Friday, August 11, 2006

Glamorous New Holiday--Ten years of remembering

When I was four years old, my parents moved to an apartment complex where my mom became the manager. I was sad because it was something new and I was leaving my friends. Granted, it was only a move across the street, but that’s just the same as across the country when you can’t cross the street without a grown up.

Anyway, I was out playing by myself one day when a chubby little girl with long brown hair and big brown eyes was shooed out the door by her dad. I suspect he’d seen me out there playing and was encouraging her to come and say hello.

She did, finally, and that was all it took. We were instant friends. And we did everything together from that point on. We were there for each other through both of our parents’ divorces and she was there to encourage me when my mom married my step dad.

But, with the new step dad came a move to another town. After spending the past eight years across the grass from my very best friend, it was unfathomable to imagine being a half an hour away from each other. It was hard, but we made the best of it. We called all the time and had sleepovers what seemed like almost monthly.

Then the big bomb dropped. My parents told me that we really were moving across country—to Virginia—and my whole world collapsed. It didn’t help that I was 13 at the time and my whole world consisted of friends and nothing but. I was furious. Did they plan on flying me back on a regular basis so I could see Heather? Or did they plan on paying for her to come and see me? The answer was—of course—no, but that they would try their best to get us together.

That was the worst transition period of my life! We wrote each other letters at least weekly, saying nothing at all, really. I cried all the time and I hated my parents. Typical, right?

But, once school started and new friends became pretty simple to meet, the letters came less and less often. She became active in student government, I became active in lying to my parents and hanging out with the wrong kind of people. We still wrote letters—but it became more like every month or so, turning less frequent as the year went on—and talked on the phone quite a bit. We started to move on with our lives, and being separated started to not hurt so bad.

After two years of living in Virginia, my parents told me that we were moving again—this time to Podunk, MN. I wasn’t as sad this time. Life had started spiraling out of control in front of me—I had gone from being a straight A student to passing 9th grade with a D average—and I was ready for the change. Plus, we were closer to California! It might be more conceivable to make a trip that direction! Heather and I were excited again, and when I first got here, the letters and phone calls picked right back up again. But, in the same pattern, as soon as school started, the letters diminished to hardly at all, and phone calls came about once every other month or so.

I can’t remember the last time I talked to her—it was somewhere around her birthday—August 4th—and we spoke for quite some time. The thing that I loved about her was that she was one of those friends that you COULD go for months without talking to, then pick up the phone and call and it would be like you had just spoken yesterday.

Then the phone call came that changed my life forever. At 11:32 pm on August 11, 1996 the phone rang. No one calls that late, so I knew something was wrong. I heard my mom answer the phone, and I went downstairs to find out what had happened. She was on the phone, and I just KNEW by the look on her face that someone had died.

“What, Mom? What is it?” I was frantic.

“Heather died in a car accident.” It was such a such a simple phrase, but it left me numb. I collapsed to the ground “No, no, no, no, no” echoed through my head. This wasn’t supposed to happen to people like her. People who were bound for greatness, who were funny enough to be on a good season of SNL. People who were smart enough to take on the world and win were not supposed to die in car accidents. That was a fate reserved for people like me that snuck alcohol out of their parents’ stash and only dated boys that smoked (smoking pot was an added bonus). It should have been me. I was always supposed to die before her. We had discussed this. I was older by 7 months, therefore *I* would die first. It wasn’t fair and I was pissed.

The next few days were a blur. Mom tried to help, but there was no money to go to the funeral. I had to sit here and wait for calls from my friends to get the run down. I spoke on the phone to her mom—who was like a second mom to me—and it was like talking to a robot. She was a wreck. I didn’t know how we would all make our way through this. But a conversation with one of my friend’s dad—who also was my pastor—helped a lot. I did a lot of writing. Things I wish that I had said. Good memories (like going to see La Traviata together). Bad memories (the time that she stopped talking to me for three days because I got her with a squirt gun). And everything in between. Writing had always been my escape, but it became the best form of therapy.

I still dealt with a lot of “I should have been there. I should have been the one driving. I wouldn’t have let this happen.” But you can make yourself crazy with the “what ifs”.

