I didn’t cry until I walked into the emergency room. The entire drive to Carbondale I kept thinking this had to be a mistake. But, as I got closer to the hospital, I knew I just did not want to face the truth. Alice was too young and too full of potential be gone. I wasn’t ready to give her up, but not wanting something to be true does not change what happened.
I had just been thinking about her on Sunday morning before we got the call that she had passed away. She was about to graduate in May with her doctorate degree in addiction and substance abuse counseling. I was thinking about how we would celebrate all those long hours and hard work. My mom had just talked to her on Thursday. Alice was going to come down for the weekend when my sister came home in March for spring break. Everything was so normal the way it should be. Just like in January when she came down and we spent the weekend making samosas and drinking chai.
Alice texted her neighbor and very good friend on Sunday morning asking her to pick up some bread and flu medicine while she was out saying she felt a little dizzy and thought she might be coming down with something. When her friend came to drop off the medicine, Alice was unresponsive. The ambulance came. They did everything they could, but she was already gone. An autopsy reveled the cause of death to be due to a cerebral hemorrhage.
It’s hard to say good bye to someone you’ve known since you were eleven. Alice was not only a good friend, she became a part of our family spending many holidays with us and countless memorable weekends. When we lived in Chicago, I remember driving into the city with my dad to pick Alice up for a dental appointment. On the way to take her to the dentist, I lost a tooth; and it was bleeding so bad we had to swing into Burger King to grab some napkins.
We met Alice soon after she came from Kenya to study in America and when she transferred to Southern Illinois University to work on a second Masters degree and then a PhD, the relationship continued to grow closer every year. Alice was my friend and an adopted aunt, but she was also so much more than that.
When I think of Alice it is so hard to describer her. She had so many good qualities. I don’t know a single person who didn’t like her. She was so sweet and easy going and made friends very easily. What breaks my heart is the thought of all her unfilled dreams of working with women in Kenya. She loved her country, but while she was here she brought a lot of joy to this country, and I’m grateful for that.
Her death is a shock I am still trying very hard to cope with. There aren’t enough words so say how much she meant not only to me but to all the other people whose lives she touched. I know she is in a better place, and it seems that she passed on peacefully but she left such a hole.
I’m going to miss watching random movies together on Sunday afternoons. I’m going to miss making chapatis together and talking about everything from her doctorate thesis to the quirks of American culture. Alice was always willing to try something new, and she looked eternally 32 although she would have turned 41 the Saturday before her funeral.
Words seem so flat right now especially compared to the life that Alice always brought with her. She was amazing. She had so many dreams. Ask anyone who knew her, and they will tell you the same thing. Alice was a jewel.