I feel like a part of me is missing

Kerry Heinz and I have been best friends since elementary school. Along the way, there have been boyfriends, marriages, babies, divorces, deaths, but we’ve always had each other.

There have been times when we didn’t see each other for a while, but then our paths would bring us back together, and it was like no time had passed.
And now I feel like a part of me is missing.
Kerry died peacefully early Saturday morning at her home in Oxford. It had been a long journey for her– two and a half years since her initial diagnosis of breast cancer.

Kerry Heinz and Lisa McNeece

There have been countless ups and downs along the way, good months and bad months, but through it all, Kerry’s example to us was consistent– she embraced a positive attitude.
She taught us about juicing and healthy eating. After her initial diagnosis, she embraced this lifestyle, and I think it bought her a lot of time.
She mixed concoctions in her kitchen of all sorts, colors and smells.

This lifestyle caused some issues for us, me especially, when we went out to eat or occasionally cooked at her house.
One night, she had invited me to dinner, and I lifted the lid of a pan to an oddly enticing smell.
“Tofu,” she said, “It’s good for you.”

On another occasion, she wanted us to go to an Indian restaurant in Oxford. I left the restaurant hungry and told her so.
The last several times we have eaten out this year, we had sushi– something we both could live with.
Over the years, we have been on many trips, seen many concerts– Ricky Van Shelton, Sawyer Brown, Mark Chestnut, Alan Jackson, George Strait, had a car stolen in Memphis, watched our children grow up and our grandchildren be born.

We used to talk about cute guys in cowboy boots, but in recent years it was cancer and menopause.
Some of my fondest memories were in the late 90s when Kerry and family lived on Tibbee Creek in Columbus. I would go down on the weekend, often taking my yellow Lab Chandler to hang with her chocolate Lab Ruben and Shar Pei, Denny.

There are so many memories that warm my heart and break it at the same time.
Even in the trying times over the past couple of years with her illness, we always found humor.
After her mastectomy, she offered me her old bras.

After she lost her hair due to chemo, she offered me her hair brush and proclaimed she could now beat me getting ready.
My early teenage charm bracelet, which I pulled out recently, is a chunky silver montage of my interests during that time in my life. Among the charms is a small disc that holds a photo on each side– on one side is my older sister, Celia, and the back– Kerry.

Kerry told me a couple of years ago that she still had a bracelet that I gave her on her birthday when we were in middle school.
It is a simple silver link bracelet with two hearts entwined in the center. Her daughter Briana gave the bracelet to me last week, and it is now one of my most prized possessions. Who knew that bracelet would mean a lifetime of friendship.

E-mail Lisa McNeece: lisamcneece@gmail.com follow her on twitter @lisamcneece