When I stood at the altar, the man I loved was standing on one side of me, and my best friend Lizzy was standing on the other side as my maid-of-honor. She'd done far more than the usual call of duty because my mother was dying and it was apparent to everyone that this would be her last event so Lizzy made it her personal responsibility to make this wedding as beautiful as possible in the three months given, rather than the originally planned year.
She recruited family members to make my gown, organize, make favors for and serve at my bridal shower, and professionally photograph the wedding and during this entire time, she consoled me because I was grieving for a mother who was slipping away by the day, while trying to encourage me to enjoy the upcoming festivities.
On that day, my parents' house was bustling with activity and there were three women in the guest room helping me get dressed while my mother slipped quietly into the master bedroom to dress herself, don her makeup and put on a wig. I had shaved her head a week before on Mother's Day because it had fallen out from chemo. It was such a struggle for her and she was a trooper and came out of the room looking stunning. In her hand she had a gold necklace, with stations of pearls, and slipping it into Lizzy's hand, asked her if she'd like to wear it. Lizzy was honored because my mother had been cool and distant and there was a feeling that she didn't approve of her, although she never voiced it. I think there was some 'not good enough' but I felt Lizzy was 'better than' so nothing was ever said to that end.
My sister, a bridesmaid, walked in and demanded to wear the necklace. She threw a tantrum especially since she was possessive of me and didn't want to share me with any female friend. In her mind, there was room for only one 'sister' and she often referred to Lizzy as 'that cow' whereas Lizzy, one of 12 children, knew there was more than enough love in my heart for many sisters and regarded Lisa as an annoying mosquito which only enraged Lisa, and amused me.
Lisa was born into my love, but Lizzy had more than earned it and my loyalty would not be swayed but this day, I was too distracted to intervene, and my mother was too ill, so Lizzy graciously demurred and said as Elaine's sister, Lisa should wear the necklace. My mother observed quietly and found the simulated duplicate in her jewelry box, which Lizzy wore with pride and my heart was full of love for both people most important in my life that day.
A few harrowing months later, my mother died, and I sat in frozen grief and an overwhelming feeling of being so lost and having lost my direction, my husband, nowhere to be found, when Lizzy arrived bearing food and staying with me and my family, watching me, fussing and feeding and making me feel loved even through that black cloud of emptiness. At one point, I sat down with her on my parents' bed and remembering my mother's wishes, slipped the genuine pearl necklace into her hand. Lizzy knew it was symbolic, that my mother had found her 'better than' and more than acceptable. In the end, my mother loved Lizzy as I did.
Over the years, we were sporadically in touch, always trying to make time, but time having a mind of its own, slipping through our fingers...we didn't see each other as often as we would like. She would always check up on me on the phone and we often missed each other. My love for her was steadfast though, and I referred to her as my 'butterfly best friend.' because she was always in flight, tending to so many in her vast extended family.
One day she called me and heard something different in my voice and insisted I tell her. I burst into tears and told her about problems in my marriage so she began to call me more often and left messages on my voice mail and Facebook, little things only we would understand, but meant she was looking out for me, even when in my pain, I couldn't reach out to her.
Recently, I walked away from that man who I stood beside and I felt more alone than I ever had in my life even though he'd been emotionally absent for many years. No matter who loved or supported me, I had lost myself and was a shadow of the effervescent person I once was and didn't know if I'd ever find her again but my friends, some of whom I hadn't heard from in 20 years began to gather and appear as if sent and then finally, Lizzy.
She demanded to know what had happened and I begged to see her, just to be with her would be healing and she talked to me all night trying to make me laugh and finally when I did, she said, 'THAT'S what I've been waiting to hear for FOUR HOURS!' and made plans to see and also help me move. She knew I'd have emotional support but I needed real action, real physical help and while a few wonderful friends offered and I knew they'd be true to their word, I knew it would be Lizzy who'd take charge of the troops. My spirit was broken but Lizzy said she'd personally see to it that Lainey would be back and because it came from her, who'd been there from the beginning, the little heartbeat of hope that my other best friends restarted, began to strengthen.
Last night, the phone rang while I was sleeping. My cell was in its charger in the kitchen and I didn't hear it, but when I got up in the morning to get dressed to see Catherine, my other true sister/friend, who was driving up to see me and make sure I ate, I checked the phone. There was only a number, no message, and it was Lizzy, and I called her to ask if all was well.
There was so much static on the line, I barely heard her but she assured me she could hear me well and I told her I was just walking out the door and she said,' I wanted to tell you what happened, really quick.'
She said, 'I lost your mom's necklace a while ago and couldn't find it anywhere. My niece, Jillian, just found it last night and held it up to me and said, 'She needs you.'. I said, 'What did you say?' Jillian, who doesn't know me, nor do I know her, said again, 'She needs you.'
My mother who has reached out from the grave, more times than I can count, went to the one person who knew would hear her and listen and it was then that I knew everything would be okay.