Thursday, September 10, 2009

Friendship Bracelet

I thought of Kendall today.
I had been cleaning out my closet, when I stumbled upon a small wooden box. Briefly my throat tightened as I remembered exactly what was in that tiny box. Slowly I opened it, revealing Kendall’s bracelet. A hot tear slid down my cheek as I sat on the floor of my closet, staring at the faded strings on the bracelet, which at one time had been had been so vibrant and colorful. Time slipped away as the memories flooded back to me.

******
I met Kendall the year I turned thirteen. It had been a hot summer and I was grateful for my family’s cabin on Turner Lake. Typically, I would spend most of my waking hours basking in the sun and then cooling off in the lake.
The day I met Kendall, I had spent most of the morning on my bike, perfecting the stunt that was sure to impress the boys across the lake. At noon, I realized I was hungry and ambled my way back toward the cabin to see what mom had fixed for lunch. I was almost to the front porch, when I saw her. She was sitting on the dock with her bare feet dangling off the side, making small splashes in an otherwise motionless lake. She was a scrawny little thing with wild brown hair blowing in the wind. She had this pensive look on her face, as if she had some heavy burden on her shoulders.
Always one to make a new friend, I walked over to her.
“Hi, I’m Molly,” I said quietly to her.
She looked up at me, smiled, and replied “I’m Kendall.”
I removed my shoes and sat down next to her, my toes in the water identical to hers. “I’ve never seen you here before,” I said. “I come here every summer with my parents.”
“No,” she almost whispers, “This is my first time. My parents thought it would be good for us to get away from the city for a while.”
We talked to each other for hours that day. By the time I crawled into bed that night, I knew more about Kendall than I did any other friend I’d ever had. She told me of her family, her friends back home, and then she told me of her cancer. She told me of chemotherapy and of being sick most of the time. She also told me that one month earlier, she chose to stop her therapy. But of everything she told me that day, the word incurable is what stuck out most in my mind. Even at the age of thirteen, my heart ached for this girl.
The rest of the summer we were inseparable. We spent every possible moment together. We spent our mornings fishing, our afternoons swimming, and we spent our evenings lazing in the hammock listening to the crickets play their songs. We talked about everything and nothing at the same time.
Before we knew it, summer had come to an end. Kendall was staying at the lake for another month or two, but I had go back home. Mom said that she and dad had to return to work and that I had to go back to school.
I remember that last day vividly. We were both in tears as we hugged each other fiercely, afraid to let go. Before my parents dragged me to the car, I told her she was the best person I knew and that she would always be my best friend. I told her that I couldn’t wait to see her next summer, but I knew in my heart that I would never see this girl again.
Two months later, I received the letter in the mail from her parents. She was gone forever. The cancer had taken my best friend from me. Even though I knew what cancer was, and what stopping chemotherapy meant, I was still unprepared for the emotions that assaulted me. I was desolate. For weeks I was inconsolable and I know my parents worried about my grades, having just started the school year. But I just didn’t care about it. I wanted to see Kendall, just one more time.
With the letter from Kendall’s parents was another envelope, which according to the letter was from Kendall herself. Finally, after waiting four weeks, I felt ready to open it.
Inside, was letter and a rainbow colored friendship bracelet. According to the date on the letter, it was written only two days before she died. The letter was brief, but it said all it needed to say.

Dear Molly,
Thank you for giving me the best summer ever. I just wanted to tell you how much this summer meant to me. You turned my last summer from miserable to wonderful, and I want to make sure you know that. I know that we’re kids and we’re supposed to just play and have fun, but I’ve learned something from having cancer and I want to share it with you. Always, always, love every day and never waste a second, you’ll never get it back.
Love,
Kendall
P.S. I made this bracelet for you, I hope you like it.


*****
Wearing that bracelet has always made me feel close to Kendall. Anytime I was having a bad day or was feeling sad, I would rub the soft threads in the bracelet and think of her I would remember the words in her letter and my worries would fade away. I promised myself that I would always do the one thing Kendall ever asked of me; to live every second.
I still have that bracelet, some twenty-odd years later. The threads are too fragile for me to wear it anymore, but it’s always close by. Even now, it provides comfort to me when I need it most. When I’m feeling weak, I just think of that scrawny girl with the wild hair who showed me the real meaning of strength.

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