Dear Clare

I’ve been doing some soul-searching recently. A post by another blogger upset me and I’ve been trying to work out why. It brought up a lot of feelings about a friend who died when I was a child, feelings I thought I had moved past. I was wrong.

I think the reason it upset me so much is because I’m not religious. I respect people who are but I don’t believe in Heaven; I believe I will never see my friend again and being confronted by her death was very painful. It actually made me cry and I haven’t cried in a long time.

What I realised from it is that I’ve never really said goodbye to Clare; I was too young to understand and I’ve never had a chance to make peace with her death. I wrote this by hand last night and the pages are still wet. I thought I’d make it public, as a tribute to my friend… and as my way of saying goodbye.

* * * * * *

Dear Clare,

When we were young we were close friends. What I remember about that time often feels more like a dream than something real, it was so long ago. And yet other times it seems as clear as yesterday. I remember how you could be so serious and yet your smile could light up the room; how your hair used to fall across your face. And how you were a loyal friend. I was never able to tell you what that meant to me… and then you were taken away.

I didn’t understand what had happened to you for a long time; how do you explain death to a child? How do you explain that some of us are born to live long lives and others to die as their lives are just beginning? Now when I think of you it’s tinged with sadness, not just for your loss, but because I never had the chance to say goodbye.

There’s so much of you I don’t remember, so much I wish I could. Did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up? A doctor? A dancer? When I think of you now I find myself wondering if you knew you were about to die. Were you afraid as you fell? Was your last sound a scream or is the last thing we should remember of you your sweet laughter?

I think about you often and wonder what kind of person you might have become. You’d be out of university now; or would you have chosen another path? You might have been married, a mother; a writer, an artist… you could have been so many things but we will never know. The only thing I know is you would have been a wonderful person, because you already were.

In many ways all that I am today I owe to you. When I remember all your potential and who you could have been, it makes me want to be a better person. The lives we might have chosen might have been very different but as long as I hold a piece of you in my heart, I feel that perhaps your death was not so meaningless and that you share in my life. It’s not much to offer but it is all I have to give.

Your death has stayed with me all these years and I realise I must allow myself to say goodbye. But it’s the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I don’t believe in God or Heaven; to me you are gone forever and I must accept that I will never see you again. That I will never see you smile or hear you laugh again; never be able to tell you what you meant to me. While I hold on to your death I cannot celebrate your life. And so I must let you go.

Clare, you mean so much to me and you always will. You will be in my thoughts and my heart; in my dreams and my words. I will never forget you and the joy your brief life brought to mine. I am who I am because of you and I hope you would be proud of me, as I have always been proud of you.

Goodbye, my friend. I miss you. I love you. I’ll remember you. Forever.


12 thoughts on “Dear Clare

  1. Hi Christopher.
    I stumbled over this just as I was reading the blog of a friend of mine, a blog she writes to record her emotional journey since she and her husband lost their son at birth last year.
    She does it, as you have done I imagine, in an effort to find a way to come to terms with what it means to lose someone you love, very young. Not that age has a lot to do with it in the end, I suppose. What the human heart truly loves, it will love indiscriminately of age, time, space.
    She and I, as Christians do both believe in heaven. I’ll state that plainly now, because I want you to know I’m not writing this in an effort to change your mind or to argue with you about what you believe. I’m just writing because I know that grieving the loss of someone you love, especially when they are taken from your life so suddenly and so early, is a brutal, brutal thing. If you want to read her blog it’s called
    I’m hoping what she has written about her experiences in some way, I don’t know, maybe will help you as you deal with the loss of your friend.
    In any case, I think it’s a really brave and wonderful thing for you to do in sharing your letter.
    You never know who’ll stumble over it and find the courage to write one of their own.
    Thanks again,

    CJ: Erin, thank you for your lovely comment. I’m still upset at the moment but being able to say goodbye to Clare has been a relief in some ways. Clare meant so much to me and I felt like in holding on to her death, I couldn’t remember everything about her life… I’ll never forget her and it’s no less painful than it was before I wrote the letter, but I feel like I’ve made some peace with it as well. I suppose that’s a step forward.

    I wanted to thank you for the link to your friend’s blog as well. I can’t begin to imagine the pain she must be going through but a lot of what she talks about resonates with me as well. I’ll be reading more of it over the weekend; just connecting with other people who understand is a big help.

    Thank you for your kind words; they mean a lot to me, and if just one other person can find the strength to say goodbye as well, it’s been worth it.

  2. This is the second time I have read this and it is making me cry again…not for Clare because I did that at the time…but for you. I am sorry you are in such pain and sorry that the thoughtless act of a selfish, immature person should have brought you to this. I am sorry that life is so cruel and that people you thought to be your friends have turned on you at this time.

