My friend Margot lost her fight to breast cancer last weekend.
We weren’t currently in touch, and I won’t claim we were best friends, but Margot was one of those souls who made an impact on people. I am no exception. The last time I heard from her was in December. The cancer was in remission, and she was hopeful and happy. She was going back to school.
Then early last week, I noticed her friends and family on Facebook were tagging her in childhood photos with captions like, “We are sending you positive light; keep fighting.” Then a few days later, the posts became photos of fluffy puppies and serene ocean views with captions like, “We love you.” She wasn’t posting on Facebook herself, so I couldn’t be sure what was going on, but my gut told me it wasn’t good. I wrote my own words of love and comfort on her Facebook wall on Thursday afternoon and prayed for a miracle.
On Saturday, I woke up to the news: Margot was gone. People began flooding her Facebook page with their favorite photos and memories of Margot. It’s a bizarre age we live in, that I would give my final words to an old friend on social media, and learn of her passing on social media, and watch her life being celebrated on social media.
I met Margot during an important season of my life. My new husband had just been fired from the church he worked at, and our plans of doing ministry together were broken–which was handy timing in many ways, because I was already secretly in the midst of my own spiritual crisis. We packed our bags and moved from California to Boston for grad school, yes, but also for a clean break from our old lives. I was ready to figure out who I was apart from the answers I believed since I was twelve.
Margot was there on my first day of journalism class, red lipstick and pencil skirt and four inch heels that made her curves stand at attention.
The professor for this class was a sweaty, portly man who had spent his life stringing together gritty little crime stories for a metro newspaper. He introduced himself, and began pacing the room, shouting about the “gawddamn bloggers” who were ruining the industry. After class, I turned to this beautiful woman who I assumed wouldn’t want anything to do with a shoddily dressed girl growing out her pixie cut, and hesitantly asked her what she thought of the class.
“I don’t know, but it sounds like some gawddamn bloggers made fun of his lunch on the playground,” Margot said, in an inappropriately loud voice twice the size as her body.
Margot was like this always: loud, quick, constantly finding the most biting imagery to speak the truth. She was from the middle-of-nowhere mountains of Maine, loved huge dogs, and could talk NFL strategy with the sportiest of men.
Margot and my friend Meghan and I started to meet before class for breakfast sandwiches. We laughed together at the crusty professor who always wanted us to debunk something with our journalistic research. On the last day of that course, we went out for class drinks with another (more loved) professor and Margot accidentally ordered a drink with a generous helping of Patron in it. She sat quietly in class, her eyes glazed over, but would periodically squawk “PATRON!” loud enough to turn the heads of all our classmates. I caught the giggles and couldn’t contain them. We were very mature.
We began spending weekend afternoons shopping together. In the fitting room, the attendant would ask to take a picture of Margot and try to hire her to model the store’s fall line for Boston’s Fashion Week. He then would give me a side nod, and say something like, “that skirt actually looks good on you too.” I never minded. It was Margot.
Over the course of our Master’s program, we stuck together and helped each other through the strange assignments that student journalists scrape by on, such as the story about a broken elevator in the suburbs, the heated town hall meeting over water rates, the cop who claimed he was wrongfully terminated. I always knew I had to work twice as hard as Margot to write with the level of wit and sophistication she could crank out an hour before deadline.
Margot also stuck by me on a pivotal night in my spiritual journey. An amateur drinker, I had guzzled a few Long Island Iced Teas too quickly at the bar and the past that I’d been running from overwhelmed me. I blurted to my friends that I was backslidden. I told them about my old life, about the revivals and the suffocating rules. I told them I felt like I was losing my faith, but that I thought I still loved Jesus. Margot, a committed atheist herself, didn’t judge or project her own beliefs on me. When I got sick and kicked out the bar a few minutes later, Margot was the one to help me in my coat and drive me home.
Margot and I talked about faith several times after this. She listened and never jumped to conclusions. She talked about her own faith in humanity; her faith in love. Through her laughter and her non-judgment and her warm spirit, she helped show me how to live.
When people we love leave us behind, we crave tangible objects that remind us of them. During one of our last times together, Margot picked out a coat for me and used her employee discount at Bebe to get me an insane deal. It was a coat I’d never choose on my own: extremely fitted and double-breasted with a sharp collar and ivory-colored ruffles to my mid-thigh. But Margot insisted it was for me. I moved back to California for a job at a newspaper, and wore the coat on my first day of work. My new boss took me aside and asked me where I bought the coat; he wanted to buy one for his wife. I’ve had strangers stop me in the street and gush over it. I can’t wear it without turning heads.
It doesn’t button when I gain as much as five pounds, so obviously it doesn’t fit around my expanding middle right now. But it will again, and when it does, I will soak up the compliments and quietly pay them all to the person who deserves them.
You were taken too soon, Margot. You are missed.