My Friend Denis Howard

I promised that I would write a post on my friend Denise Howard, who died from cancer this week.

I first met Denise while I was taking American Foreign Policy class at Tennessee Tech University. The teacher was very unfair and difficult. One day, after we got our first grades back, everyone else was leaving, except one girl who sat in her chair and cried and cried.

I don’t like to see anyone suffer, so I went over to see what I could do. I asked her what was wrong, and when she looked up I thought, “Wow! This girl is hot!” She had gotten a really bad grade and needed to do well in this class.

We became friends and began studying together. We spent lots of time in each others company. I got to met her two beautiful children and her wonderful mom. She had had a terrible marriage and was a single mom trying to make it on her own. Denise got by in the class, but our friendship extended well past that.

I really wanted to date Denise, but she had been seeing someone since before we met. That did not deter me. I would do little things for her, like driving by her house at 2:30 am to leave a rose on her mailbox for when she left home in the morning. One evening, I bought a bag of Hersey’s Kisses and joined her in an auditorium where they were looking at slides of famous paintings for an Art Appreciation class. I handed her one, and she asked what the candy was for. I said that I would be able to tell people that we exchanged kisses in the dark. She laughed, ate hers, and handed me one. We finished off the entire bag, laughing and making fun of the truly ugly paintings we were looking at. There was one very embarrassing incident when we were having dinner at my apartment; a neighbor came over to use the washer and dryer dressed in nothing but a housecoat!

I was so proud to attend Denise’s college graduation, and she and the children wrote to me during Desert Storm. It means a lot when someone sends you kid pics in a war.

All of my efforts failed, and she eventually married her other guy. It was a total disaster, and it was many, many unhappy years before she could break free. Her children were already grown. She moved to Virgina to a new and happy life. She found true love and had a job where she could help people. I was truly happy for her.

When the cancer came, she tried to fight it, and we all thought that she had won. She made such big plans; she was going to open a business where those suffering from depression, addiction, and similar ailments would find peace, love, and, treatment. It was not to be.

Denise was a special, wonderful person, and I can honestly, selfishly say that I am glad that she had done so poorly on that first paper. If she had done well, I would have missed a very important part of my life.

Thank you, Denise, for allowing me into your circle of friends and family.

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