RGARE_kbalossi_LThumbI flew into St. Louis today, met a client and snuck over to your work for a surprise lunch. Imagine my surprise as I learned of your passing in November 2013.  For now, they’ve kept your office unoccupied and I remained in the empty steel silence that filled your life for the past 12 years.  Everything seems vaguely familiar, yet eerily quiet.

I caught my breath.

When we started our jobs together, we somehow connected. There was something in that building which drew me in, tempting me with a friendship one only dared to dream of.  Being a solitary traveler, I knew more about you in a few short months than just about anyone. You were a fiery young woman, full of sensitivity, love, tenacious and brave all at the same time. You made the best of most situations which I later learned was difficult considering the cancer you battled.

As a friend, you are one of the greatest gifts God ever gave me. But you were a tremendous gift to many. Personally, I will miss your smile, your laughter and your hug. I will miss the times we sat and watched coworkers come and go, the leaves change, the seasons come, the seasons go. You showed me how happy life could be, what real love was and so much more. You were the whole world to many and no one could possibly replace the sacred spot in which you reside.

You taught me that if I felt like an oddball; be proud of it, that somehow, regardless of how battered and bruised I had become, I could indeed accomplish a lot. You taught a good spouse comes from genuine love and not from just the need for love. And most importantly, love is everything and everything flows from that.

One said love and friendship withstands the test of time. Some days I fear time has only weakened me and brought more sorrow than what’s possible to be healed. The world is a much duller place without you. But as you would say, no matter what life throws at you, get back up. No exceptions. I must live for the living, for I have a thousand more obligations left undone. I know life and death are two ends of the same process – if I understood one end, I had to understand the other.

Kanako, I missed your death. But more importantly, I missed your life.

If I were saying “good-bye” today, I would want you to know how proud I am of you. My hopes and wishes would be that you maintain your close family ties. Bug your husband, mother, father and sister. Bug your friends and bug me. Accept our strengths and weaknesses, reach to our hearts across the void and remind us we are missed just as we remind ourselves we miss you. Remind us we’re loved and that you’ll be there when we cross the divide.

I love you like a sister. I hope that the world you are in is beautiful and someone is holding you, making it all ok. I hope that you are feeling the peace you provided to so many of us.