I was the new girl in 8th grade. My family had just moved from Hyderabad to Chennai in the Southern part of India. It was an all girls school and my 8th grade class had quite a few cliques in it. Around half a dozen groups of 3-4 girls, whispering, giggling, and gossiping. I never really felt like I fit into any of these groups, I had my own set of issues going on I guess.
Leaving my besties from my previous school, St. Anne’s, in Secunderabad was proving rough. I had been there for three years, 5th through 7th grade and had made really great friends. I really really missed them. Thirty years later, I am still connected with the friends I made then.
Now in the new school I felt awkward and didn’t know how to relate to an entire new class. I took the route I knew best, I pretended to not need friends. But the entire time I was longing and hoping that someone would want to be my friend, laugh, giggle and play with me too. I really missed laughing and was beginning to get pretty lonely. I never had the courage to reach out to anyone until one day, Sharada came up to me and said hi.
She was a sweet girl in my class with an impish smile and dry sense of humor. She was smart and funny and like me was also not a part of any of the other groups. Somehow she spotted me and decided she was going to be my friend. She made me smile and laugh with her stories and jokes. Every time I think of her, I can still see her smiling face and dimpled cheeks.
A year into our friendship I found out that Sharada wasn’t well. She had missed her mid terms and wasn’t going to be back in school. And then one day she re-appeared and I found out that Sharada had been going through chemo-therapy. The doctors had found cancer in her bones. After her treatment she came back and was in school for sometime and then dropped out again when her cancer came back. When school started the following year, she was a year behind me as I started 10th grade and she had to repeat her 9th. I would go over to her house and spend time with her, bring her homework from school. But slowly because of her deteriorating health we had less and less time together. This was in the 80’s. Communication wasn’t like it is today.
A couple of years later on my first day of college I received news that Sharada was gone. I never shared the pain and grief of her loss with anyone. I just remember walking into school with a lump in my throat. No one knew, not even her, what she had meant to me. But somehow I felt like she knew I needed her. In my lonely days as the new girl in 8th grade, she had been a ray of sunshine, laughter and joy. I never got to have the many years of friendship with her, but the year I did have with her was as important to me then as it is now and to this day fills my heart with so much happiness. I can still feel her presence right here next to me. My hope is that one day by some miracle I will be connected with her sisters or parents to celebrate her life and the happiness she showered on us during her brief time on this planet.
When I think about Sharada I wonder if she knew how much she meant to me? Granted I was just thirteen then, but now, as an adult it makes me wonder whether I say I love you enough? Do I let the people who mean a lot to me know that I love them?
Life is busy and time seems to be passing by faster every year. Although there is absolutely nothing we can do to change our past and we may have missed some important opportunities, we can make a conscious choice to tell those we love how important they are to us moving forward. I would like to be more connected when I listen to others, be more present when I speak with someone, make more eye contact, remember to breathe and slow down when I am with my children, husband, friends and family. As Simon & Garfunkel sang in Feeling Groovy, ‘slow down you move too fast, you’ve got to make the moment last.’ And it is the moments that we remember.
Have you lost someone that was important to you? Did you get to tell them how they made a difference in your life? Share in the comments what you would do different moving forward in your life.