WHEN A FRIEND DIES
My friend died early this morning, long after midnight and long before dawn. She waged a fierce battle against the cancer that ultimately won. She had been in the hospital for 3 weeks and the night before she died she told her husband that she wanted to go home. That can be interpreted a couple of different ways, I said to him,when I went to the hospital to say goodbye to her. His eyes smiled through the sorrow that veiled them.
Some people have many roles in this life. Mary was a mother, a grandmother, a sister, a daughter, a wife and a devoted friend. She was in many ways a mother-figure to me; I was unofficially “adopted” into the family and I’ll be forever grateful for that.
Death always surprises us. Even when we know it’s imminent, it still manages to shock us. It wrestles our hearts into submission and drives us to our knees…which is actually not the worst place to be. We tend to look up then — in grief, in heartbreak, in wonder, and with a hushed reverence for all that we don’t know and aren’t meant to know. Why are some people taken too soon and others linger? What do we do with the emptiness left behind when a life that was vibrant and present is gone? There is a stillness to grief, a place beyond tears where we go to rest, where we lie down beside memories and the questions that have no answers. That place is one of the gifts left to us by the person who has moved on.
When we lose a loved one, it feels like the pain will never end. But it does. One day we breathe through it and it suddenly feels porous and moveable. When we lose a loved one, it seems like life will never be the same. In some ways that’s true. But when someone has set up residence in your heart, when they have soothed you, made you laugh through tears, and persevere through hardships — all things that my friend Mary did — they have profoundly changed your life, and those changes endure. Death doesn’t take away what someone has left behind in this world.
We aren’t the same after someone we love dies. We are sadder, but also softer, more reflective, and filled with gratitude that another life melted into ours and left us with a better understanding of what love is. To leave behind love in this world is to have lived life fully, completely, and deeply. Rest in peace, Mary.