Sunday, September 06, 2009

To Nikki...from the heart of LadyLee

I have spent the week wrapped up in the thoughts and words of some of my blog brothers and blog sister this week, trying to find some comfort, some rhyme or reason to the passing of our friend Nikki.

They have written words and described feelings that are similar to my own. I've tacked their words up on the walls of the House LadyLee, and I have silently read them over and over again.

I, however, am not so eloquent. I am having trouble putting my thoughts on paper. They're getting caught up in the hard lump in my throat. They're drowned in the tears streaming down my face.

But I must figure something out...

In a few short words, I simply say...

Nikki... Man, I miss you.

I only met you in person a couple of years ago... maybe 2 or 3 years ago. All I know is I found your blog, where you dicussed some incredibly personal issues. I wondered how anyone could get THAT personal on blog, but you did it, and unabashedly so. You started stomping around on my blog soon after. I didn't understand why. My blog was smurfy, not popular, not delving into the erotic and tough issues like yours was.

You mentioned in a post that you'd moved to Grant Park and was getting settled in. I shouted out in your comment sections that I lived a mile away in P-town, and wanted to hook up at the track that separates our hoods. You never responded to me. I left you alone about it.

I kept stomping around on your blog, you kept stomping around on my blog... and so on, and so on, and so on...

I spotted your "sensual rhythms" email in the sidebar of your blog one day and took a chance in emailing you personally. Told you how I was a fan, and that we lived in adjacent hoods and I wanted to meet you. You responded, saying that you thought I was joking about meeting you.

Because you were a big fan of mine, and didn't understand why I, the "Great LadyLee", would want to meet someone like you...

(That had me seeing crickets... still seeing crickets over that one).

But we met in Cabbagetown, and talked about all things personal over big steaming plates of crawfish pasta. You were in the midst of making some huge decisions that you were just downright embarrased about concerning your marriage and I kept telling you, "Nikki, I know, I know... I know how you feeling, I can't judge you, because I've felt the same way, been through all that. If you ever need to talk, you got my numbers, I'll listen."

You told me that night after 2 hours of convo, that I was a cool chick, and that you were glad that I hadn't judged you.

That... that right there, was the beginning of a friendship. A seed was sown in the ground that day. Nikki befriended a nerdy Dr. Who would've known.

Terry told me the other night "Lis, you and Nikki had such a complicated relatonship."

Nothing complicated about it.

There were no judgments between us. When you take out the judgment factor, the masks come off. Fully supportive of each other's visions, no matter what.

I can count on one hand the number of people in my life who don't judge me.

And when I do that count, I stil have fingers left over.

I yearn for people who simply don't judge me. Oh yeah, I need people to do the right thing, and point out when I'm wrong, and steer me in the right direction.

But that is different from outright turning up your nose in judgment.

Nikki simply accepted me for who I was. And I did the same concerning her.

There is nothing complicated about that. Our friendship was what it was: real. In the purest sense of the word.

I got a chance to know a woman vastly different from the blogger.

And I, LadyLee, am better off for it.

This past week, my world just stopped. I didn't do the things I normally do.

I haven't sat on my sofa all week. That's because that's where Nikki sat when we watched basketball. We laughed and talked over dinner while watching her beloved sports on my living room tv.

I can't bring myself to pick up my crochet project which is laying on that same sofa. I just stare at it and walk away in tears.

I'm just remembering back to a year ago, when Nikki had come up on a crochet circle, and convinced me to join in. This was funny to me, but I met up with her anyway.

She had to deal with me pointing my crochet needle and whispering "The oh so erotic Nikki... knitting, knitting, knitting."

This was hilarious to me, because it was a different facet of Nikki I'd discovered. But it became our Tuesday night ritual, me crocheting, her knitting. It was a sort of decompression time for us, us discussing whatever was bothering us over such therapeutic activities... Conversations started over needle and thread that were continued over phone, email, or IM, until we could get together again the next Tuesday.

I have fell off on my regular reading all week, as I was geting something off of my bookshelf the other day and poet Natasha's Trethway's Native Guard caught my eye. I bust out crying because I remember back when this poet was to speak at The At.lanta Wri.ters Club. Nikki and I fought through awful Atlanta traffic on a Saturday to get there... I remember sitting in the back of the auditorium listening to Tretheway read and explain her processes. Nikki and I read along in my book, whispering back and forth the whole time about how amazing this poet was...

