This is hard for me to write. An apology to my best friend. I’ve been paralyzed by fear that it wouldn’t be enough to rescue a relationship that endured for fifteen years before suddenly, almost inexplicably, it vanished. But here, I’ll try to explain.
It was November 7, 2009, and I was planning a trip to Seattle to celebrate two friends’ birthdays. I was going to take my best friend out to lunch during her short break from work (as a retail manager, her weekends were almost always filled with work), and then go to a dinner show with another friend for her milestone 30th birthday.
But when I got on I-5 to make the three-hour drive up to the Seattle area, a pounding rain storm slowed traffic to 25 mph, and I was stuck. I knew I couldn’t make it there by her lunch break, and so I called my best friend to tell her I wouldn’t be able to make it on time. She didn’t answer (she was probably working), so I left a message. I asked if I could take her to breakfast or lunch the next day.
I didn’t hear from her. I called her again that night, and again the next day. Nothing.
So I called again, a few days later. And again, a week or so after that. I left apologetic messages. I left silly messages. I told her I was sorry for missing that chance to see her, but I wanted to get together again.
Still no response. And that’s when I became paralyzed.
It ate at me, the growing chasm as time went by. I tried several times to reach her, but never heard back. I’m sure I didn’t try hard enough; I beat myself up about it. But at some point, it felt like I could never do enough.
I thought of her on holidays and her birthday. I thought of sending flowers, showing up at her work or her house, trying to find some way to reach out and say how truly sorry I was, how I valued our friendship. But as I said, I didn’t try hard enough.
So this Christmas, as I was preparing my family’s annual cards, I wrote a long, heartfelt letter of apology. I asked for her forgiveness one more time. She hasn’t answered. It’s been more than a week—surely she’s gotten my letter by now? Perhaps she discarded it without even opening it.
One friend recently posted a question on Facebook about apologies, and about losing a friendship. It sparked more than 70 comments, and I shared my story of losing my best friend and the circumstances around it. One person commented that they thought it was like giving me the death penalty for a parking violation. Another person commented that it says more about the person who could—but chose not to—forgive than it says about me. And another person wondered what were the true motivations behind the apology—was it to make her feel better, or to make myself feel better?
I can honestly say it was for her, not for me. I don’t ache to be forgiven, I ache to rebuild a friendship. We’ve been friends since the first day of college: she lived in the dorm room next to mine, and she was my Secret Santa that Christmas and gave me a whole bunch of butterscotch candies, which I hate…one memory that we’d often laugh about. We endured so much together. We were each other’s maids of honor at our respective weddings.
I started with this: “I am so, so sorry. I hurt you, and I don’t know how to make it right. It’s been more than two years since we last talked, when we were supposed to get together to celebrate your birthday. I wish more than anything that I could go back and fix that moment when I screwed up so badly that you didn’t want to be my friend anymore. I can only hope that you might be willing to forgive me and try again.”
And then I rambled over three pages, describing what’s happened in the time since we last spoke. My son grew up from a toddler to a preschooler. My daughter was born. There were so many moments that I wanted to share with her, and couldn’t.
Finally, I ended the letter with this: “One thing I know is this: that time spent with loved ones is more valuable—infinitely more valuable—than anything that has a price tag. I love you and cherished our friendship, and I still feel the deep weight of guilt that I didn’t do more to try to fix what was broken immediately. As I said, I felt paralyzed by fear, but that’s no excuse.
“I hope that you’ll read this, even open my letter, and know that you are still in my heart and on my mind. If there’s anything I can do—ever—to make it right, I will do it. I will jump into the Puget Sound. I will tattoo something stupid on my rear end. I will admit that you totally addicted me to those Twilight books that you gave me and called ‘brain crack.’ I will eat a whole load of butterscotch candies to get you to forgive me.
“I’m going to the store to buy some, just in case.”
I only wish I knew how to make it right. This letter was just another shot in the dark. Is it the last time I will try to apologize and restore this friendship? No, no doubt about it. But it was my best effort this time.
I wonder, do you have an apology waiting to be written? Don’t wait. Don’t let the chasm of time tear you further apart. Write it. Say it. Do it now. GO.