“I love how you go from zero to one hundred. And leave the dust behind.” Little Simz
Once, a girl I followed on Twitter tweeted that she just found out a close friend of hers had passed away. She said it was a sudden, unexpected death that happened weeks ago. But she had just found out the news. All I could think about was how close could the two of you have been if no one told you. Like always, the universe found a way to humble me. Because a few years later- I found myself in a very similar position.
I was on vacation at the happiest place on Earth when I received a message, “Hey, isn’t this your friend?” The message was accompanied with a screenshot of a RIP post. I had just gotten my first drink at Disney. The sun was beaming down. We had just finished riding the Mickey ride, and I laughed like a five-year-old child. Being there is like the commercials. There is a joyous, contagious energy that penetrates the air. But suddenly, that colorful world was thrown into black and white. It lost all sound. I did what we all do nowadays: I went to her Instagram page. She didn't have any new posts for the last two years. But other than that, nothing screamed that she was no longer here.
I went to her Facebook page, where people wrote condolence posts—then reached out to our mutual friend. He confirmed that it was real. But I still didn’t want to believe it. I was just with her a few New Year’s ago. She looked amazing. I know it was irrational, but I called her phone later that day. Instead of it going straight to voicemail, her Mom picked up. My heart nearly fell out of my chest. I didn’t know what to say to someone grieving the loss of a child. I felt like a jerk for feeling so entitled to call in the first place. But I was here, so I asked the typical questions: How are you? Are you ok? She responded with the most honest answer: No, I’m not okay.
I found myself stunned. I wanted to ask her what happened, but it didn't feel right. But she eventually told me herself. Sade, my friend, was doing good and then suddenly took a turn. "You should have seen how thin she got in the end." I didn't know what to say, so I asked what anyone would: When is the service? Where is it taking place? At some point in the conversation, I felt the need to explain the status of our friendship. I saw her two years ago at a game night she hosted. I went to her baby's first birthday party. I wanted to say, "Even though we weren't close, I still loved her.”
After I got off the phone with her Mom, I didn’t know how to feel. I still don’t know how to feel or if I have the right to feel anything at all. But that confusion didn't stop the montage of our crazy moments from flashing before my eyes. Us walking around Fairlane Mall. Us having dinner at A&W’s, then chasing my Dad’s car in the freezing cold. Her laughing at me dancing and rapping to My Band by D-12. She was the one who was next to me at the Fox Theatre when Omarion stepped on stage—confirming that the group that brought us together had broken up (seemingly forever). She didn’t say a single word. She just hugged me as the reality set in.
We watched Omarion bounce across the stage and cried our eyes out. Now that I think about it was fitting that our final moments together would be going to see B2K. It's funny because that was what initially brought us together in the first place. One day during second-period class, they came up in a conversation, and we immediately bonded. In the ninth grade, we were obsessed with them. Their poster hung on our walls. Our love of the group sparked the friendship, but after talking more, we realized we had much more in common. Sade was the first friend I ever had that was actually my age.
But like most friendships at that age with different schools and neighborhoods, we eventually grew apart. To be honest, we had a big fight. It was petty, extremely hurtful, and involved a guy. We made up, but things were never quite the same due to the betrayal. But our time together has made an everlasting impression on my heart. See, the thing about Miss Sade Dee is that she didn't have the typical teenage years. When I was worried about being liked by the cheerleading team, Sade was fighting cancer.
She told me on Christmas Eve in the 10th grade. I remember crying, not knowing what the hell any of it meant. I watched her go from having hair down her back to being bald. Her being confident and strong, with the quick comebacks. To her being tired and meek. I watched her already slim figure get thinner and thinner. But guess what? She survived. She fought cancer. Her hair grew, she got thick, and her life returned to 'normal.' Sade got engaged, had a baby, and lived to be the age of thirty-three. When B2K announced they were going on the Millennium Tour in 2019, she contacted me. I agreed we had to see them together. But if I'm being honest, outside of that initial excitement of seeing them back on stage. I couldn't take myself back to that young, obsessed teenager. I couldn't access those emotions.
It was as though my brain blocked out that part of my life, which would make sense since my teenage years weren't the brightest. See, Sade was the first friend who invited me to hang out at the mall and church. I met her family, and she met mine as well. But this was also around the same time I got kicked out of my Father’s house. During those dark years, Sade was a light. Even in chemotherapy, we always found a way to laugh and joke. What I find myself thinking about most is how hard it must have been to have this illness looming over her head. Did it force her to live more? Is that why she went to Vegas and ended up in the same house with the band we lusted over for years?
At the time, I thought she was going a bit overboard. But looking back at it, she clearly was determined to realize her wildest dreams! That was Sade. She chose to take risks, and it always paid off in the end. When I think about Sade, I think about a woman who was determined to live. I think about a woman who stared death in the eyes and said, "Not right now.” I think about a woman who willed her celebrity crush into her orbit. A woman who made the impossible possible by having a baby that the doctors didn't think was possible! I think of a woman who defied the odds— but also a woman who was complicated. Despite our false starts, we were practically strangers in the end. But the news of her passing rocked me to the core. It made me feel guilty for being in the happiest place on Earth.
But later that night, when the shock wore off. When the conversation with her Mom went to the back of my mind, I thought about how she lived her life unapologetically. Even with a death sentence looming over her head, she dared to live, and I vowed to do the same thing. The next day, I spent the entire day at Universal Studios, getting on rides, facing my fears, and having the time of my life. When I returned to the rented Jeep with sore feet and achy cheeks, I thought about her. I thought about her smile, fire, and will to live. Then, I closed my eyes and wished her a safe transition.
I am grateful that I got to call her my friend and I thank her for the final reminder that we only get this one life to live.
Do you know someone who has defy the odds?
What has their life taught you?
How have you applied that lesson to your life?