And I told Nikki later that I just could NOT believe that I was sitting next to Nikki, a world class poet, listening to Natasha, a world class poet, speak. The irony of it all just stunned me.

Nikki was a world class poet in her own write. I will never read a poem again and not think about her.

We shared so much, had so much in common.

Blogging was what we first had in common, but she shared with me that she didn't like blogging anymore. It was for the people, and not from her heart. I told her to stop if she saw the need to, for to acquire the praise of the people and lose the love for your own writing is a tragedy. If I was writing for people, the House of LadyLee would've burned down long ago. Hell, I didn't care.

She was my friend, I saw and talked to her whenever I wanted to. And she the same. Bump a blog. Go with the heart, man.

(And that was our inside joke: LadyLee was responsible for her blogging hiatuses. We don't really believe that, but we weren't telling anyone about that, either).

We had one thing in common, one that I wish we didn't:

Autoimmune disease.

She wrote on her blog a couple years ago that lupus was in her family. I timidly asked her about this in evening over dinner. I had various questions, that she didn't mind answering. I told her about my own lupus (and she was hot with me about not discussing it with her sooner).

This changed things between us. She noticed every little cough, every little thing. Back in March, I was dealing with some lupus related throat inflammation, and I had a coughing fit at her house and she kept squinting her eyes at me and hollerin' "Lee! Sis? Come on, Man!" I had to get on her, and tell her to stop worrying so much about me. I was highly functional, and just sometimes, I have a slight setback here and there, and that it would pass.

My nagging issues that crept up would pass. Nikki's did not.

The tides had turned, and she had to deal with me fussing at her.

The symptoms she was experienceing were the exact same I myself had experienced back in 2002. You do the right thing, go to the doctor and all. But when it comes to autoimmune issues, it takes going to several different doctors before you hit up on one who diagnoses the problem. I was told I had strep throat. Nikki was told she had mono... Both diagnoses were wrong...

And certain meds, like in my case, the antibiotics for step throat, exasperated my conditon exponentially.

I recognized it all... "Nikki," I said. "This sound like some lupus."

"Well, the doctor said blah, blah, blah..."

I left her alone about it. Things got worse for her. Had to read a bunch of stuff on Facebook. She was a bit tight lipped with me about it, didn't want me to worry.

I told her to get her referrals straight, because I was taking her to my folk: my doc is a pulmonary specialist and a critical care specialist. His wife is my immunologist. She so good that people fly in from other states to see her and fly on back out when they are done. (Never saw such logic in that, but I guess it is hard to find a good immunologist).

I told her how they got me better, how my doc later confided in me, (after I got better, learned to walk again, and went back to work) that I only had a week or two to live at the most.

She said that she had a doc that seem to know what was going on...

I left it alone.

It hurt so much to see her in the hospital, skin inflamed from this rare thing, this dermatamyositis illness, oxygen tubes in her nose. At one time, she had to leave the room for some tests, and I had to hold the wheelchair for her to get in. I picked up on her embarrasment, and told her "Look, you my girl. Take your time. If I could lift you up and carry you, I would. But I'ma hold this chair steady for you. Take your time, I got you."

She made it to the chair. She came back later, and we watched Law and Order together.

I stood at her board, trying to pronounce the name of the awful disease written in bright red letters.

She said something from her hospital bed later that day that made me think. I was sitting their crocheting, and she was talking to a relative that stopped by.

"I've had all this time to lay on my back, and I realize one thing: you not only have to trust God when things are good, but when things are bad. I have had a lot of quiet time to think on that."

I wrote those words on a mental post-it note in my heart. I NEEDED to hear the words Nikki spoke that day.

She got out of the hospital and went home. She asked me to come over for a family cookout. Of course I couldn't eat anything, with me being vegetarian now. Her family and friends are a trip, and I just wanted to be around. I took 6 dozen cookies with me. (Mama Nikki was HOT wih me behind that. Nikki wasn't suppose to have sweets. I convinced her that I brought them for everybody, and I don't show up nowhere empty handed).

Nikki was up in her Mama's bed. Her best friend Candice was laid across the bottom. I laid on the other side. Mama Nikki came in an threw us all out the room. ("Come on, now," she said. "Get out of my bed.")

