I just got off the phone with my good friend Dominic. We don't talk to each other too often, maybe once a month, but when we do, I always feel so good. He lives up in the Bay Area, from where I moved from last year. We have been to many of the same places, and always have similar stories to share with each other. He's originally from my new home city of San Diego, so we also often talk about our favorite places here, and share recommendations about places to eat or visit.
I have so much in common with Dominic. We are both gay men, who also happen to be Latino. This kind of grounds our connection in a common culture as well. In our conversations we laugh, encourage each other, and listen to each other's worries of the day.
Did I mention that I have never met Dominic? I don't even know what he looks like. If we passed each other on the road, we would never even know. Well, he might know, as he found me the same way as several other of my newer friends have, by way of my blog. You see, Dominic is also a widower. Not only that, he lost his spouse to the same brutal brain tumor that took my husband Michael.
Isn't life strange. You can live a somewhat parallel life as another person in your own community, and never really have the chance to make their acquaintance. Then you lose your husband, find yourself feel alone, grief stricken, even suicidal, pack it all up, move to another part of the state, get settled into your new home, and BAM, your paths cross. Suddenly, although there are almost 500 miles separating you, that person becomes so central to your life.
This is not the only relationship I have like this. In the past 20 months I have come to know, and love, so many people that I would never have met if Michael had not died. These are such loving, supportive, sad, and joyful people. If you are reading this, then most likely you are one of them too. It's a strange dynamic really. You can talk to them on the phone, share emails online, or trade text messages, and yet, all the while, it dawns on you, "I only know the person, or have them in my life, because of death."
In death did us part, Michael and I, but in death did all of you arrive. Each week seems to bring more and more wonderful, and interesting people into my life, by way of my writing, or by communities formed here on the Internet. Last year I had the wonderful opportunity to meet so many of you at Camp Widow. Let me tell you, it was like magic. I saw familiar faces, or heard voices saying, "Dan?" "Are you Dan In Real Time?" and then I would see the spark of acknowledgment, and be filled with joy. It was the most wonderful experience, and I can't wait to repeat the experience once again this summer.
Camaraderie is the most wonderful of gifts. Camaraderie during times of such extreme need, feels like being bestowed direct grace from God.
You know, in tonight's conversation with my friend Dominic, he shared with me that he attended the San Francisco Brain Tumor Walk. It is an event that is so close to my heart. Michael and I walked with our family two years in a row during his battle with the disease. I then walked the third year without him, and followed up with the same event when I moved here in San Diego. Dominic shared with me that he spoke with people who knew me, either through my participation with the National Brain Tumor Society, or through my blog. It felt so good knowing that they still thought of me, and that I was still a part of their community.
In a way it sounds kind of odd to acknowledge this, but it also serves to remind me of how fragile and isolated I continue to feel. You know, I have come a long way in the past 20 months, and I have made many new friends. Yet, deep inside of me, I am still that broken, and pain stricken, person that was left standing alone in this world. Now some would say, "but Dan, don't you have three kids? How alone can you truly be?" Well, very alone. Yes, I move about in this great big world, with people all around me, yet at the end of the day, I enter my bedroom alone. I brush my teeth alone. I wash my face alone. I get into bed alone. And, I share my day's thoughts or feelings with, oh yeah, no one. And, even at 20 months out, I still struggle to fall asleep each night in that big empty bed.
Who else really understands this?
Who else is struggling with this at the same time each night?
We are alone, or we are not alone. We are newly widowed or we have been at it a long time. We are very young, or we are considered older. We come from this walk of life, or we come from another. We look similar to each other, or we don't. We might have previously chosen to be friends, or we might not have. Yet here we are. We are reflections of each other. We share that knowing look in our eyes. We have the ability to touch each other's hearts, and souls, in a deep and profound way.
By reading, you have shown up for me. By writing, I have shown up for you. Whoever you are, whether we ever meet, speak, or exchange written words, thank you. I value your presence, and I acknowledge the loss which has brought you here.