She’s forever gone.

It’s strange how you can be reminded of how alive you really are, I thought as I sat on the toilet emptying my body and holding a tampon in my hand. Absolutely nothing stops for death.

I learned yesterday afternoon while navigating rush hour traffic — racing the dickhead clock to pick up Peyton before school closed at 6 — that a friend of mine killed herself the night before.

I’d known someone had died by the voice of my best friend on my voicemail and I’d had to sit through 3 agonizing hours before I had the space to call him back and then it was only as good as my moving car. “So, I got a call from someone I hadn’t talked to in a long time,” he said. I paused, waiting. “Sara killed herself last night.”

I blanched and tears sprung to my eyes which were riveted on the bumper of the car in front of me. This couldn’t be…

I sat transfixed, trapped in my car listening to the details, the how and the when. Dark and sorrowful details of her excruciating ending. Tears streamed down my face as I thought of her last moments, the days leading up to her decision to do this, her best friend and her boyfriend who were instrumental in getting her to agree to inpatient rehab.

Sara was my friend’s ex-girlfriend. A woman whom he’d dated twice, loved always, and she fought against life like a lioness. She suffered through traumas with willful force, falling hard first, but then always righting herself. Sunday night, her pain was so great it blacked out everything. Even the thought of her daughter’s life without her.

I picked up Peyton and through my tears had to explain why mommy was crying. I didn’t — couldn’t and wouldn’t — say how or why. We talked about mommies and death spirits. Then:

“Mommy, I want us to die at the exact same time.”

I pulled into my Parkin spot and cried some more. Took my baby’s hand and climbed the stairs home, thought about what to feed my child.

Eventually, I sat bound to the commode doing any number of very alive things while Sara was in the morgue, forever not being alive.

Peyton was fed and had been given the ok for watching TV. My baby hadn’t just lost a mother; my baby wanted to veg out.

So, I’d said ok.

With more space now, I cleaned up the dinner dishes and crawled into The Neighbor’s shirt he’d left the night before and tucked myself into bed and cried some more.

I cried because when I imagine the pain Sara must have been suffering to be able to take her own life it feels blacker than death, more sinister than evil. She loved her little girl with the force of the sun; fought for her, nurtured her, bore her into this world with inhuman strength under the watchful eyes of birth’s pain and chaos and fear. And yet her own gaping wound wiped it all out somehow. She was to enter rehab yesterday morning when her boyfriend found her, in a space she held dear surrounded by objects of love, alone. And I will miss her.

She was here in my house two months ago. Her baby and mine were caught giving kitten Faisal a bath. We all laughed as we scolded the children and they looked at us with big round eyes and pudgy cheeks, all innocence to the core. She and I had spent a lot of time together when our children were younger, our marriages intact, yet shaky. The night they left my home she and I made plans to get together again, hugged each other tightly and just assumed that day would come.

She was sober then, looked better than she had in a year. But apparently, it was just the calm before the end.

I dreamt of a tornado last night, in a dark, storm-ridden land. The funnel cloud was only barely visible in the distance against the charcoal grey night sky. TN was driving us to dinner, but when he saw the monster before us, he knew just what to do. He veered off the road and out across a wide prairie (because this was the safest place to go in my dream). He gave me blankets and helped me help others to safety.

Last night when I felt a hiccup in my sorrow I texted him asking him if he were around. He didn’t answer, he just came over. I could hear him and Peyton’s banter by the front door then he filled my doorway. “Hey,” he said and sauntered over to me. “How’s it going?”

I burst into tears as I told him about Sara. He rushed to me and held me tight while I sobbed, then came around and lay with me. He held me some more as we talked and I processed. He jumped when he remembered he had water boiling. “I’ll be back in 3 minutes.”

It was when he was gone that I realized what a salve he was to me, what a gift and opportunity. When he was back under me, my warm, furry pillow, I asked him if he would come back later that night after Peyton was asleep and remind me of just how alive I was, help me forget. He said he would.

Time passed and I kissed and read Peyton to sleep and let TN know when to come over, but warned him I was tender and needed tenderness in return. I felt shaky and uncertain if I was fit for company. He said he would do what he could.

And he did.

He kissed me like a man in love, sweet and soft. He told me I was filled with good things, a good person. He nuzzled me and squeezed my breasts and my heart was full and still and loving him so hard I thought it would burst because I had this life, this love, this baby across the hall, a world filled with people I knew loved me and a heart that sings with the sun and the moon and the stars and my heart cried too for my friend who felt nothing but blackness when there could be so much light, proof of an end happier than her own and then he parted my knees and sunk into my bloody body and he moved even more slowly while I begged and wept for the world knowing Sara would never feel the touch of her lover again, her daughter’s angel kiss, and I moved against him, surrendering myself to the moment of life and love and bliss and the one thing I can always rely on to remind me that I am alive.

And this morning, my heart is still with ache and love and sorrow. I don’t know what to think or how to feel. Do I go into work? What do I say? She was a friend I loved and had known for nearly 20 years, but we were orbital friends, not daily. Am I allowed to feel this way? So distraught and wrung out? I suppose I am because I am. I can’t help it. She was dear to me, an inspiration of determination and verve and now she is no longer, snuffed out like a candle. And by her own hand. It’s just so incomprehensible…

I hope she knows now how much we all truly loved her and that she has obtained the peace she was so terribly desperate for. She was so much more than this awful choice. She was a lioness. But apparently she was a sad and wounded lioness who took the darker fork in the road. It’s a reminder to always seek the light at the impasse. It’s there, somewhere. Always. And I will. I have no choice. I am lucky to not have that demon inside of me, I know. So very lucky.

I love you, S. May peace be with you, always.