I watched Nikki get up slowly and walk out of the room and down the stairs so she could sit with us all. She was moving good better than I expected... I was so proud of her, I told her later. It reminded me of my own quest just to go down the stairs and sit at the table in my sick days.

I just knew my friend was getting better. I loved getting texts that said "Sis, this was a good day for me. I had a good day."

The last time I saw her was August 20th. She'd been having some decent days, as i could tell by our convos. I went in her room and moved all the stuff off the bed. I kicked off my shoes, took off my clunky work badge, and laid down next to her.

We laid there and talk for a couple of hours. Old school music played softly on the radio. Our talk was reminescent of the first time we met, deeply personal, full of revelation. I always tell her that we all have long laundry lists of what God has done for us.

That night, she shared some things on her proverbial laundry list.

That night, I was there to encourage her, but she turned the tables on me, and she was encouraging me.

Encouraging me is not saying enough.

She ministered some things into my spirit.

She imparted some things into my spirit.

Looking back, she was fulfilling her purpose in my life.

She said some things I'd never forget that night. She and I have had more discussions than I can even count, but the one that night... was the most important we'd ever had.

She and I have prayed together over some of our problems in the past. I always told her "Nikki, when you pray earnestly about something, finish it up with some communion between you and God. Don' take much but a piece of wheat bread and kool-aid. Ain't no need to get all religious about it. It's what's in your heart that matters. God see your heart."

We've agreed to matters over a communion table of wheat bread and juice a few times. There was no need that night. She got on me about some things I was upset and dissappointed in concerning myself and my goals and actions. She set me straight that night. I didn't complain. I needed the chastisement, the correction from someone who knew me.

She got on the phone, and I drifted off to sleep. She tapped me with her fist, told me to get up and get out, go on home. She knew I'd had a fast and hard week. I protested.

"I ain't sleep, man!"

She told me to go on home.

I reluctantly got out of the bed. "Next time, I'm branging my own pillow!"

"Good," she said, her voice coarse and raspy.

She got up to go to the bathroom while I was putting on my shoes. She came back and sat down on the bed, gasping hard for breath. I just stared at her not knowing what to do. It reminded me of my pulmonary issues of the past, of how doing the smallest of tasks made me gasp for air like I'd just finished running a marathon.

She held her arms out to me, flapped her hands "Come here, sis," she said.

I dropped my stuff, went to her, and she gave me a hug. She kissed me on the cheek and told me she loved me, and thanked me for being there for her.

"I love you to, Nikki. And stop getting all mushy on me, man."

I got a little choked up, but didn't let her see. Kept yelling about bringing my pillow the next time I came over.

She text me to see if I'd made it home safely. I texted her back, and thanked her for the good girl talk, and told her of how it was good salve for my soul.

I lay in bed that night, said my prayers, thank God for that convo Nikki and I had. She said some things I needed to think about, some things I needed to hear. She confirmed some answers I'd gotten in my own recent prayers. I confessed good things over Nikki's life, asked that she get better.

I was suppose to spend the Friday before she died with her. She asked that we postpone because she wasn't having a good day.

I learned that she passed on Monday morning. I cried all morning. Pulled myself together so I could go on to work. Cried even more because the very same songs we were listening to on the radio at her house were playing on the lab radio while I did my experiments.

(King 2nd 68, you TOLD me to take a mental day. I should've done that, and found a bike so I could "stomp some pedals" like you did).

I ain't the type to get angry with God. He's done too much for me to be mad at him.

The Enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy, not God.

However, I am sad. And now that I have tried to put my feelings into words, I am thankful.

I am thankful that He allowed me to have a friend such as Nikki. Someone who didn't judge me. Someone who I didnt have to explain myself to. Someone who purely accepted me for me.

I can only hope I was to her what she was to me.

A funny thing happened when we moved our friendship off the 'net to personal.

Kinship. Sisterhood.

It is a loss, it truly is. I've been going through the rounds of looking at people, hoping I don't lose them. Is it the last time I will ever talk to them or touch them?

I'm looking a second too long at the rashes that marr my own skin, wondering if they will become critical and painful like hers. Whenever there's a slight tinge of pain in my problematic left lung, I think of pain she felt in hers.

I'm having to force myself out of this place where my feet are stuck, have to force myself out of not hearing from her each and everyday. No more texts from her saying "Lee, wassup...just thinking of you. Letting you know you're on my mind, and I love you." No more response from me hollering "Cut it out, Nikki!"

