Rachel is one of my best friends and today she would have been 32.
When I arrived in Madrid, jet lagged and in the midst of a group of 16 students, mostly from the same university (which wasn’t mine), I thought I was going to have an uphill battle or a long summer ahead, one. When I met Rachel, we clicked instantly. She was warm, friendly, and 100% her own person. Like me, she wasn’t a University of Maryland, University College student and we clicked instantly.
That summer, we spent a lot of time together. We both loved desserts and were oftentimes the only two in a group to insist on peeking at a dessert menu – “postre buddies”, as we called it. When a group of us decided to go to Portugal for a long weekend, we chose to room together. Both planners, we lined up quite the itinerary, intent on making the most of every moment we had there and confused why the others didn’t see it the same way.
While there, I found my nights full of reading. It didn’t take long for me to realize that three full Spanish books during our time there was a lot. While I spend my evenings in a hot apartment reading through books and preparing presentations, Rachel was out and about meeting people, trying new places, and enjoying the best of the local sangria. I was jealous I couldn’t be doing the same but comforted at least someone had it covered for me.
Rachel wasn’t entirely the reason moved to DC, but she did play an important part. I wouldn’t have really even thought of it had I not hone to visit her that cold weekend where she showed me just how fun the city could be. We’d seen each other once in Miami and then I came up for a trip. After staying with her in Dupont Circle, I was sold. Aside from the over-politicized nature of the city, it was hard to find anything not to love.
Our birthdays are very close to each other – only five days apart (and a year, but who’s counting). While in DC, we held our birthdays together. It was always more of a celebration when all of our friends together were there. When I decided to move to NYC, she joked it was the end of an era. I was sad for our tradition to end, but knew it was just one day out of the year. She came to visit, I came to visit, and we continued to stay in touch over the years.
When Rachel got sick, I was in shock. None of my close friends had ever had cancer and I didn’t know what to think. All reports looked positive though and if anyone could overcome this, I knew it was her. She was a fighter in every way. We had plans for me to finally arrange a trip down when I saw the news from my hotel room in Cape Town, South Africa. I’d suspected when my phone had beeped at the airport that the voicemail from her hadn’t really been from her and was heartbroken to learn I was right.
I’ve spent months barely talking about her because I just can’t, but for me the writing comes long before the talking. And today, if ever any, I feel it’s time to not be silent any more. Rachel loved the cupcakes from Baked by Melissa when she was here. So today I – we – had cupcakes. Somehow, somewhere, I hope she saw, she knows, and she smiled. Thinking about you today, and always. I’d like to think if you were here, it would have gone something like this…