In her tear-jerker letter “What I Wish I’d Told You the Last Time I Saw You,” Denise Schipani admits a long-held secret, and offers an apology, to a friend who died.
“I’m still upset about the last time I saw you. I know, I know, it was more than a decade ago by now. And it’s taken me forever to apologize, but just know that all this time, I’ve not been pleased with myself because of it. I let you down. I haven’t even been to your grave yet, and I can no longer keep making the excuse that I’m here in New York and you’re buried way up in Maine, near your parents’ cabin and that lovely lake. I wonder if it’s because going to that part of the world–which is just so beautiful–makes me think of the nagging, not-so-nice reason I didn’t see you more, devote more time to you, at the end. When you were dying. When I last visited you, you were getting still more chemo, but this was not the same as your eight-months-earlier, gung-ho, all-guns-blazing, first try at kicking cancer’s ass. In that eight months, you’d already had several rounds of poisonous chemo, plus radiation, plus surgery, and the cancer’s ass was not kicked. When I saw you that January morning, you had received the news that new tumors were growing–in your lungs, in your pelvis. This was your last-ditch effort. I remember your face that day, exactly, like I’m looking at a photograph. You always had beautiful eyes–big, deep-brown eyes–and they only looked more intense and fierce in your thinner face, and without your lashes and brows. You said, ‘You heard?’ About the new tumors, about the dismal new diagnosis. ‘Sucks, right?’ In my dreams, you’ve forgiven me for not coming again. You show up at my wedding, wearing the short summer dress and pearls you wore to Chari’s wedding, and it doesn’t even seem out of place at my autumn reception. I’m always surprised, in the dream, to see you across the dance floor. I work my way through a sea of dancing guests to find you, to grab your hand. ‘You’re here!’ I exclaim. ‘You came!’ And you say, ‘Of course I’m here,’ and keep dancing…”
DENISE SCHIPANI became a writer in part because of Karen, the friend she wrote to in P.S. A former editor for such magazines as Bridal Guide, American Baby, Child, All Woman, and Zest in the U.K., Denise is now a freelance writer and editor. EDITOR’S NOTE: Many freelance writers were harmed in Denise’s shift from editor to writer, as Denise is a fabulous editor, sniff sniff, but it’s also been fun having her climb over to our side of the fence too. She’s written features, columns, and essays for American Baby, Parents, Parenting, Parent & Child, Redbook, Real Simple, Family Circle, Woman’s Day, Women’s Health, and The Washington Post, among others. She and her husband, Robert, are raising two sons, Daniel and James, in Huntington, New York. Read more of her work at www.deniseschipani.com and www.confessionsofameanmommy.com.
Read more of Denise’s letter, and 35 others, in P.S. What I Didn’t Say: Unsent Letters to Our Female Friends, now available on Amazon and bookstores nationwide!