I was in search of a particular photo. I looked through old photo albums, my computer, my phone and my Facebook photos. I could not find what I was looking for but I did find something else, something that stood out to me as clear as day – the line that divided my life into “before” and “after.”
Looking back over years of pictures on my Facebook page, there were two back to back photos from 2011 that jumped out at me. The first was dated September 8, 2011, and the second was October 21, 2011. Strangely enough, both photos were with the same group of people - my oldest and dearest friends - the women I grew up with and love. The first picture was from my friend's son's Bar Mitzvah. The second was the group of us standing outside my house.
Both are great photos that show the love and friendship we share. But in the short period of time between the two pictures, my own life fell apart. On October 9, 2011, my husband had a sudden heart attack and died almost instantly.
When I look closely at myself in each picture, I can see the difference in my face. Although I am smiling in both photos, I look truly happy in the first picture while in the second, the stress on my face is apparent.
I remember both of those days very clearly.
I remember the fun I had at that Bar Mitzvah. My friends and I had all traveled from near and far to be there. I remember loving the purple dress I wore. I remember how happy I was to see my friends when I walked in. I remember the group of us dancing on the stage together. I also remember searching the dance floor for the mother of the Bar Mitzvah boy so we could take that picture together.
I also remember the day at my house – just 43 days after the Bar Mitzvah, and only 12 days after my husband had passed away. This time these friends traveled from near and far for a very different reason. They came to “occupy” me, to do whatever they could to take my mind off the nightmare I was living in. We ordered in lunch and ate at my kitchen table. We talked about old times and they did their best to make me smile. Right before everyone left, we all stood on my front lawn and took the picture.
Two occasions that were so close in time – one happy and celebratory, one sad and difficult. Both with special friends.
True friends are there for each other in both good and bad times. I have known the women in these pictures since I was a little girl. There is something about these lifelong friendships that warms my heart. When we are together it is as if time has stood still and we are 16 years old again.
It is fitting that these friends are with me in the photos that represent my “before” and my “after.” We are all 50 years old now. In the long time that we have known each other, there have been many “befores” and “afters” for each of us.
Life does not move in a straight line. There are many twists and turns along the way. Different people come in and out of our lives. My life took a drastic turn which will forever divide it into before and after. Whenever I think of an event in my children’s or my own life, I think of which category it falls into. I’m not sure if I even do it consciously, it just happens.
Sometimes when tragedy strikes, the people in our lives tend to disappear after the first week or so. I was told this might happen to me, that friends may not stay around for the “after.” I believe that I have chosen my friends wisely because this did not happen to me. Most of the people in my life not only stuck around, but stood by me in ways I could not have imagined. I will always be grateful for this. I could not have gotten through my “after” without them.
Luckily, I am happy to say that my life has moved into “after the after.” My darkest days are hopefully behind me and life seems a little brighter again.
Looking at these two photos reminds me of something that I need to always be conscious of – to be there for someone else’s “after.” As life moves forward, we learn things along the way. I have learned how difficult the “after” is, but having good people in your life who stand by you can make this time a little easier. I will always remember to do the same for those in my life. It just may help them reach their own “after the after.”
Looking at more recent photos of myself with my childhood friends, I can see the brightness in my face again. It could not have gotten there without them.