Today, years ago, in a place I have never been, a woman I never met did something remarkable. All mothers do something remarkable, it is true: that violence absorbed, accommodated, relinquished is nothing if not remarkable. As a result, and despite that, you exist.
When I met you, that first day in your store, I knew you were more than just a passing acquaintance, more than a bit part on my stage, even though our orbits were mostly separate. Each time after I saw you, I knew you less; not for any obfuscation on your part, but because there was more of you to which I could not be privy.
How could I realize that my dull little email four years later would spark the beginning of the most important friendship of my life? That summer, as you were preparing to change your entire life, mine changed alongside it. Your openness to the world, your sheer breadth of knowledge, and your inimitable passion for living taught me that amidst all these bitter, jaded people, I was not wrong for anticipating goodness and light.
Back then, I couldn’t have done what you did, no matter what you might have believed about me, and you always believe the best. I couldn’t have uprooted my sense of self, my home, and my comfort to achieve a goal. I would never be so arrogant as to say “I let you go” because you had to go. My hands released yours easily so you would never doubt your path away from me.
Even so, when you left, I wanted to be so much stronger than I was. I wanted not to grasp desperately to catch you again; I wanted to be the effortless support I strove to be with you in my midst. But miles apart, I could only see not seeing you. I could only think of you in my own terms: mine, or not at all.
So many lessons in those interim years I learned the hardest way. Time and again, I tricked myself into lessening you. As you reached and grasped and succeeded, I learned the most important part: you exist not for my sake. And I promised myself that if we were ever able to be friends again, I would not forget that.
So here we are, my heart, on your birthday, the first we celebrate together, and all I know is that all my words fail me in the utter presence of you. With your own hands you built your life, your support structure, your home, your business, and your education, and I am lucky to witness them all from so close. Your humility throughout all your accomplishments is my touchstone; your resilience unmarred by disappointment or rejection is my inspiration. My lesson to learn is how to love you for who you are, because you are the greatest person I have ever known.
Happy birthday, D. And thank you for persevering through so many hard times on your own so that we might share whatever is to come.