Monday, July 20, 2009

Rachel and Derek

I am beside myself with sadness, grief,and disbelief.

My good friend Rachel, her husband Derek passed away on Saturday. He was 35 years old. And as I type this, I'm still not believing it's true. It can't be.

Rachel and I went to high school together, but we became good friends after it was over. We used to spend Saturday mornings working together at this little dry cleaner in Milford.

With nothing to do but tag clothes, we talked about our lives. It wasn't too long into our Saturdays that Rachel mentioned she'd met a guy, Derek. They met classic with a twist.

At a cheesy dance bar in Waterford that we all used to frequent. But Derek was a bartender and Rachel was a coat check girl.

She told me later, he knew that night that he wanted to marry her. They dated and they really just seemed to click. I remember Rachel telling me the engagement story. They'd had dinner at home. Derek then pulled out the ring, and asked Rachel to marry him.

Typical of us females she started crying and immediately said yes. The part of the story that stuck out and still resonates, is that Derek asked,

"Aren't you going to look at the ring?"

To which Rachel replied, "I don't care about the ring."

It was classically beautiful and elegantly simple.

Our talks turned from dating to wedding plans.

At this point, Rachel and I were close but I wondered if she'd invite me to the wedding. As I'd wondered this one Saturday, it turns out Rachel was waiting to talk to me in person.

She not only wanted me to be at the wedding, she wanted me in the wedding.

I was so honored to be included in such a grand manner, and it was my first time I'd ever been asked to be a brides maid.

You've heard of Bridzella? Rachel was the complete opposite of this. She went out of her way to make everything go as smooth as possible. And it was dress shopping that I first met Derek.

For some reason, when I get nervous I tend to swear a lot and this particular day, I kept swearing. So Derek started giving me a hard time and telling me, I better not swear at his wedding. After that, the two of us were off and running.

I quickly learned this is how Derek expressed himself to people he liked. On their wedding day, a guy at the bar, asked how do you know Derek?

I replied, "He just married my friend Rachel." I still have fond memories of cruising around in the Hummerzine, after the wedding. Rachel and Derek were married on the day of the Woodward Dream Cruise, so it was chaotic good fun.

And Rachel being the friend she is, wanted to make sure I would be able to get home from the wedding the next day. You see, I had a horribly old and unreliable car.

I'm guessing that's how I ended up riding back from the wedding night with Derek driving, Rachel upfront and myself and Derek's dad in the back seat. (this was the next morning).

I endured more teasing from Derek. Something about crashing his wedding night, but I knew by now he was being sarcastic. I think you either got his humor or you didn't.

Rachel and Derek moved to Royal Oak and about this time, I went to Atlanta to go back to school.

Rachel and I stayed in touch and visited whenever we could, whenever I was back in Michigan.

By the time I'd moved back to Michigan and later, Royal Oak, Rachel and Derek had two kids, a girl and a boy.

Oddly, I ended up living only two miles away. I was invited into the family fold. Birthday parties, dinners, barbeque's on the deck in the summer. And it was nice.

I enjoyed the feeling of family and togetherness whenever I visited the house.

Sure, it was crazy with lots of commotion and constant movement, but the feeling that resided above all of that was a unified family and the love, affection and teasing they all shared, together.

And I was always welcome. It was sure nice for me, since I'm single and sometimes it was nice to hang out with the two of them. I'm not Oliver Twist or Annie, and I have my own family, but a friend family is different.

Because you pick them. You choose to hang out. I remember last winter calling Rachel late on a Friday night, to see if I could come over. A creepy guy was following me around while I shopped. Rachel said of course, and I came over.

I was greeted with Derek, thanking me for "luring the killer right to his front door."

How I will miss that. He was always making me laugh and he was such a kind man. That was obvious anytime he played with his children.

And I appreciated how much he clearly loved Rachel. The way they just fit. I never worried about anything coming between them. It was obvious they really loved each other and because of that, could conquer any advervisty that came their way.

It was inspiring to watch, and it reminded me to never settle. The right one will come along. And he did for Rachel.

And now he is gone.

My heart is aching for Rachel, for Derek, and for his children.

He will live on in those that loved him, but how I long to hear him joke around just once more.

I'll do my best to be there for Rachel and her children.

Maybe one day, she'll even laugh again.

Until then, I'll help her cry.

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