Dear Nancy, A reflection on your birthdays.

Dear Nancy,

Today you are 52. It’s been 326 days since you died. I’ve spent most of those days trying to find my place in a world that no longer includes you. But I will spend today remembering all of the birthdays we spent celebrating together.

On your 36th birthday: I painted a huge banner that I put up in your dining room, I cooked my famous fried chicken (my parents paid for the chicken by the way), and while I was cooking I FORCED you to relax in a bubble bath. I was desperate to show you how much you mattered in my life. Later that year you helped me leave my abusive relationship. One of your strengths was loving me right where I was and never letting me think any less of myself for staying with him as long as did. You were my anchor as I escaped and my refuge once I was free.

On your 38th birthday: I arrived at your house because I needed a Nancy fix. We hung out and drank coffee. We spent most of the afternoon chatting and laughing. Then your Stepmom arrived and said: “Happy birthday.” And I thought – FUCK. I didn’t remember my best friend’s birthday. You were so sweet and understanding that it escaped my notice because you knew I was preparing to leave for my first year of college in just over a week. I had been so stressed about the change and move I’d been feeling random pain in my sides and I’d gone over to your house that day to alleviate some of my anxiety. And it did. That day I learned the depth of your generosity and kindness.

On your 45th birthday: We spent your birthday in Vegas! We drank and laughed and I used all of my gambling budget on the Sex and The City slots. Then at dinner at Hugo’s Cellar you left your phone in the bathroom and it was stolen. We used another phone to track it down and we ran around the streets of downtown Vegas with stomachs so FULL of wine we could burst. You kept sending the signal for it to “scream” so as to scare off the person who had it. When we finally reached the spot it was supposed to be we saw those 3 guys hanging out by a car and when we asked them about a lost phone they responded “We just lost a phone too!” You knew it was bullshit and so did I. We ended up going home without it only to call the restaurant the next day and find the phone had been turned into the lost and found. That night was crazy and hilarious and I LOVED watching you run after your phone like a badass. You were a badass every day of your life.

On your 51st birthday: You spent this birthday in the hospital. We all came to your room and hung out with you but I could tell you were uncomfortable. You generally didn’t like the spotlight and it was made even worse because you were in a hospital gown and we didn’t know exactly what was wrong yet. A few weeks later I bought you an electric tea kettle as a belated birthday present because you could no longer drink coffee. You were only allowed to drink tea and you were making it with microwaved water so I showed you how to best make tea. I knew that green tea was no substitute for your beloved coffee but I wanted you to have the BEST tea possible to make up for the difference. I wanted you to know you were not diminished by your illness. I wanted you to know that even if life changed that you and I would not. I wouldn’t treat you differently. I wouldn’t handle you with kid gloves or like you had a “FRAGILE” sign around your neck. I would love you right where you were – just as you had done for me.

On your 52nd birthday: Today. Today is hard. Today I want to cry and laugh and scream and sleep. I want to celebrate your life but I also want to mourn the loss of it. But today, mostly, I want to remember all of the things about you we all loved: Your humor, your courage, your ability to see people who are often unseen. Your passion and never ending quick wit that always had me on my toes. Your ability to quote movies you hadn’t seen for years and your ongoing quest to stand up to injustice.

Today I will remember all of these things and more. And I will raise my glass and say “To Nancy, one of the best humans to ever roam this planet. May you spend your birthday in heaven serenaded by Prince & George Michael while drinking copious amounts of coffee. And may you know that we are doing okay, but we miss you always. Happy birthday my friend.”

I love you,

George

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