The other day I was channel surfing on XM radio and landed on a song I don’t hear often: Bridge Over Troubled Waters. As soon as I heard the familiar piano accompaniment, I cranked the volume and belted out with Simon and Garfunkel. By the end of the song, I was blubbering—crying my eyes out. You see, this isn’t just a beautiful song from my parents’ generation. It’s a song that holds a particularly special memory for me.
At a pops concert my senior year in high school, I sang this song with my two of my best friends, Nicole Heller and Kira Gaer. I was probably the weak link in the trio. Kira carried a pop star eminence and Nicole had a strong voice of her own. My piano background gave me an acceptable level of harmony instruction and we managed to pull off a fairly decent performance—from what I can remember anyway.Cannily the lyrics came back to me as if I was still that 17-year-old with my two friends, all caught up in the performance that would probably make us big stars. "Sail on silver girl, sail on by." As my 47-year-old self drove home in the dark from work that night absorbing the beautifully sentimental song, I became sadly aware of something. Would we ever have believed, back in 1987, we would've ended up with hardly any contact anymore? Never. We would never have believed it.
|Add Nicole, Kira, and me.|
Kira, Nicole, and I had that 80's aura, John Hughes-like connection. We loved fashion and pop culture with a transparent goal to emulate Madonna on our audacious days or Whitney Houston on our playful days. We were not opposed to rating boys and did some heavy Bible research on premarital sex. We loved to laugh. And most of all, we loved to dream.
It was a given we were all destined to be rich. Nicole made sure we always drove around with the windows down—messy hair practice for when we purchased our first convertible. I was going to be the lawyer (Claire Huxtable style). Nicole would be the doctor. Kira only considered the medical field as her backup plan. Because she never, ever quit singing. She would be the next Madonna. At the end of one night of cruising our country roads and planning our futures, long after Nicole and I had quit singing to the radio, Kira’s voice went hoarse. She apologized. “Sorry guys. I’m not going to be able to sing for you anymore tonight.” We managed.
Nicole and I stayed in touch after high school, rooming together for a bit in college and standing up in each other's weddings. She married her high school sweetheart and became a pharmacist in Spirit Lake with three lovely children. I think of her often and hope she is well.
Neither of us see Kira anymore. Unfathomably, she died at the age of 22 from non-hodgkin lymphoma. She passed away just as we were starting off our lives. I visit her grave once a year and she still visits me from time to time in my dreams. "And friends just can't be found... " What would she be doing now if she would've lived? Would she be settled in with her family? Like Nicole and I? Navigating work and kids' activities? Mailing off our annual Christmas cards to each other? Or would she be competing against Beyonce for a grammy? I kind of like to think maybe.
My teenage self probably wouldn't have been surprised that I turned out to be banker, nor Nicole a pharmacist. But I wouldn't never have imagined Kira, the most vivacious of us all, to be gone. But then again, she did always seemed to be destined for the stars. The truth is, she’ll never be gone–nor will the memories of my best pals and the dreams we dreamed. They will always live in a special place in my heart....like a bridge.