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This weekend has been a jumble of emotions. My friend and fellow photographer Jen Thompson lost her battle with cancer early Friday morning.

I honestly have no idea how to process these feelings. In the past year, Jen and I have had a tumultuous relationship. Fights, laughter, tears, secrets. Three visits to Bend, Oregon. A trip to upstate New York. Chemotherapy, bad television. Misunderstandings and disagreements. Harsh words and loving ones.

I hadn’t spoken to Jen in two months. We’ve both made choices this year that neither one could understand or agree with. In New York she told me that I had given up on her. Maybe I had, but it wasn’t because of the cancer. It was because our lives had diverged in such a way that it was impossible for me to keep up the level of support that I felt she required. Notice that I said ‘I felt’ because honestly, I have no idea if it was what she wanted or just what I felt like I was supposed to give.

We argued about her treatment options. I wanted her to do another round of chemotherapy like her doctors suggested. She wanted to try a different route, the IAT clinic in the Bahamas. I Skyped with her and her step-mother Patti before she left. It was the last time I talked to her before she died.

We fought in New York. Argued about her choices. Argued about mine. We couldn’t agree on anything it seemed, yet still had moments of hysterical laughter. Running through the mall trying to beat our friend Niki to the car. Drinking Prosecco on the ground outside the hotel, getting spray tans and pedicures.
We left New York mad at each other, sad with the way things were turning out. I was shopping at Target and we had a huge fight. I swore at her.

After we both returned home we tentatively started speaking again. Trust was an issue for both of us. Being able to walk in each other’s shoes was a HUGE roadblock. She wanted to try to repair our friendship. I wasn’t sure if I did. We spoke sporadically. Sometimes honestly, sometimes superficially.

The hardest part now is knowing there is no longer the chance to see eye to eye. To fix anything. To know that I’m still living with my choices, even though I know in my heart that not all friendships last forever.

If I’m grateful about anything regarding this whole experience, it’s the clarity that I view friendships with now. Disagree with my choices, my actions, argue with me. But in the end, love me or leave me. I don’t want to be a half-friend. Jen and I ended up that way and it was just a mess of hard feelings and guilt. I want to tend to the friendships that might be hard sometimes, but there’s never a question of whether or not to try.

I’m grateful for the new people this has brought into my life. Jen’s boys. Her family. Her friends in Oregon who are truly some of the best people. Old friendships that have been made so much stronger. Even the friendships that have moved on, because the time I devote to people should really mean something.

It’s going to be a long time before I will be able to understand why any of this happened. It will be a long time before I will be able to make sense of my grief and anger and guilt. People are human and act selfishly. We judge and are judged. Everyone makes mistakes, and some are never rectified. Life is hard and short and painful.
It’s also amazing and breathtaking and joyous.

There’s no moral to this story. I want to say I’m going to go out and make the most of it, to hug my girls, to tell those who are important to me just how much they mean to me. And I will. But sometimes I will also hurt people and life will get messy and confusing. All I can do now is live it.

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  • Shannon Lane - This is so amazingly candid; it’s an incredibly brave thing to post the reality, the ups-and-downs of the female friendship instead of the typical “my friend died and she was so wonderful and amazing and such an angel” rhetoric that we all see and know, from our own experiences, just isn’t true. None of us our perfect and our friendships aren’t, either. Bless your heart for having the courage to write something so honest.

  • Natalie - That was a very brave and honest thing to share, Brandy. It seems as if you spent some very special times with Jen and you cared enough to want her to get the best treatment. X Natalie.

  • shannon - Brandy, thanks for sharing your heart, especially in its raw state, so openly. I’m sorry you’re having to deal with the pain of your rocky friendship on top of losing her. I hope if your brain tries to guilt or shame you, you can be gentle with yourself and remember you both did your very best. Relationships are so hard, and that’s always a surprise. Big love and healing to you, friend. xo

  • Samara Katzman Hutcheson - Really beautiful Brandy. xo

  • Charlaine Williams - Wow Brandy. You are brave to just put it out there. I really admire that because that’s real life. And also, I’m so sorry you lost your friend 🙁

  • Erin Clark Zahradka - Hmmm. Not sure how I feel after reading this! I feel awful for you. Worse for her family she left behind. And for the ache she must feel having to watch her sons grow up in a spirit form now. I do know first hand that chemo wreaks havoc on the human body & stage four anything- well- isn’t a great prognosis… that’s why people turn to natural treatments to hopefully enjoy the last bit of life. Chemo puts you on the brink of death before you “hopefully” bounce back & get a little more time, especially with stage four ovarian cancer. Who knows what would’ve happened… no one. We all know humans are self-interested & imperfect… the choice of treatment for someone is ultimately theirs, & all we can do is support. I do respect your candid nature of the ups & downs of friendships, however… I am sorry for the loss of your friend Jen. I’m sure her boys will be grateful to have you in their lives.

  • Nicolya Hargrove - So sad 🙁

  • Angie Michelle Marcoccia - Brandy, I have been thinking about you nonstop since I heard. I reread her blog and saw your name and picture numerous times and I just know that she’s standing there looking at you now saying….”it’s alright, beloved friend”. Disagreements that kept you apart in the end are just disagreements…your souls are still tied and always will be. I’m so very sorry for the loss of your friend and for all that pain. Yours and hers. Tons of love to you, Brandy. <3

  • Alicia Chrostek Piette - <3. Angie you said it perfectly.

  • Rosemary Gerts - “I love you and because I love you, I would sooner have you hate me for telling you the truth, than adore me for telling you lies”.
    Piete Aritero
    Thinking of you.

  • Ge Murray - So brave it’s hard to say good bye to your best friend & takes many years for a heart to mend x

  • Rosemary - Don’t be too hatd on yourself, and think of all the good times, the times that make you smile. People grow (in different directions and in response to what fills the nows of one’s life) and even in uncomplicated times it’s sometimes to understand where and why we become different. Somethindpg I once read has served me well!
    ” I love you and because I love you, I would sooner have you hate me for telling you the truth, than adore me for telling you lies”
    Pietro Aretino
    Thinking of you

  • Dawn - Oh gosh brandy…. hugs.

  • kim - this was shared by a friend of mine on FB…..thank you for being so truthful, honest, human…I am sorry for your loss….prayers are being said for all of you!

  • Anonymous - Awe, this is the first post of yours I read and it has touched me so much. I agree to everything you said. All the best of luck!

    Miki.
    http://mikisscrapbook.blogspot.com

  • here - I love you and because I love you, I would sooner have you hate me for telling you the truth, than adore me for telling you lies

  • Sarah M. - The other night while my husband was working nights, I got caught up on a long list of blog reading. I read this post… thought about commenting but I think my little one awoke and I ran up to feed him. I’ve been thinking about this post ever since. It resonated with me. I wanted to come back just to let you know your honest post was powerful – and thank you!

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