Since everything happens for a reason, OF COURSE the weekend  I decide to start blogging about the fascinating people that represent the puzzle pieces of my life… it is also the birthday weekend of my best friend whose death taught me the depths of a single friendship– and that all it takes is one person to truly change/influence/guide/inspire/ the path of our life 🙂

Marge and Me: Eastside High School Graduation, May 1996

On Feb 13, 1978, my best friend, Margaret Stewart, was born. On July 26, 1998, she died in a tragic car accident.  I will never forget the day I lost her… but more importantly, I will always remember the day we met. It was the 1st day of 6th Grade at Greenville Middle School. My elementary and her elementary school combined so that lots of kids got to meet for the first time. Which meant, I finally got to make my own- NEW- friends. Since we both has an “S” last name we were assigned to the same homeroom.  As I recall, I was wearing a bright yellow cotton skirt with colorful designs, a red t shirt with rolled up sleeves revealing the yellow on the flip side, and bright, white KEDS. And yes. I thought I was cool. But… then I saw this freckled girl to my right wearing gummy-like big, green, fish dangling earrings and I was totally in awe.  I soon discovered they had names: Fred and Ted. And yup, that’s how it began.  An alphabetic blessing for 2 girls that loved kick starting the new school year off in the style!!!

By the time 12th grade rolled around and we were “leaving behind” our Last Wills to our Senior Class,  Marge made it a point NOT to leave me her ‘good luck’… because she thought she was super unlucky (for those that knew her, feel free to laugh with me!) . I never forgot that. So, 6 months after her death, to honor how lucky I was to have shared so many AMAZING years creating endless memories and lifetimes of laughter with her by my side and to permanently make her my Good Luck Charm, I had a Shamrock with the letter “M” tattooed on my lower back.  Best part: I had this done in Dublin, Ireland, the day after St. Patrick’s Day!!!!  Imagine– me, in Dublin- Guinness one hand, Irish flag in the other. It was EPIC (not to mention days after my 21st birthday…)  But more important than staying at a hostel that happened to have a tattoo covered employee to point me in the right direction or traveling with Erin Schael who would hold my hand while the deed was done (I’ll discuss Erin in a future blog) was what I learned that day:  Not only was I lucky to have her in life, but I was already experiencing the luck she brought my world after her death.  I was beginning to understand that silver linings did exist! From my sadness and depression came an amazing experience: a semester studying in London, England. I knew that had Margaret not died I would not have felt so compelled to live for the both of us- thus landing myself in Ireland with a Guinness in hand, on St. Patrick’s Day.

Meredith, Me and Margaret: Eastside High Prom, Margaret’s Backyard… the good ol’ days!

It was extremely hard to grasp this concept at the age of 20.  I feel like I was forced to grow up way too fast. You see, Margaret was not my first friend to die. This story would NOT be complete without mentioning our other best friend, Meredith Hendley. Meredith died 9 months before Margaret. Not only that, but Margaret had been the one to call me to tell me Meredith died. And, now they laid buried side by side in a cemetery.  It was unheard of.  Words can not begin to describe what happens when everything you consider to be stable is completely shaken to the core.  Now all of our stories were only to be told from my point of view! What if I didn’t tell them correctly? I felt a lot of pressure to represent all of us. Its hard for me to describe now what I went through back then as I tip toed through life on egg shells, trying to grasp on to smallest chance of feeling whole, but the evidence is clear how it effected my relationships with people and life.  Back then I felt guilty seeing the rainbow through the rain. I didn’t want to believe in a “brighter side”. BUT- that is just it.. THE LESSON I was meant to not only embody but then share with every person I met. And, step by step, place by place.  Friend by friend. I did. I have. I still am. It didn’t take me long to realize I would not have decided to travel to London to study for the Semester had Margaret not passed away.  BUT- it was something I needed to for myself. A choice.  To clear my head… and discover my true zest: learning life hands on and TRAVELING. As crazy as it might sound to someone that has never experienced the loss of a friend, she helped give me the strength to do it.  Already I was living my life with more passion and purpose. It was the beginning of my own journey– because I wanted to live life to the fullest– for all of us!  Margaret’s friendship 100% continues to influence me. THAT is the meaning of true friendship. That is the power the simple act of Turning a Stranger Into a Friend can have on you 🙂

Summer after our Freshman Year in College

The synchronicity of this being the weekend I am launching my blog and it also being the weekend to honor her birth… well, lets just say it’s the BEST birthday present I can think to give her– and at the same time, her inspiration guided me here… the best gift she could have ever given me! Ah… it sure does make me smile.

I wonder what ever happened to Fred and Ted…  I’d totally rock those earrings now!

Happy Birthday, Marge!!!