‘Then cancer struck. It’s hard to be single in a sea of married people. Friends dragged me to the next step.’: Widow is grateful for ‘friend family’ who carry her through life

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This is a follow up story to Cyndi’s on going grief journey. To read the full back story please click here.

“I used to dread getting older. I remember crying so hard when I turned 30. My 20’s were pretty amazing – full of travel, adventure, and fun. I thought 30 was the end of the world. What I didn’t know, is 30 was going to bring me more love than I ever thought possible. It brought me Matt. 31 brought me Quinn. And between the two of them, I have been loved more in those years following than most people are ever loved in a lifetime. For that, I am so grateful.

Courtesy of Cyndi Smith

After 30, birthdays were my favorite. It was a celebration of all of the wonderful and exciting things to come. My first birthday I spent with Matt was in NYC.

Courtesy of Cyndi Smith

When the clock struck midnight and I was officially 31, according to the date on the calendar, I was standing at the highest deck of the Empire State Building with him. My birthday present from that trip involved a little blue box from Tiffany’s, and about 8 months later, our Quinn. Best gift ever. He always was one for extravagant displays on birthdays. He once drove all night from Indiana just to surprise me, at our apartment door in Atlanta, for my birthday.

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After 30, my life just kept improving. Sure, there were hard times. But every year I had something new to look forward to. Then cancer struck, and birthdays were different. My focus was on saving his life. Last year for my birthday, we were in Colorado for an experimental treatment as a Hail Mary to save his life. It didn’t work; he was too far gone.

Courtesy of Cyndi Smith

It was the last birthday we would spend together. He was very sick and fading fast. Still, he tried to make it special. He had this uncanny ability to locate a British pub no matter where in the world we traveled. He knew my love for British beer, so he always wanted me to have a pint on my birthday. So, last year, we toasted to the year he was going to kick cancer’s butt. I really thought he could do it. It wasn’t for lack of trying.

I thought a lot about how this birthday was going to be without him. Would I even find a way to celebrate a year which took the love of my life? I decided we would celebrate like we always do, surrounded by love and laughter.

Courtesy of Cyndi Smith

One of my favorite shows is Sex and the City.

I can quote almost every word from every show. I still hate Berger (because who breaks up with someone on a post it?) and the Russian (because hitting Carrie made me want to break his face). I still cry when Charlotte beats Big with the bouquet at the first wedding. In that moment, she felt how my friends have felt recently – a strong urge to protect me from what hurt me. I love Big. But the fact is, I’ve loved a few Bigs in my life, and they are often not deserving of the time and energy you pour into them. I’m beginning to wish Carrie had ended up with Aiden. Nice, normal, Aiden. I used to swoon over Big. Now I see so much of my last relationship in how he treated her, and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Matt was an Aiden.

On this birthday, I’m focusing on friendship. My squad is one in a million, and even though it’s spread out far and wide, I know they are with me every step of the way. Even when I have no idea what I’m doing. Even when I feel like a failure. Even when I hate everything and everyone. They love me, just as I am. Some quotes from my favorite show reminded me of my favorite people. Everything in life I need to know I learned from the Bible, my mama, and Carrie Bradshaw.

‘No matter who broke your heart or how long it takes to heal, you’ll never get through it without your friends.’ – Carrie

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My friends. They stand by me through the hardest times of my life. They have most recently watched me lose myself in someone who was not worthy of my time. They were just as angry as I was when I was betrayed. One of them met him one time and said ‘NOPE!’

Friends know before we know.

They have seen me at my worst, loved me when I was unlovable, and helped me laugh through the darkness.

Courtesy of Cyndi Smith

They are my girl squad.

Someone asked me once why I say I have so many best friends. It’s because I have the BEST friends. We raise our children together, see each other through losses, celebrations, and everything in between. I have a diverse group of friends, because I gravitate towards people who see the world like I do and don’t take it too seriously. We know we all belong to each other.

