I was planning to share a simple recipe for my next blog post. I certainly NEVER expected I would be writing about the death of one of my best friends. Sometimes you are prepared. You know it is coming, like with my mom just a few months ago. It doesn’t make it easier to deal with, just less shocking.
Becky was only 47, the same age I turned just 6 days ago. How can she be gone?
What makes it even harder for me is that she was with me when it happened. Before I get to that, let me tell you about my friend.
I met Becky back in kindergarten. I moved around A LOT as a kid. My childhood wasn’t exactly typical, but that is another post for another time. I got so used to moving that I stopped trying to make friends at some point because it hurt less when we moved away. This was before the internet and cell phones and all the wonderful ways people have now to keep in touch. So when I moved away in 2nd grade we lost touch. I moved back to that school district in 9th grade and we connected again. Looking back now I can’t believe we even remembered each other. But we did and started making new memories. Friday night football games, 16th birthday parties, sleepovers, concerts, Tigers games at Tiger Stadium. We spent a lot of time together.
She headed off to college after high school, and I married my high school sweetheart. We fell out of touch again (still before the internet). I was busy being a wife and then a mother a few years later and Becky was taking classes and having fun going out to all of the places a young mom wasn’t able to. But after she graduated and moved back home she started coming around again. While I loved hearing her stories about hanging out at bars and clubs and all the fun things normal 22 years old girls do, she seemed to enjoy sharing my “boring” stories of being a stay at home wife and mother. She was thrilled when I got pregnant with my second daughter, this time she was around for the whole thing. We had a standing weekly date for dinner at my house where she would read to my girls, get down on the floor and play with them. They loved their Aunt Becky. She took them to festivals, libraries and parks. When my husband and I would go away for a weekend she would help watch them. We saw each other all the time in those days because we lived so close to each other and she had yet to start her own family.
That changed though when she met Jim. A good looking guy with a motorcycle and a badge. She was smitten and would talk about him all-the-time. She brought him around, letting me know ahead of time that she was watching to see how he acted with the girls, her “practice babies” as she liked to call them. He must have passed the test because it wasn’t too long before they were married. I flew off to Vegas for the wedding as her maid of honor. She was the happiest I had ever seen her. She wanted kids right away and unfortunately it didn’t happen for her as quickly or as easily as she wanted. I was scared to tell her when I got pregnant with our third child. I was worried she would hate me. And while it may have been hard for her at first, she was right there for me the whole time. She treated Jack just like she did my girls, like one of her own. She did end up having her first a few years later and I was there with her for it. A beautiful girl she named Elizabeth. She loved being a mom and the kids and I would visit often.
Then I moved an hour away and we weren’t able to see each other as often anymore. But by this time thanks to internet and cell phones we did keep in touch. We would occasionally go away for much needed weekends, just the two of us. Mackinac Island, Lake Michigan, Frankenmuth, etc. I treasured those weekends. I was lucky enough to be with her the night her twins were born as well. I drove down in a snow storm because I wasn’t going to miss it. Abigail and Evelyn came into this world and Becky’s family was complete. As my kids were getting older and starting to get involved in activities and Becky’s kids were so young, we weren’t able to get together with the whole families that often. She and I would sneak out for dinner and movies. She, Jim and the girls would come out for our big summer parties. Our friends circle grew bigger and there were weddings, baby showers, Tupperware parties, birthday parties and of course our girls weekends. Typically 6-10 of us would get together once or twice a year at different locations for a weekend of games, drinks, laughs, food and a lot of fun.
Becky had a huge heart and it showed in everything she did. She made it to almost every community theater play my family was part of. She came to baseball games, school concerts, birthday parties, all 3 of my kids graduations. She cried along with me when we watched my daughter try on wedding dresses and again when she walked down the aisle. She was also VERY involved in the Susan G. Komen 3 Day walk. I did it with her twice, once a walker and once as crew. I have no idea how she did it year after year. She was a walking beast! And when she wasn’t walking she was supporting her fellow 3 day Friends. Her focus turned more to helping with her daughters activities in recent years, as tends to happen with active kids. Girl Scouts, music lessons, track. But she always made time for her friends.
