggie Chinese restaurant in the city and then to a cool gay pride party called “Pink Saturday” that happens every year in the Castro the night before the parade. But after that, there’s this weird gap between San Francisco and when we became good friends, the kind of friends who not only help you kill someone (e.g., [notice the comma] “It,” Drooling Idiot, Captain e-Tool, Lives-and-Breathes, MuffMaster 2000, etc.) but who also help you bury the body and frankly offer to take the blame and provide you an alibi if you get caught.
There are several ways people can tell that Beth is one of my very best friends. The most obvious one is that Beth loves hockey. I loathe hockey. But not only do I still associate with Beth despite her passion for the sport of heinosity (yes, that is a word, because I say it is), I have even attended a birthday dinner in her honour at a bar where the heinous game was being broadcast. And sat through the entire disgraceful affair. (Unsurprisingly, Beth’s darlings, the Canucks, lost. Shocking, I know!)
Another way people can tell Beth is one of my best friends is that I am more than willing to abruptly scuttle plans with lesser friends if it means I can spend time with Beth. Okay, maybe you can’t tell that because it’s not like I go around telling people in my life, “Well sorry, you mean a lot less to me than Beth” but I can assure you that has happened on more than one occasion. (No, I don’t falsely maintain that all my friends are “equal” in stature. Please.)
Yet another way in which you can tell that Beth is one of my best friends is that I stop and think about what she says if what she says is not what I am expecting or does not agree with what I think. That is (aka i.e.), I consider her an equal. Actually, in some ways, I consider her my superior. If you knew me, you would understand the import of this. *grin*
But the way it truly became clear to me that Beth was one of my best friends is when my mum was sick with cancer. She was diagnosed in Fall 2005. At this point I was seeing quite a lot of Beth. After the diagnosis, I told quite a few of my friends what was going on but very few people who weren’t, shall we say, “top tier.” One of the people I did not tell immediately was Beth. Partly that was because she was going through a pretty trying time in her own life (getting divorced after ten years of marriage) but mainly it was because by not telling her, I had someone to hang out with where I was just Kalev, where I could pretend everything was normal, where I could desperately avoid being “Kalev whose mother was dying of cancer.” I had someone close to me where I could be the person I had been before the news that forever altered my life. I had someone with whom I could escape the horror my life had become.
My friendship with Beth became a place of refuge, a place where I could just be me and laugh and rave about the petty injustices of the world, the idiots who were totally meaningless in the context of losing the most important person of my life.
There are a handful of people who saved my sanity and probably my life during that period. But Beth was the only person who didn’t know what solace she was providing, just by being her incredibly amazing self. As far as Beth was concerned, I was a friend and she and I were hanging out and having fun. She didn’t know, she couldn’t have known, how every time I saw her or talked to her or emailed with her, she was doing the impossible: she was helping me through a time that was unendurable, a time that I did not believe would ever end, a time where I was so not myself and so lost and alone… and she made me feel like it might one day be all right. She helped me hold on when I didn’t know anymore who I was or how life worked. She let me know that even in the darkest time of my life, I was loved and respected and valued… and she kept me laughing when in all rights I should never have laughed again. And she didn’t even know how much I needed her; she was just there for me.
It took nine months for me to finally tell Beth what was happening with my mum. I felt so guilty I hadn’t shared the truth with her and I wanted so badly for her to understand that it wasn’t what it seemed like, that it wasn’t because she wasn’t that good a friend that I had neglected to mention the fact that my mum was terminally ill, but it was precisely because she was such an amazing friend that I had needed to keep her in the dark until the last possible moment.
And as long as I live, I don’t think I will ever see someone so effortlessly and so gracefully accept and understand another person’s pain-driven need as when I told her my mum had been sick. I still marvel at that to this day and I will cherish her compassion and her generosity of spirit for as long as I live.
And when my mum was in and out of hospital the rest of the summer of 2006, Beth was always there for me. And when my mother died, Beth was there for me. So well beyond how smart and funny and witty and incisive Beth is, well beyond the fact that we so delightfully share similar worldviews and that the same stupid people make us crazy, well beyond what a thorougly good and loving person Beth is, I know Beth is my friend because when I most needed a friend, when I had nothing left to give, Beth was my friend. Beth loved me and comforted me and she was there for me like very, very few others. And if we are indeed judged on the quality of those who hold us dear in their hearts, I know I have nothing to fear, because I am the friend of Beth Snow… and I can think of no honour or accomplishment that can possibly top that.