A note on friendship and the loss of one of your 'tribe'

Larissa, (far left), Katie the bride, and their friendship tribe.
Larissa, (far left), Katie the bride, and their friendship tribe. Photo: Supplied

Friendship comes in many guises. Some people you meet are instant kindreds and you have a million things in common. Some can be more of a slow burn, where perhaps you work together and get to know each other's quirks over time. Some you love for their eccentricities and some may fall away over time when life gets in the way. 

Then there are the friends you grow up with, the people who know you inside and out, who know your flaws, your secrets, your talents and your failures. They are as much a part of your structure after half a lifetime as your very bones. You may not see them as much as you see other, newer friends, but when you do, it is as easy as it is special. All of those shared experiences, the wealth of memories, the belonging – it's like something tribal. Katie was one of my tribe.

There is a group of us in this tribe – a core five or so of us from high school. Someone said the other day that we seemed interchangeable. It is something like that, yet we are all very different women. We are like pieces of a jigsaw coming together to form one picture. 

I have written about Katie before in the lead up to her wedding. We were so excited for her. She was in love and she was loved by a great guy in Michael. There is nothing like it and I wanted that for her so badly. She had a solid teaching career, she had travelled, she had studied. This was her time to settle down and build a family.

She was so close to being a mum, heartbreakingly close. But at 33 weeks in her pregnancy, she suffered a stroke brought on by complications due to high blood pressure. And suddenly she is gone, without knowing that she brought into the world a beautiful, perfect baby son.

What am I even writing? How can this be possible? The truth of it wallops me every few hours. Some people can just shut this stuff away and keep functioning. For some, the pain of it will make them recoil and stop reading. I have to go here, to this place, to process it. It is the only way for me. I want to get it out, get it down, before it fades. 

All the joy of welcoming a child into the world, snatched away cruelly. She was an advocate of faith but I can tell you, I am struggling. Any comfort I have taken has been from old photos and the memories attached.

She was such a big personality. The singing, the mad dancing, the belly laughs, her acid wit, her fabulous cooking, the calling it as it is, her shoe addiction, her pride in the home she had created with Michael. 

In the end she didn't go quietly. There was a raging storm the evening she passed away. It was like she was kicking everything in sight on her way up. We used to joke about shitty endings to books. Well my friend, this is the shittiest ending I have ever encountered. I want to throw this one across the room, tear it to shreds and then burn it. 

I have so much anger and sadness at this injustice and nowhere to channel it. And I am only her friend. As for her family and for Michael, I don't have the words. It takes an extraordinarily brave person to put one foot in front of the other at such an unimaginable time.

There is one small light anchoring him right now. And I mean literally small because this little light is around 2kg. It is their baby son, Francis. He is their tiny miracle. He has his mother's big eyes and his Dad's long legs and huge feet. He is doing brilliantly, not needing any help breathing and already doubling his milk intake. I have held him, talked to him, told him how proud of him his mummy would be and how well he is doing, how beautiful he is - all the things she would have said to him. We each of Katie's tribe have done this over the past week for her darling baby boy.

And here is the thing about our friendship. We will make sure he knows her. As helpless as we feel, this is one thing we can do. Stories about this girl, we have a life time's worth.

Rest in peace Katie-Jane. I will miss you incredibly. I wish I made you suffer through so many more of my hugs.

Larissa Huntington is a Sydney-based writer and master baker who blogs about life and cooking at Little Pudding. She wrote this post shortly after her friend Katie passed away in December.