I’m writing you a letter from the front pew.
The people around me are crying.
I look at them,
and I wonder whether I should be crying, too.
Everyone expects me to be the one girl
monopolizing the Kleenex box
as she tries to write a coherent, cohesive letter
to a friend who changed her life,
a tear-stained, tell-all, pour-your-heart-out letter
saying everything I never told you.
But mostly, just to say “Thank you.”
I think my dry eyes are a product
of my belief that,
at any given moment,
we’ll all turn to see your smiling face,
hear your every-bit-as-smiling voice,
and dry our eyes.
That’s just the effect you’ve always had on people,
And now I’ve joined the weeping bunch,
because I’m remembering.
I know that voice, I’ve seen that smile,
I remember your scent
and the exact tightness of your hugs.
I was thirteen when I met you.
You were sitting in a canvas chair,
you wore a bandana
because you didn’t have hair.
I was skinny and pale and depressed,
I’d barely left my room in months.
But when I talked to you,
I somehow knew
that at least one person cared.
Claudia, you said
how amazed you were
to see the changes in me.
I saw them, too,
and I saw that you had hair now.
Dark, thick curls like mine.
I thanked God—
—something I had started doing more often lately.
I really was different.
I never saw you lose your hair again.
I don’t even remember the last time I saw you.
I never told you that you saved me,
but you didn’t care whose handiwork it was:
you were just happy to see me happy,
and that made me happy to know you.
I think that’s why,
at your Mass,
I’m more grateful for you
than sad about missing you.