A friend died this week - far too soon. A very dear, sisterly, special person I had known and loved for many years. Our friendship had suffered since Mike died…for a lot of reasons…they are personal and not for public airing. But there is no blame to pass around. Relationships can be complicated. And they can be further complicated when someone we love dies. She definitely suffered after losing her Dad, whom she was very close with, and then Mike, within months of each other. My husband had been an important brother/teacher/counselor/mentor figure to her, as he had been to so many others. She was just never the same after that. I will always believe, regardless of the medical reasons why her body shut down, that her life was, quite simply, cut short by grief.
Mike had a powerful effect on people when he was here, and his death left a gaping hole in a lot of hearts. I know that. A lot of things changed for a lot of people here when he died. And I know she missed her father every day too. Grief is not something you ever “recover” from, but if you’re here reading this, you’re one of those who are searching for a way through it; searching for a way to learn to live with it. But not everyone can. Not everyone reaches out; not everyone looks for support. Some remain frozen in place. For some of us, there is no getting through anything at all, and that painful death ends up being just the beginning of our own ends. And there is often nothing any of us can do, from the outside, to thaw that self-inflicted cryogenic putrefaction when the ice hardens.
Our grief separated us. Our grief put a hole in our friendship. Our grief made it impossible to continue on as we had before. Our grief changed her and her life; my grief changed me, and my life. Now I find myself not just grieving my friend’s death, but the times we missed together; those wasted, empty months and years we could not find a way around it all. Her death shocked me…I knew she had been ill, but had no idea her end was this close. She used to call Mike all the time when she had health issues, but after he died…well, apparently there was just no one to fill that empty space for her, including me.
So I missed my friend long before she died. I missed all the years of Christmases and 4th of Julys we spent together. I missed the petite Italian hostess with the mostess and the way she was always trying to feed everyone. I missed her big pots of homemade marinara and spicy salsa. I missed helping her stir the soup, and clean up after a big party, giggling into yet another glass of wine. I missed seeing her spunky little self sparkling around town draped in all her pearls. I missed the days when I helped her in her shop, carefully setting out the displays, overloaded with all those glimmering orbs. I missed the late night gossipy phone calls, I missed the two hour lunches…I missed her, the way she was, the way we’ll always remember her. I’ll never forget the fabulous surprise 40th birthday party she threw for me, and will always treasure the pearls I received as a gift from my family and my beautiful pearl maven friend.
She had been in a lot of pain for a long time, both physically, and spiritually. Now, her pain is gone. And so I wish God speed to her beautiful soul, because I know it is beautiful, and full of love.
Now it REALLY feels like the end of an era. And let me tell you a little something about being frozen in place. Because it’s a thing. I myself, I realize, have been frozen in place, in my own way, since Mike died. And other people close to me, I think, are frozen too. I think you can become frozen not just from grief, but through any number of life’s challenges.
But I feel a thaw coming on. Things have been shifting for me, and it has to do with family…and real estate…this limbo-land I’ve been floating in for over three years now is about to come to an abrupt end, one way or another. I’ve been feeling this growing momentum of decision…because making big decisions - big, life-changing decisions - is the hardest thing we can do, especially in the wake of the big change we never asked for. But listen. I can’t sit here anymore and just let things spin around me. I need to stand up and grab hold of my life and DO something. Otherwise the days and weeks and months and years are just going to continue to trickle by and before you know it my parents will be gone and my grandkids will be grown up and I will have done nothing to control the direction of my own life.
Making the decision to change things is hard…the actual changing and moving part is hard too. But the result is important. The result is knowing when we look back we will be glad we did that, when we did. We will know it was a good thing, what we did. The right thing. We will know we took it in hand and made some pretty good lemonade. We made life a little better, maybe a little easier, for ourselves and the ones we love, for as long as we have left. Or at least we tried to. And we do this despite the hardship of the change. Despite the reluctance of leaving our comfort zone. Despite the pain of the thawing out.
And if the decision turns out to be the wrong one, I can change it again. I can decide again. I can re-decide. I am not locked into anything. But I have to stir the pot. Some might say to bloom where you’re planted; yes, I did that for a long time. But for me, I know for sure now that I need to prune and uproot, so I can repot and bloom again.
I’m sorry, my dear sister friend, about everything that happened to you…and to us. I will carry that pain with me forever. But let’s forgive each other. And wherever you are now, you know I have to do what I’m going to do, lest I remain frozen, in pain, blind to the world, as you know can happen, all to well. Wish me God speed too, dear friend.