    Your honesty is to be applauded and your self knowledge also ….you have been deeply distressed and out of that has come even more self knowledge…I am both humbled and honoured to be your mother.

    By the way Clare knew you loved her, you were as loyal a friend then as you are now. Whether it was defending her in the playground, talking together about how she was in charge of her siblings since her parents divorce or sharing your Junior burgers together, she knew CJ.

    CJ: Thank you, MQ. I’m sorry if it brought you tears; I came close to not posting it because it was so personal but I thought it was more important to honour Clare, and remember her. It was the most difficult thing I have ever had to write but that it’s connected with so many people is more than I could have hoped for.

    I’m glad you think Clare knew. Some things don’t have to be said between true friends and in my heart I think she knew. I will always regret that I never had the chance to tell her, though… if there’s one thing I would give anything to change, it would be that.

  3. cj, I was distressed to read that all these sad memories came up for you during the past few days. It sounds as if you kept the pain very close to your heart, as to let it go would be letting Clare go, too. I sincerely hope you can hold memories of her that made you smile, even as you start to let go of the pain of this great loss. It’s often very confusing for one so young as you were to lose a person they care about. There really is no sufficient explanation that makes sense to a child’s mind. Your letter to her was extremely moving; I commend you for your bravery in posting it, and the feelings surrounding it. It sounds like Clare continues to be a good influence on you. In that sense, as you said, she does live on in you. You can give her no finer tribute than to continue to honor her through your life.

    CJ: Thank you, Muse. I’m still very upset and to be honest writing this letter took a huge toll on me; I’ve never felt so vulnerable, and that’s only made worse by what happened. But I am glad I wrote this… Clare was such an important part of my life and she will be in my heart and thoughts forever. The pain of her loss is no less heavy but I feel like I have started to make peace with it… that’s all I could hope for.

    In some ways now I think about it, perhaps I did understand death as a child. Not in the same way I do as an adult; I didn’t know about the fragility of life or the process of dying, but I knew Clare was gone and not coming back. I think what I didn’t understand was why; it was just so senseless and while I had seen death before, I’d never thought about it on such a personal level. It was the first time I realised I was going to die as well and what death was made no sense to me. In many ways it still doesn’t.

    I’m sorry if my letter distressed you at all; I know you’re going through a loss of your own and the last thing I would want is to cause you pain. I actually came close to not posting this because it was so personal but Clare was such an important of my life that I wanted, needed to honour her. I hope I can continue to honour her and through that, maybe I will find peace.

  4. CJ – It must have taken a lot of courage to write this. Hope you feel better soon.

    CJ: Thank you, Priya. It was extremely difficult to write and I appreciate your kind words. It’s helped me in some ways, although it has brought up other feelings as well… I’ll be okay, once I’ve had time to sort through it all.

  5. Hi CJ,

    Did you read my blog by any chance? I have been someone who has been extremely close to her friends but somehow during the course of the 24 years of my life, I have broken up with many friends. The first time I drifted apart from my friend was after 6-7 years of Best Friendship, as I’d like to put it, the second one was after eight years. I always wonder, what went wrong. It’s easier to say that life goes on but pain of loss always stays in your heart and that also for life. The only thing that you are left with are memories. I have got piles of cards and gifts lying with me that I received from my friends, but whenever I look at them I always end up crying. But you know, at the end of the day you are just thankful to God for sending such beautiful people in your life and that’s it. Some things are just out of your control and you have to live with them, whether you like it or not. That’s how life is. isn’t it?

    I am already welling up while writing this post and I can totally empathize with you. Wherever Clare is , she must be proud to have a friend like you. You are a wonderful person CJ and even though I know a very little of you, you command a lot of respect from me.


    CJ: Scratchy, thank you so much for your comment. It meant a lot to me and I appreciate everything you said about friendship. I’ve had many friendships that have ended with our drifting apart; some have been very close friends, others people I’ve only known for a few years. In the end I think some people are just meant to be in your life for a short time and we should value what time we have with them, because then they stay with us forever.

    When I think about Clare, though, I can’t imagine our friendship ever being any different, which I suppose is why I have held on to the pain for so long; I’m not just mourning her loss but also the years we might have had together. Writing this has brought up many feelings but I’m starting to make peace with it and that’s more than I could have hoped for. I hope she would be proud of me and that if anyone else reads this, it might help them too.

  6. I’m sorry to hear that all this pain has been brought back. The nicest of people can say the most thoughtless things when they’re upset. Clare’s passing affected you very strongly. That’s clear and it’s to be expected. I’m sorry for your loss.

    Your letter for Clare is a very brave and moving tribute. I lost a close friend very suddenly and unexpectedly while I was at high school, so I can sympathise. I can imagine what you must have been through at the time, and it’s horrible to think of you going through that again.