‘They say nothing lasts forever… dreams change, trends come and go, but friendships never go out of style.’ – Carrie

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The best friends are the ones you can go months without seeing and then pick right back up where you left off. Moving around a lot means my friends are scattered. We keep in touch as much as possible and never, ever stop supporting one another. When Matt died, one of my New Jersey friends hopped on a plane to stand beside me at his funeral. We integrated her very quickly into southern funeral culture. We fed her until she almost popped. She’s Catholic, but now she’s an honorary Baptist.

‘The most exciting, challenging, and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself.’ – Carrie

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Because of my friends, I love myself more. I love them. They are all a part of who I am. I love who I am when I’m with them. I love who I am when we laugh until our cheeks hurt. I love who I am when we spend nights drinking wine, eating everything in sight, and letting the children run wild. They get me. They are my people.

‘Maybe the past is like an anchor holding us back. Maybe you have to let go of who you were to become who you will be.’ – Carrie

I don’t want my past to hold me back. Matt didn’t want it to either. It was his wish Quinn and I live life to the fullest. I know time is fleeting and life is ever-changing. It helps so much to be surrounded by strong women who push me to keep going when staying in bed sounds easier. He never took anything too seriously, even cancer.

‘The fact is, sometimes it’s really hard to walk in a single woman’s shoes. That’s why we need really special ones now, and then to make the walk a little more fun.’ – Carrie

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My friends mostly roll their eyes at my shopping habits. They know my favorite thing to do is pop bottles and tags. It’s hard to be the single one in a sea of mostly married people. But they make sure I never feel left out. They include us in family gatherings, and their husbands step up when my daughter needs a father figure in her life. They make sure she doesn’t miss a thing, like the father daughter banquet at church. They even fake excitement when I show them (yet another pair) of my new single lady shoes. Shoes make everything just a little bit better.

Courtesy of Cyndi Smith

‘After all, seasons change, so do cities; people come into your life and people go. But it’s comforting to know the ones you love are always in your heart. And if you’re very lucky, a plane ride away.’ – Carrie

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In July, we’re going to Houston. I cannot wait to hear, ‘This is your captain speaking.’ We’ll spend the weekend surrounded by our extended Friend Family, celebrating liberty and life. Our kids will play, we will drink wine, laugh, and enjoy time together.

These moments are sacred to me. Time spent with my friends is never wasted.

They have all carried me through the last few years of my life. When I felt like I couldn’t stand up on my own, they literally wrapped me in their arms and dragged me to the next step.

And little eyes are watching us. They see how we love each other. They see how we support each other. They see how we stand up for each other and cheer each other on. Even when the world tells us we can’t do something, we’re too loud and too opinionated to conform. They know better because we know better. They are our legacy. They will be the next group of strong women to beat the bad guy with the proverbial bouquet, like Charlotte did when Big stood Carrie up at the alter.

Courtesy of Cyndi Smith

Hear them roar.

So, this one is for my girls. I love you all and can’t wait to slide into 40 with you by my side. You’re the Thelma’s to my Louise, the Mary Ann’s to my Wanda, and the Charlotte’s, Miranda’s, and Samantha’s to my Carrie.

Here’s to 39 years of keeping it weird, crying til’ I laugh, laughing til’ I cry, and never for a second settling for anything less than the people who love me know I deserve.

And to Matt, who always reminded me I ‘age well for an old bird.’ Cheers, Dimples. I’ll see you on the other side.”

Courtesy of Cyndi Smith

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Cyndi Smith of Moody, Alabama. Follow her journey on her website hereDo you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more stories from Cyndi:

‘I feel like I’m dying.’ He started going downhill. He was diagnosed with the flu, and sent home to rest.’: Woman loses young husband to incurable colon cancer, ‘I know how much he loved me’

‘I carried his ashes. I carried them in a box all over the airport. I didn’t want to put him on the floor. It didn’t feel right.’: Woman’s journey to return her husband’s ashes to his home

‘Unprompted by any of us, she began drawing in the sand. ‘I love you’. It took my breath away thinking about her leaving messages in the sand to her dad.’: Widow and young daughter visit Wales to spread husband’s ashes

‘He quietly wrote, ‘Before I die, I want to see my Quinn grow up.’ We never thought for a second he wouldn’t.’: Widow shares how husband understood the value of a moment, always ‘showed up’

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