My friend Jennifer died the night before last. She overdosed on Sunday night and lasted on life support until Wednesday. I think I’m still somewhat in shock because I keep catching myself feeling annoyed and thinking—why is everyone insisting on being so dramatic. This is Jennifer. She’ll pull through. She’s the original warrior. At the end of the world, it will be Jennifer and Cher and the cockroaches left alive. We’ll be visiting her in yet another rehab next week. But we won’t.
They donated her organs last night. They said she had a fantastically strong heart, to have survived a massive cardiac arrest and then to keep beating on its own.
Jennifer was a study in contradictions. She was equal parts feminist and fashion victim. At her best, Jennifer was adventurous and beautiful and possessed of a wild exuberance for life. At her worst, you would have crossed the street to avoid her. But even at her worst, Jennifer was compassionate and kind.
There was a time in our friendship when Jennifer was a Sadie married lady with a condo and a job at a law firm and a kitchen full of wedding gifts. This was right about the time that I met Scott, when I barely had four dishes from the 99cent store, and I still had to look up things like how long it takes to boil an egg.
I knew immediately after meeting Scott that he was it. I decided to try to bring my game up a notch and I invited him over to my tiny Hollywood studio for dinner. Now, I had never in my life cooked anyone dinner, if you don’t count reheating. Jennifer was a fantastic cook. So, I went to her house and she not only taught me how to cook a gourmet meal, she also wrote out a shopping list and foolproof instructions that were so detailed they included exactly when to garnish the brownies with a sprig of mint. Then she filled up a crate with table linens and candles and dishware and everything I’d possibly need to set a beautiful table. The dinner was a fantastic success.
Now I’m the one with the monogrammed table linens. And the thing that’s been nagging me is that she had never even met my son.
Truthfully, I hadn’t seen much of Jennifer in the past few years because I hit that point beyond which I could no longer show up for our friendship. I couldn’t hang around anymore for the endless attempts at recovery and the endless lies. I know the story well because it was once mine. And when I was at my lowest, Jennifer was one of the people who showed up and talked to me and offered hope. And when I was miserable and newly sober and struggling to hang in there, Jennifer became my closest ally.
For years we were the kind of friends who talked on the phone every day and got matching tattoos and made-up names for our imaginary band. Which was all to say—we’re the same tribe, you and me. You are not alone.
And now I face the question every friend and family member who has ever pulled away from a drug addict faces. Did I do enough? Was I a good enough friend or was I lazy and selfish? And even if there was nothing more I could have done, would it have been worth it to keep talking to her if only to have a scrap of her voice to remember better now?
When I held her hand in the hospital, I looked at her tattooed arms and thought that I was holding my own hand. One different choice and that swollen hand would have been mine. I went home and curled around my sleeping child and soaked his jammie shirt with tears.
This morning someone woke with Jennifer’s heart in her chest. I wonder if she can feel somewhere inside her that she has been given a fierce and rare gift.
Jennifer was a passionate artist and a good friend, and she tried like a motherfucker. She really did.
You were glorious, my friend. Rest now.