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“Carla’s in the trunk.”

With that, my great friend Tracy, who I speak to every night, informed me that the ashes of our mutual friend, who died suddenly, were now in the trunk of her car.  I flashed to an image of the three of us on the beach—back when we flaunted ourselves in bikinis—laughing and flirting. And now.

When we sign up for a lifetime of friendship, none of us imagines that we will be responsible for the death of that friend– not the actual death, but the process. Two months after her husband’s death, Carla had undergone a fierce battle against breast cancer.  She had no children or immediate relatives in the area, but she had Tracy, who lived just minutes away.  As they had adventured together to India, England, Africa and parts unknown over the decades, Carla and Tracy now ventured into the land of chemotherapy.  The last session had ended and victory was in sight.  Carla seemed great. Then, Tracy got a call.  Carla was having trouble breathing.  Tracy drove her to the hospital.  On checking in, there was a form to sign—the “responsible person to call just in case ” form that always seems so rote — and remote. Tracy scribbled her name. The doctors said it was pneumonia.  Like a horror film on fast forward, things escalated from bad to worse.  By that night, Carla was on a respirator, unresponsive. The doctors told Tracy it was now up to her to decide whether and when to turn it off.  Pull the plug.  She agonized, but fortunately, she did not have to decide, because within a few more hours, Carla’s heart stopped.

Tracy did have to decide, however, what to do next.  She arranged to have Carla cremated, so the ashes could be buried with her husband’s. Now, the box containing Carla’s ashes were in the trunk of Tracy’s car.

Carla and Tracy had shared so much over the years.  They had always been there for each other.  When Tracy’s beloved cat died, Carla totally understood and buried it in a Fendi bag.  (It was a designer cat). When Carla’s husband had become frail, Tracy had been there for the couple as well.  When Tracy had open heart surgery, Carla was there — and she was there for Tracy’s wedding at age 60+  to a dashing French count she met 8 months later on a trip.  And so on.  But who imagines this? I thought Tracy would be very freaked out, but she wasn’t.  “Carla’s in the trunk,” she said in a tone not unlike she might have said, “Carla’s in the kitchen.”  I think maybe it’s because when you’ve lived so much life with someone, death is just another part of that. Life has paved the way.

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