On July 20, it will be one year since one of my closest friends from high school died. She was only 41 years old, and was struck by a car on the Interstate after her vehicle broke down. Her name was Brandi Danley.
I moved from Fort Worth to the New York City area a few months before I turned 16, and though we tried to keep in touch, that connection faded as connections tend to do over time. In 2011, she found me again on Facebook, and we caught up about what had happened in the intervening 20 or so years.
Her life had been hard, and she had struggled for years with addiction and the damage it had done. She had dealt with struggles that I hadn’t had to deal with, and shared them with a matter of fact grace and admittance of responsibility that I couldn’t believe. She told me how proud she was that she was “responsible now” - and then confessed how much harder it was than she ever thought it would be.
We commiserated, we talked of old times, and the thing that struck me was how she hadn’t given up. She still had that spark I remembered, despite it all.
We chatted on the Net off and on. Then a period of time stretched that seemed too long and I searched in my FB messages to shoot her a message - and her account was gone. Our chats were “Facebook User”.
So, I googled, and found this:
After googling and recognizing the names of family members that posted in comments, I realized it was her. After what she had shared with me that she had been through and struggled to overcome, I was stunned at how grossly unfair life can be. I feel like she was just starting to find peace in her life, and it was ripped from her.
Other than some late night conversations, I didn’t know her well as an adult. We never met up again - there seems to be something about Facebook reconnections that lend themselves to staying on Facebook with promises of getting together at some distant point in the future, and for my former best friend and I, that didn’t happen (as I suspect it doesn’t happen for most people). I just never made the time.
Not only do I regret that now, I’m angry at myself. I could have made the time - for a couple of years of my youth, she was my closest friend in the world. We lived in the same apartment complex, and were inseparable then. She knew all my secrets back then, and I knew all hers. It was a short time, yet it was that time period that lives on in your mind forever as you get older - that stretch when you are young, and stupid, but feel invincible.
At the almost year mark of her death, I googled again, and there are hardly any remembrances of her. Just articles about her being struck by a car with hardly enough information to be sure it was her if you knew her. Nothing about who she was. So, I wanted to write this so there would be one.
She was, for a time, the center of my world. She was one of the most affectionate friends I had as a kid, free with hugs when she was happy and wrapping me in her arms to console me when I was sad. She was tough as nails at some times, and could crumble if her feelings were hurt. She was sensitive, and street smart, and her lack of impulse control made my mid-teen years one hell of a lot of fun though in the long run, they would cause her one hell of a lot of problems.
She was a really good friend, and was a really loyal friend, and deserved to find that peace she struggled so hard for.
I truly hope that she has found it now.