A Tremendous Thing

Content Note: Death, cancer, grief.

Photograph of my best friend Maggie and me, sitting side by side in Disney World.

My best friend Maggie died. She had a lot of plans for her life, a lot of dreams never realized, and the cancer didn’t care. She died anyway. She wanted to be a writer and a mother, but her various works in progress will never be finished and her children will never be born.

I spent two weeks in a hospital room with her toward the end–eating and sleeping there, only leaving to shower and do laundry–and it still doesn’t seem real to me. It’s not fair. We had reason to hope. We had reason to look toward the future.

Now the future is pretty difficult to look at or think about. I won’t have my biggest fan reading any of my books and telling me whether or not I should be ashamed to share them with the rest of the world (she loved most of what I wrote, but knowing she could kindly destroy me and would only ever do so in utter honesty made her invaluable as a reader). How can I write when she isn’t out there to read it and it just feels like throwing my words into a void? I won’t have my confidante to talk to about every little thought that passes through our heads, to puzzle over the universe together and argue about religion and gush over fandoms. How can I live and enjoy myself when she can’t? She was suffering so much that I’m relieved she’s free of that pain and terror now, but my world is smaller and quieter and duller without her in it.

"Why did you do all this for me?" he asked. "I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you." "You have been my friend," replied Charlotte. "That is itself a tremendous thing." - E. B. White, Charlotte's Web

It’s been a month and a half since she died. I have books to write, plans to make, a life to live, and it’s like trying to crawl out from under six feet of mud. Yet I honestly think I’m about as well as I could be under the circumstances; this is a tremendous loss, after all. I know everyone who loved her is aching, but grief is still heavy even when the burden is shared.

We just have to keep going. Stopping in our tracks and letting the weight of grief crush us might be easier, but it doesn’t help. Giving into the guilt over living a life without her, or the creeping terror of mortality and loss, accomplishes nothing. Anyone who loved us, who is worth grieving, wouldn’t want that for those left behind. And Maggie is absolutely worth grieving. My sweet friend, who covered herself in rainbows and glitter, who fought for justice, who never dampened her own enthusiasm, who never thought any expression of genuine feeling was too corny, who collected stuffed animals all her life and refused to be shamed for how delightfully, unabashedly, beautifully weird she was.

How can I possibly dishonor her memory by not living as passionately and sincerely as I can?

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2 thoughts on “A Tremendous Thing

  1. Sweet Carrie, thank you for so beautifully honoring Maggie’s memory. You indeed gave her the greatest of gifts with and through the time you spent with her. A genuine you were and are to Maggie. The debt of gratitude, as a Father, I owe you can never be repaid. As I have opportunity I will love you as I loved her. Be well and write and then write some more… Maggie’s Father, Victor

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  2. Pingback: Hope | C.M. Stone

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