And that leads me to last weekend. We now live 3 hours away from the core group of my friends. As those of you that have read my blog from the beginning know, when our youngest graduated we moved north to a sweet little lake town that we fell in love with a few years ago, East Tawas. We have a small place in the heart of downtown that we absolutely love. And we love to share it with our friends. So I put together a girls weekend right here. Where better for a fun summer weekend than a beach town?
Everyone got here Friday afternoon in good spirits. Becky had picked up some sand pails, candy and pretty bottles of water in anticipation of going to the beach. We had a great dinner, walked out to the state dock and took some group pictures. On the way back Becky stopped for a blue slushee that turned her tongue bright blue and she was amused by that for the next hour. We played some games, had some drinks and stayed up til about 1:30 talking.
Saturday morning Becky wasn’t feeling great when she woke up. Not sure if it was the wine coolers, not enough sleep, standing up too fast or “old age”. She opted to stay back while they rest of us went hiking and exploring. That was not that unusual. Often during a girls weekend one of us had a headache, cramps, stomach problems and stayed back to nap or relax. She seemed better that afternoon and we hung out for a few hours. She again opted to skip dinner out with us in favor of leftovers, a book and maybe a nap. She was good when we got home and was chatting away til 2am.
Sunday was a gorgeous day. Our plan was to clean up, do a little shopping in town and the relax and just hang out that day. It was a quiet morning. I was cleaning and getting the house back in order, the rest of the gang was having breakfast, talking and starting to pack. Carolyn and I had decided to check out a few stores and were down the block when we got the call from Michelle that Becky had gone into the bathroom and said something was wrong. She was breathing hard and panicked. She hadn’t taken her anxiety medication the day before and we wondered if that had anything to do with it. She had also mentioned feeling like she had a panic attack earlier in the week. I could hear on the phone the debate about calling 911. Becky didn’t think she could walk down to the car but went back and forth about needing to call 911. We overruled her and called anyway. From that point things happened quickly. The paramedics arrived and worked on getting her to control her breathing and let them take her to the ambulance. Meanwhile the 4 of us are deciding who is going to follow her to the hospital. Barb had already called her Becky’s husband so he knew what was going on. We decided Michelle and Barb would follow the ambulance while Carolyn and I stayed back and got Becky’s stuff together. We figured it would take a few hours for them to run tests and get Becky’s breathing slowed down to a point where they would release her and by then Jim would be here to drive her home. I wanted to have her things ready for him. At this point we were all worried but not thinking the worst. About 10 minutes later Michelle called saying that the Dr said her heart had stopped and they didn’t think she was going to make it. Carolyn and I were thinking that can’t be Becky they are talking about !! We were at the hospital 5 minutes later and within a few minutes the doctor came and broke the news. Her heart had stopped and despite all their efforts they couldn’t save her. He suspected she had a blood clot that had moved to her heart.
We were all in shock. How can this woman whom I have known since I was 5 years old be gone? What the hell just happened? The 4 of us went back to say our goodbyes but all I could do was cry. We sat in the family room for 2 hours trying to make sense of what was happening. We made the horrible phone calls to let people know what had happened. Eventually my friends had to head back home. Chad and I met Jim, their daughters and her mom at the hospital that evening when they drove up. That was one of the hardest moments of my life. Her mom hugged me so tight. And her husband thanked me for being there for her. I had no idea what to say. All I could think was….was this my fault? Should I have realized something bigger was going on? I felt so responsible. It was MY idea to have this girls weekend. She should have spend her last 2 days at home with her family, not with me. Was this really happening ?!?!
It’s been 3 days and I am still asking myself those questions. Monday I was mostly comatose. I cried on and off all day and didn’t leave the house. Tuesday I managed to shower and make it to the grocery store. Today I am hoping to maybe get out for a walk. Becky’s husband and wonderful sister in law have been keeping me involved in making the arrangements and I am trying to help where I can. It’s not enough though. I keep replaying the weekend over and over again in my mind and playing the “what if” game.
I get sick to my stomach when I think about the fact that she won’t be there for her own kids graduations and weddings. She won’t get to be a grandma. That she won’t be there to celebrate the big 5-0 in a few years with our friends group, that she won’t be there on the next girls weekend.
I have been through loss and dealt with grief. But I was not prepared for this. I don’t know how to process everything I am feeling. I love you and will miss you always Rebecca Ann Halley Starks.