I will go on. I will do that the best way I can.

I better get busy doing it, on purpose.

A sentence in my life vision statement reads

"I am an incredible asset to my friends."

I ain't quite there yet. She yelled at me for thinking such the last time we were together.

Nikki taught me what that statemet truly means. I lost one of my assets, I did.

Nikki, I miss you. I know there is no more pain. You can breathe easy now. You can dance, sing, and write with ease now.

But I am selfish. I, and all those who loved you.

God thought so well of you and I that He allowed our paths to cross. If only briefly.

I add your name to my long laundry lists of blessings...

I learned something from your memorial service n Saturday: You had 38 good years, full of love, joy, laughter, family, friends, and LIFE lived to the fullest.

If people someday say half the things they said about you, about me? Well, it will show that I lived a full life indeed.

I know that we will meet once again on the other side.

I miss you and love you.

I will go on, with all that our friendshp added to my being.

Your friend...

No, your Sis....

LadyLee.

10 comments:

  1. To love is to know GOD. Truly.

    I am grateful for this post. It brings it full circle fo rme. It brings me closure. It brings me peace. I know you and I knew her. We are conencted forever and ever and ever and always.

    I liked her very much. She spoke to my courageous self. You are a kind and generous soul. I am glad to know you.

    If you don't know it I value you and your blog. I love that I can come here and read about your day and your life. I like that you are crafty. I love that you make these amazing afghans and you share them with strangers.

    I am grateful for this blogging family. Stay encouraged and stay hopeful. She is with you. She is grateful too for your friendship. Love does not die my friend. The physical body goes to rest but the spirit lives on and soars. We are so much more than this vessel called a body.

    Begin your crocheting in tribute to Nikki...let every stitch become prayer of rememberance. Do all that you love to do, that is how we honor those we love who have transitioned into the next part of the journey of life.

    Know and believe that you helped make her transition joyful and full. She was not alone. Your love was the lighthouse and she knew it.

    ...shower the people you love with love...James Taylor.

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  2. Anonymous11:18:00 PM

    Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing with us the blessings of your friendship as well as the pain that comes with goodbye.

    May everything that Nikki added to your life grow and multiply!

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  4. That was beautiful Lee. I appreciate your candor and I am so very sorry for your loss. I never knew Nikki like that and I wish I had. I lost a blogging buddy but you lost a true friend. Your sister. Continue to be encouraged because you know that she is smiling right now. She's no longer in pain.

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  5. WOW! No words...just tears...(snot and all).

    I've judged you...judged you to be a righteous sister. One of a kind.

    The lithmus test was a 12 year old who was in awe of my friendships and commented in her own 12 year old way that I had "some good friends" -- Out of the mouth of babes No better lesson than a real life version.

    That meant a lot to me...

    Snots on the keyboard now...blame you for that one... :)

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  6. your words are a testament to nikki's spirit. she had a tremendous loving and powerful soul. and I like you was proud to call her my sis. she and I related to each other on so many levels. the first time we met in person, it was as if we had known each other our entire lives. and each call, email, text or face-to-face was exactly the same.

    when Nikki told me what this ailment was, after being misdiagnosed those times, I hoped this would be the end of her pain and suffering. unfortunately she had to leave us for that. am glad she had the support system she did in you. you are a blessed sister!

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  7. Seems to me that you had the words all the time, you just couldn't get them out. I see you managed that just fine though.

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  8. Beautiful Lee! You've got me crying all over again...I could tell from this brief story that she loved you just as much as you loved her....It's a wonderful thing to have sisters who love you no matter what....Thank you for allowing us to see a glimpse of you and Nikki's friendship.....lylas

    Nikki...You were one special lady and we all were blessed to cross paths with you...We love you...and you will never be forgotten...

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  9. Wow this entire post was beautiful and I appreciate you for sharing it. I loved visiting Nikki's blog and reading the comments she left on my post. I didn't know her but considered her a blogbuddy. You were blessed to have an opportunity to meet her and become special friends and sisters. As you said, she fulfilled a purpose and helped you with some things. I am encouraged that God puts people into our lives for a reason and a season. Be blessed and I will keep you in my prayers.

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  10. *sigh*
    the power behind your post...I am so in awe. God is so amazing. There are no chance meetings or events, just divine appointments.

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Slap the *crickets* out the way, kindly step up to the mike, and SAY something!!