Category: Promises

I have many things that I should be doing that need to be done but I have the memories of a dear friend who left this world too soon that I am dying to share. I have had many friends who have enriched my life in one way or another and could fill volumes with stories about each one but this is the one present in my mind at this moment.

I have talked about her in a previous post titled “The Calphalon” but it was brief and while I may repeat some of what I have already written, I have more to say. She was an amazing friend who I miss and think of often. Her name was Sysylia which was pronounced Cecelia. People often misread her name and called her Sylvia which irritated her but I could relate as I have often been called Antoinette instead of Anjanette. We commiserated about this and how it was especially frustrating when  people continued to call us by the incorrect name despite our efforts to correct them over long periods of time.

She was a student at UT like I was and we lived in the same apartment complex for much of my latter years finishing my studies. There is so much I do not remember now like what her major was and all the places she worked. It causes me much guilt. Those things were not important to our friendship but it hurts me that I do not recall basic information when I know those details about my other friends I met during that period of my life.

She worked amazingly hard, attending classes and working at least 3 jobs at all times. I admired how hard she worked. She was wise and could understand me on a level I don’t believe anyone has before or since understood me. When I was in a frantic mindframe or episodic, she could always talk me down and calm my mind. She did not live with a mental illness but she was sick.

She told me the beautiful love story she had when she fell in love with a man she met in a support group for addicts. She was fighting the lure of cocaine’s pleasure and he was recovering from a heroin addiction. He had been an IV drug user. Their love sounded like it was true. It was truer than anything I had experienced. At some point, he asked her to marry him and she said yes.

He started getting sick and soon discovered he was HIV+.  Not long after his diagnosis, she discovered she also was HIV+. He felt great despair and guilt that he had passed along this ugly disease to her and returned to his old friend, heroin. They sought treatment together but he was much further along in the illness and before long, he had full blown AIDS. She described their last days together. She promised him to not give up and live for him.

I was deeply saddened about her HIV status but she told me I should not worry. She was well and no longer took the meds for HIV patients. She had discovered the Church of Science and through prayers and faith, was healed. She even had a negative blood test since joining this faith and told me she doubted she really was ever positive to begin with and most likely simply had false positive test results. I worried she might be wrong but she told me I had to believe her. Any doubt I harbored would only make her wish she had not told me her story.

I believed her. Well, I tried. In the back of my mind, I felt like she may be wrong and needed to be in treatment. I prayed I was wrong. The skepticism I had was always there.

We spent a lot of time together. Our talks were so special to me. She taught me a lot about life, about myself, and about friendship.  Her uncanny wisdom would make me squirm at times. She was right about so many things that sometimes I found it irritating. As time passed, I think her faith began to waiver. She would speak in absolutes. She wanted to be a wife and mother one day but began talking about those things as if they would never become reality for her. I tried to tell her different but she knew and I think I knew too that she might not experience the things she wanted most. She was ill after all.

She loved visiting stores like Bed, Bath and Beyond. She wanted to own a set of Calphalon pots and pans. She talked about them with delight and would have been an amazing salesperson for the company. During one of our trips to look at kitchenware with tears in her eyes, she made me promise to own a set when I married. Eventually, I fulfilled this promise. I told this story to a lot of friends and early in my marriage to Andrew, I was gifted a set of Calphalon from Andrew and Patience.

I graduated and moved back home to the Dallas area. She continued to live in Austin, working towards her degree, and exhausting herself working many jobs to survive. Her mother had come to live with her. It was never considered a burden. It was just something she accepted as part of her life. I would try to visit her when I made trips to Austin but she worked so much it was difficult and any visit was brief. She began to deal with paralyzing fatigue which worried me but she always said she was in good health. Not wanting to believe otherwise, I took her at her word.

As time passed, we spoke less and less and the emails became less frequent until they stopped altogether. My attempts to reach her by email was met with a message that the email was undeliverable and my attempts to call her met with a recorded message that the number was disconnected. She was always so busy, I told myself that her jobs and studies were taking everything she had and we would be back in contact soon.

