When I was alive, you had a handful of friends
we’d invite for birthday parties, but no real best friend.
The kids who lived next door were like cursory cousins,
promising to come over and then hours later,
you’d realize that they wouldn’t. I told you then,
that I’d be your best friend, but you hated that.
Daddies aren’t best friends, you said, they’re family.
That’s true, but, anyway, it was nice to pretend. I made
you laugh and we played games until it was dinner time.
It was a year after I died that you met Vivian. The moment
you became best friends was the moment you told her
about me, which was also the moment she told you
about her parents’ divorce.
Which was also the moment when you both first talked.
But after that, it was impossible not to talk,
not to share the hard, similar family stories
of lonely mothers and angry younger brothers. Just two girls
laughing on the phone, or typing away on the computer.
No matter what anyone tells you, it’s a special thing
to be loved. When someone can giggle at your jokes
and still have the sensitivity
to read your dead father’s old journals.
What I’m saying is, it’s not always so different.
If you’re lucky, your best friend becomes your family.
The above poem is from Purmasir’s sophomore poetry collection, When I’m Not There. Written in her father’s voice, these poems span a series of iconic moments, moments that define most parent-child relationships: her first crush, her college graduation, her deep-rooted loneliness. When I’m Not There is for anyone who has had to accept the finality of death and, despite this, must continue to live.