Leslie and I had very similar interests and taste so it is not rare for me to be reminded of her and miss our friendship. But as I read her words now, I find that I have so many different and deeper emotions than last year.
I met Leslie through email when we both worked at ESPN. Our work correspondence very quickly developed into a friendship when we realized we were both mad about chocolate. Like crazy mad about chocolate. Soon we found that we had a lot more than chocolate in common and we would talk, write and visit often.
Leslie loved to hear stories about Ginger. If she wasn't giving me chocolate, she was giving me treats to bring home to Ginger. One of the emails I came across was one that was written after we had lost Ginger in 2011 very suddenly to cancer. Leslie wrote to tell me she was heartbroken not only because she loved Ginger, but because she knew how much I loved Ginger. That's the kind of friend she was. She was always so thoughtful and cognizant of other people's needs and feelings.
Over the past few years we weren't in contact quite as often. We would reach out to the other whenever we had read a good book or found an awesome vintage website. Those were two of our most common interests and we always shared new information with the other.
Leslie had a kind and gentle heart. She was also a very private person. She held her pain and sadness very tightly and silently. I knew she often felt overwhelmed but I never pushed her to tell me more than she was comfortable telling me.
I should have pushed.
Our friendship was built on what I now know were 'safe' topics. She would want to know all about the treasures I've found in South Carolina, and she'd share with me her Connecticut finds. I would ask her about the clothes the women were wearing on "Mad Men" and she would suggest books for me to put on my list to read next. She never shared with me her struggles and I never asked. I didn't know to ask.
Now I know. Now I know that what some people keep in their heart is sometimes so painful that they are simply unable or afraid to share.
If I had the chance again, I would make sure she knew how awesome she is. How kind and gentle and sweet. But most importantly, I would tell her that I believe in her. That she is stronger than she realizes and she should never, ever doubt that.