Early in 1998, I received a letter from Sysylia’s mother. The handwriting was hard to read but the message was clear. Her mom described how tired Sysylia had become. In late 1997, Sysylia had become very ill. Despite the best efforts by doctors, she became more and more ill each day. As her life came to an end, she went into hospice care at a facility close to me. Had I known, I would have been by her side but it wasn’t meant to be. She died peacefully, comforted by her faith and the love of her friends and mother.

I was devastated. I looked over the letter and read it again and again. Her mother never mentioned AIDS but from the descriptions of the illnesses she was experiencing, it sounded like the opportunistic illnesses that many AIDS patients battled. There would be no more calls. There would be no more emails. I would not have the opportunity to visit her. Sysylia hated to have be in pictures. I respected this so I had no pictures to cherish. I just had the memories.

I know she is gone but occasionally find myself searching for her online, hoping maybe, just maybe, her mother was suffering from dementia and Sysylia was actually alive. I battle thoughts, hopes, of her just being out of touch. She would be part of my life again someday instead of reside in my memories. With the emergence of social media, I thought that I would find her on one platform or another but she is not there.

I know that she has not disappeared because she lives in my heart and the heart of others who knew her and loved her. She will always be cherished until the day I see her again. I will see her again. I feel so much guilt for letting her fade until it was too late. It hurts to have lost someone so dear. She wasn’t the first in my life who has died and won’t be the last. I know this all too well. She has come to me in dreams, given pep talks, and lifted my spirits. She has scolded me when I had done something wrong. She is always with me, always. Forever in friendship she will be.

For reasons I was not aware of, she drifted from my life but she will always be my friend.


The Calphalon

When I met my friend Sysylia, she was a happy person always grilling, laughing and playing with her dogs. Her apartment was in the same quad as mine. We often let our dogs play together and became good friends. She stood by me when I went through a bad break-up, helped me move, and was always there to encourage me. I no longer lived in the quad but I was only a few buildings away.

On Saturdays, we would often get up early to go to Central market for the best pick of the fresh seafood being delivered and purchase our groceries for the week. Then the following day, we would spend the day in the quad, cooking our food on the grill and possibly boiling our crabs or crawfish. Best of all, we had many long talks.

It was during one of these talks, I found out she had been engaged before to someone that was deceased. Then, in that same conversation, she told me in confidence that she was sick, very sick. Her former fiancé had been ill, a result of his past iv drug use. Soon, she discovered she was ill too but the good news she told me, was that she did not need to be on all the medications. She had great faith and knew she had been healed. I was skeptical and worried but she said not to or it would make her wish she had not told me.

In 1996, I once again had an apartment directly across from her. We were still talking and hanging out when we could but she was tired all the time. She said she would probably never marry and own a set of Calphalon pots like she always wanted. We would go to many of the kitchen stores in the area and just look at the sets of Calphalon pots and pans. I used to think she was silly but humored her and went along. Before I graduated and moved back to the Dallas area, she asked me to promise her that when I marry, I would buy a set of Calphalon pots.

We talked and emailed often when I left but as time went on, those calls and emails became less and less. Then, her phone was cut off and no emails came. I thought she was just busy. Turns out, she had gotten sick just before Christmas of 1997 and died the first week of 1998.

In a blink, my dear friend was gone. After Sysylia’s death, her mom was going through Sysylia’s things and she found my address. She wrote me a letter to let me know she was gone. She went peacefully after being sick for a long time. I didn’t want the letter to be true but I knew deep down, she was.

I am now married to Andrew. God sent me a good man, one that wants to be a husband to me and is a good father to Patience. About one year after we married, I received a surprise gift. I can no longer remember if it was Mother’s Day, a holiday or my birthday but I received a set of Calphalon pots and pans. I wanted to cry as a flood of memories came to mind. My promise to Sysylia had come true!

I love and miss you, my dear friend. May you be at peace until we meet again!