After graduation, I did finally get out there. I went to the library in Escondido, CA and searched the microfiche for newspaper articles. We drove past her old apartment. I did a lot of crying, but it felt good. Not everyone is blessed with such a good friend—even if it was for a short time.

Today makes it ten years since that day. I feel like I should be doing something. But I don’t know what. Life still goes on, and I still have to be at work. If I had my way, I would have flown out to California and gone to the place where it happened. I would have sobbed and prayed and sobbed some more.

But instead, I spend the day remembering my best friend. The girl who was there for me through more crap than anyone should be. The girl who loved me no matter what. And the girl who was going to be my roommate when we moved to New York City to pursue greatness.

And I ask you to help remember her too. I hereby declare August 11th Glamorous Redneck's International Best Friend day. Call your best friend—even if you can’t get together—and tell him/her how much you care about them. Because you never know when it’s going to be the last time you talk to them. Wanna participate? It isn't anything spectacular. Just let me know and post a link back in your blog. I want this to be HUGE! :)

Edit:Kat just made this cute graphic for me. Go ahead and use it if you want to! Thanks, KAT! :)

In memory of Heather Lynn Hanson, August 4, 1980-August 11, 1996

I love you and I miss you.


Bug said...

What a touching story, I've not yet lost my best friend so I'll get off my ass and call her today.

Every year on my grandfather's passing day I light a big white lily candle and let it burn all day.

the superstar said...

Kind of a coincidence, maybe...

I talked to a friend last night... and we've been going through a really weird transition phase since I left North Dakota in May... and one of his friends (his best friend's younger brother, actually) just died. I have no idea how... I didn't want to ask. But we definitely had the "i want you to know that no matter what, you've always meant so much to me" conversation... and that needs to be said every once in awhile. It's so sad that it takes tragedy for people to open up like that...

Tracy said...

what a touching story... takes a lot to share something like that, Carrie.

Thank you.

Big Sky Girl said...

Wow. Carrie, today is the bday of the girl who was my best friend in 5th grade -- the girl who was my friend when no one else would be. We also have the type of relationship where we can go forever without talking and then just pick up where we left off. I always have a fear in the back of my mind that something JUST LIKE what happened to you and Heather would happen to me and Kendra...

off to write a post about her!

Love ya bunches and bunches -- even though we've never met, you're one of my girls Carrie. I hope you know that.

.:kat:. said...

this is beautiful Carrie -- I just wanted to join in your celebration of friendship and leave a friendship prezzie for you -- it's in my sidebar --

huggin' you

Kal said...

That's very touching. Fortunately I haven't had to deal with losing a close friend yet, but I'll give them a buzz tonight for Heather.

Stacy Dawn said...


To real friends Distance means nothing. My best friend moved away over eight years ago now but our relationship is still as strong.

I called her just yesterday for no reason...then again, maybe you blog was the reason.

Lisa said...

What a touching post. How sad for you to lose someone so in tune with you. I have a couple of friends who I don't get to talk to for sometimes months at a time. Yet when we do it's like no time has ever passed. One phone call and we're back in time sitting on the river bank cooking up food stolen from our parents fridges lol

That's a lovely tribute to Heather, Carrie.

Thanks for visiting my site and commenting :)

Divalicious said...

wow this story made me tear up. Thank you for sharing. *hugs*

Anonymous said...

Your story really touched me... It is sad that we seem to need tragedies like this to remind us of what should be the easiest thing in the world - saying our loved ones that we love them.

Battlerocker said...

Touching tribute. I'm about to make some over due phone calls. Thank you.

The GurL said...

Your entry definitely gave me something to think about... And then it made me appreciate things in a brand new way. Thank you.

My post is here:

Tigersan said...

Very worthwhile read. Me be curious about what type of car accident (was it the other person's fault or road conditions?). It sounds like she was straight laced. Me glad my best friend is always a sneeze away. Thanks for sharing!

Kel said...

Big hugs to you sweetie. I know I'm kind of late on this but thanks for sharing your story. It was very touching.

I'm very lucky as I get to work with my best friend every day, but I don't take any of that for granted.