    You say that you were particularly upset because you aren’t religious. I’m not sure where I stand with regards to life after death, but Clare does live on in the hearts and minds of the people who cared for her. You still have memories you can cherish and hopefully take comfort in.

    CJ: Thank you, Bobby. Clare meant so much to me and to be reminded of her loss at a time when I felt particularly vulnerable was difficult. This letter was the hardest thing I’ve had to write and now I feel like I have finally started to let her go… that doesn’t make it any easier or the pain less real but it’s the first step towards finding peace. I think I will get there, in time.

    I’m sorry to hear about your loss too. I can’t think of much worse than to lose a close friend at such an important time in your life. I know it gets easier but it never goes away.

    To be honest I’m not sure what I feel about death. I believe Clare is gone but I’m not an atheist either; I just feel I can better honour the people I love by living my life than believing I’ll see them again when I die. In that way as I long as I remember her, Clare does live on… her memory makes me a better person and hopefully lets me help others too.

  7. I don’t know what to say… just that I’m truly sorry for your loss.

    This was a beautiful and emotive letter. I’m sure Clare would be very proud of you, no doubt.

    My best to you.

    CJ: Thank you, Juan. I was sorry to hear about your brother and your kind words mean a lot to me. Though it’s been a long time since she died, Clare is never far from my thoughts… this letter helped me to remember why I loved her and I hope she would be proud.

  8. CJ, that was a beautiful letter. So honest and moving. Here I am crying again. That you could open up like that and share just how much she meant to you, is a step towards healing. Not that I think we ever get over losing those we love.
    I do hope you find some peace. I’m sorry for her passing and your loss. But perhaps you can take a bit of happiness in the fact that you were able to know her and be her friend.
    Take Care CJ,

    CJ: Thank you, BD. Clare meant so much to me that it was hard to put into words but I felt like this was something I had to write. The pain is still there but my memory of her feels brighter now… perhaps that’s the start of it healing.

    I try to take a lot of happiness from her being in my life. I treasure my memories of her, the happy times we shared… she was a wonderful friend and that she touched so many people in her short life shows she was a wonderful person too.

    Thank you for your kind words and peace to you, always.

  9. C.J., I know how it is to lose a special friend as a child. I lost two cousins within five years of each other when I was a little girl. Their spirits still live within mine.
    I am no preacher and would never judge you or anyone else’s belief but I was saddened that you don’t feel that you will ever see Claire again. I do believe in God and Heaven and have had enough experiences in life to really know both exist. I can tell through your words that you are a kind, gentle person and I find warmth within you. Life is easier when you believe. Look for reasons to believe I think once you make an attempt to seek signs you will find them. There is a book called embraced by the light, do me a favor read it just for the sake of reading -no expectations and see if you feel any different at the end.
    As I’m sure you know, I recently lost my father and I know when he died ( I was with him) he smiled 5 gigantic smiles (like a little boy seeing Christmas for the first time) there is no doubt in my mind that he was seeing people. Even if at the end of my life there is no heaven, living life like there would be a heaven made living all the more enjoyable.

    Your letter to your friend was beautiful. Her passing effected a lot of people I am sure and their lives were forever altered because of it.

    Love your friend,


    CJ: Thank you, Maribeth. Writing my letter to Clare was very difficult but she meant so much to me that I wanted to share that, to share my tribute to her and who she was. Her life touched so many people and her death saddened all of us… in holding her in my heart I feel like she lives on and I hope she would be proud of who I am.

    To be honest I don’t know if I will see Clare again; my feeling at this time in my life is that I won’t see her again but I’m a spiritual person in other ways and I’m by no means certain of anything I feel… I try to focus instead on living a good life, being a good person… I hope if I do see her again, that would matter as much.

    I have immense respect for what other people believe, though, and I’m very sorry for your losses. I’m glad that you had the chance to be with your father… I know how much you loved him and I hope that has helped to bring you some peace.

    Take care and thank you for your kind words; I appreciate them so much.

  10. Cj, this is ”sadly” well written..This went straight to my heart as I have lost some very close people too who meant so much to me.. But, even though, that I am not religious I believe in Heaven..I am convince in a way that there they all are keeping an eye on me …I am sure that she helped u out making peace with her death by writing this very touching tribute…

    Take carexoxo

    CJ: Thank you, CV. This letter was something I felt like I had to write and I hope Clare would be proud. I feel like in facing it that I have begun to heal and that my words have touched so many people means so much to me as well.

    I’m so happy to see you back. I’ve missed your lovely posts and poetry. Take care and good thoughts to you, always.

  11. ”I’m so happy to see you back. I’ve missed your lovely posts and poetry. Take care and good thoughts to you, always.”

    That’s so nice..Thank u very mcuh..

    CJ: You’re very welcome, CV. Can’t wait to catch up. 😉

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