Tuesday, February 7, 2012

As I walked the streets of Asheville this weekend...

...other things weighed heavily upon my mind.

When I first met Rachel, I was about ten years younger than I am today. I hadn't been out of high school very long and was moving into the last vacant apartment in her building. By the looks of things, everyone else that lived in the complex were already friends...or worse in my narrow young mind: fraternity brothers and their sweethearts. When I looked at my roommates: a gothed-out metal-loving boyfriend and our chain-smoking tattoo-artist friend, I had visions of being chased out with pitchforks.

I had bright pink hair; Rachel was a blonde.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, that pretty little blonde and all of her friends would not only accept me into their apartment building, but their lives entirely. We fed each other and borrowed items from each other's apartments without question. We took vacations together as families would. When one of us went to war overseas, we were all huddled together on that tiny front stoop in the snow, waiting for him when he finally pulled into the parking lot a year later.

Rachel lived directly across the hall from me. Our boyfriends both worked a job that kept them away from home Monday-Friday, so she and I spent many a day and night keeping each other company. We took turns driving to class every morning and enjoyed more than a few margaritas at the local mexican restaurant after our night classes let out. We formed a bond that I never could have expected.

And then a few years down the road, we had a falling out. The origins were ridiculous, but we were both incredibly stubborn so the grudge hung around much longer than it should have.

In 2009, one of our group lost his fight against brain cancer. His death unraveled me completely but managed to bring Rachel and I back to each other. I remember seeing her from across the funeral home, silk scarf covering where that blond hair should have been, looking thin from the treatments she had endured. Then our eyes met and we walked across the room, held each other and said nothing.

Rachel was one of the most driven people I've ever known. After completing her undergraduate studies, she went on to law school, just like she said she would (man, could that girl argue). She married a man she had loved for so long, and even after countless tragedies: discovering the breast cancer, her husband's health problems and subsequent surgeries, losing everything in a house fire...she continued on, stubbornly and gracefully.

On the morning of February 4th, Rachel left this world. My heart aches at the loss of my friend and sister. I am fortunate to have known her and am thankful that she twice passed an olive branch to me: once when I was no more than an immature and insecure young girl, and again as a grief-stricken woman. I can only hope to one day have a fraction of the strength that she possessed.

I miss you already...I (will) miss you always.

Rachel Almond-Kirkham
December 10th, 1981 ~ February 4th, 2012


  1. Kylene,
    I sincerely feel sorry for you and for this. I can't imagine how you feel, how her friends feel, her family.
    I love what you've written here, a perfect account of your friendship.

    Life really is so incredibly short.

    Know that I think of you often and always hope you are well.