Teens Aren't Supposed To Die — My Best Friend Did And It Still Hurts

Photo: courtesy of the author
photo of author

My parents had recently turned our finished basement into my bedroom, so it was like a small little Bat Cave just for me. I was sleeping in my bed, more than likely dreaming of Pacey from Dawson's Creek, unaware that my life was about to change forever and that dealing with grief would become the norm.

From the top of the steps, my father called down to me. "Liza? I know it's early, but I need to speak with you," he said.

My dad never woke me up; he was usually on the road to work by the time I got up. I half-fell out of my bed and walked over to the landing. I remember the light being on. It was so bright and daunting.

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"I... I just saw the news," he said. "Nancy died..."

Right then and there, everything froze. I don't actually remember making it up the steps. The next memory I have is crying hysterically in my father's arms on the living-room couch. 

The television was still on. "We have sad news to report. The body of missing teenager Nancy Noga, 17, has been found. The police are treating it as a homicide, and ask the public for any assistance."

The words "Nancy" and "homicide" rang in my ears over and over as I continued to cry.

She was walking home from work in early January when it was dark and cold. Apparently, Nancy had taken a shortcut through the woods to get to her house. She was found in a ravine covered in snow, with blunt force trauma to the head. Who would do that?

This is the picture every news program and paper used (her school photo)

​I didn't have many friends growing up. I was a bit of an outsider because I had red hair, and children don't like anything that's different.

One day at the bus stop, waiting for the school bus, there was a new girl. She was pretty, outgoing, and had the best accessories.

"I'm Nancy," she told me.

"I'm Liza."

And that was the beginning of a friendship like no other I've had since.

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She lived around the corner from me; I could see her parent's bedroom window from my own. We would make silly faces to each other and hand gestures, signaling the other to come outside.

In school, she introduced me to all her friends, who then became my friends. The group included a variety of stereotypes: The cool girl, the nerd, the goth, Nancy, and myself.

We had sleepovers every weekend, and she became part of my family, and I became part of hers.

She lived with her father and stepmother. Her father nicknamed me "Lisa-Liza" because he would always accidentally call me "Lisa."

Having Nancy in my life was the epitome of happiness. She was a ride-or-die friend, one who would stand up to the biggest bully without blinking an eye if it meant making sure I was safe. 

Photo: Author

After she moved out of state, we stayed in touch. I grew up in a time before Facebook, Skype, and cell phones. Long-distance phone calls were only allowed after 7 PM because rates were cheaper. We'd take turns calling each other as to not run up a huge bill on either end.

The best were the actual letters we wrote to each other. I have an entire box filled with Nancy's letters, the journal she bought me and wrote in, and pictures.

After her death, my depression set in.

I did not know how to deal with grief.

I stayed up all night trying to figure out who would kill Nancy, when in reality, I wasn't a detective. I was just looking for justification for such a horrible thing to happen to MY friend. It wasn't fair dealing with grief and the stages of grief like this.

I had teachers at school tell me to "Get over it!" That was hard. These were adults I was looking to for answers, and that wasn't what I wanted (or needed) to hear.

I think about Nancy every single day of my life. Every time I hear a song that we'd dance and sing to, I think of her. Every time I see someone that looks like the guy she crushed on, I think of her.

I consider myself lucky that I had her in my life, even if for only a brief time. Though they never found who did it, and at this point, I don't know if they ever will, I know that Nancy is happy. Because she was happy in life.

When I feel down about something, I have Nancy's voice in the back of my head saying, "You are beautiful, talented, and I love you. YOU CAN DO THIS!"

They say people come into your life for a reason, and I know why Nancy came into mine: to show me what true, unconditional friendship and love are. And for that, I will always be grateful to her.

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Liza Walter is a writer who focuses on current events, pop culture, and true crime.