Kristin was my best friend. I was always at her house playing dress up, watching movies, and having dance parties. Because I was around there so much I became very good friends with someone else, Kristin’s younger sister Nikki. She was only one year younger than us, so she wanted to do everything we were doing. We loved having her around to crack us up with a huge burp, or supply us with great tomboy clothes to dress up in, or be the tackler in Mr. Piggy, the game she invented.
When Nikki was born the doctors said she had a tiny hole in her heart. “It’s nothing,” they said, “most likely, it will close up on its own as she grows.” I guess most likely isn’t always good enough. Nikki had pretty bad asthma all her life, but no one really thought much of it. Asthma is not uncommon in kids these days. I’m not quite sure what initiated getting her heart checked, but her parents took her to see a doctor and they found two holes in her heart this time, one slightly bigger than the other and both significantly bigger than the one she was born with. It was decided that Nikki would need open heart surgery. If she didn’t have the surgery the doctors predicted she would die of heart failure in her twenties.
Nikki received open-heart surgery in early January of 2004. Her surgery was successful, but soon after she began to have seizures. She died on January 9, 2004 in the late afternoon; she was eleven years old. People say influential, important, or traumatic moments in one’s life heighten senses and memory; I couldn’t agree more. I remember every detail of my existence from the moment I was told about Nikki’s death until about a week later. The night of her death, the next day that I spent almost entirely with Kristin, the viewing, the funeral, things I heard, saw, wore, felt, it’s all so intensely protruding in my memory. The feeling I remember most of all was the need to help. I wanted so badly to take away, if only the smallest amount, some of the pain my best friend was dealing with. It was extremely difficult for me to just sit back and watch. I tried to comfort her by telling her everything would be alright, but we both knew that wasn’t true. There was virtually nothing I could do for her except be there and I’m so glad that I could be. It made us so much closer. Although what happened to Nikki was so tragic it’s hard to even imagine, I do believe it made my friendship with Kristin much stronger and more passionate. She knows, from experience, that I will be there for her no matter what, and I believe with all of my heart that she will always be there for me.