Today marks 5 years we’ve had to live, learn, and love without Marissa. I say it every year – I don’t know how we made it this far. It’s a dramatic statement sure – but when you’re used to a routine, any break in it makes the future unclear. This is what happened to us when Marissa passed on. I was privileged enough to have her in my life as a friend for ten years, and we enjoyed elementary, middle and high school side-by-side. Marissa and I fought and cried and laughed and hugged…we made bets about boys and straightened each others hair and thought of lies to tell our moms about report cards. She was and is my best friend.
There were many reasons why I came to love Marissa so much, but the most impressive was her amazing ability to love without judgement, as well as her inquisitive mind. Marissa was always ready to forgive. She didn’t hold grudges. I’ll never forget in the 7th grade her and I had a falling out. For one week we gossiped about each other to our friends, but one day, I passed a classroom she was in. We caught each others eye – she was sitting at the desk closest to the door and like a reflex, I waved. I had completely forgotten we were mortal enemies, and I quickly and embarrassingly threw my hand down. But she smiled, with this surprised, excited look on her face, and waved back. And just like that, we were BFF’s again.
I think we can all agree that this life and all the experiences and emotions that come along with it are confusing. No one really knows WTF is going on. Sure we have religion and faith to help us along the way, but when someone close to you passes, you begin to question everything. I couldn’t comprehend or understand why it had to happen. And I still battle with those questions, and sometimes I still find myself excited to tell her news or gossip. Just the other day, I thought, “Oh Marissa is gonna LOVE this”. But its literally been 5 years and I’m still doing that? Pretty bizarre.
It’s this love and loss that fascinates me. The love I feel for Marissa and her legacy is monumental. Anytime I visit the beach and smell the salty air, anytime I see children frolicking in the sand, I feel her presence. In my darkest moments I’ll remember her. It hurts because she won’t be by my side for my first born, we won’t get our first Botox-injections like we planned, we won’t sit on a porch together and watch our kids play. Those dreams we had together and excitedly talked about won’t happen. But I can say with certainty that we had an amazing decade together, and that her presence and absence in my life taught me some tough lessons.
I gained an immense sisterhood from her passing. On her birthday and the anniversary of her death, a group of girls & I spend the day together. We were her closest friends in Los Angeles. We meet for dinner and laugh, cry, share memories of her. It’s a safe place for us to mourn together. It makes me believe in Divine Intervention; two friends Marissa introduced me to made a significant impact in my life. One coincidentally lived on my street, had two older sisters just like me, and ended up becoming my roommate at UC Irvine. She helped me through a hard time in college, and I’m certain I couldn’t have done it alone. Another is my best friend to this day. These girls are my support system, and it’s almost like Marissa never left, because her presence lives on through them. I thank Marissa every day for placing these individuals in my life.
Marissa, I miss you so much. There have been so many times that I was angry at God for taking you away from me. Sometimes I just want to fly to Georgia and cry over your grave. I want to immerse myself in our pictures and Facebook comments and text messages and wake up next to you. I miss the way your hair smelled. It was always fruity. I miss your skinny little fingers and your perfect manicured toes. I miss making you laugh – you were literally my favorite person to laugh with. I wish you didn’t leave but God is the best of planners. Please visit my dreams soon because it’s been a while.
The following is an excerpt from a poem entitled “Breathe” by Palestinian poet Deema K. Shehabi. It reminds me of Marissa and her presence:
People who sit by the sea
Find you there through the rough water.
Others see you in the faraway crescent moon,
Only to find you breakfasting at their table.
Some yearn for years
And suddenly catch you in the deepest edges of their children’s eyes.
I love you My Island Princess.