The tears have been streaming down my face since receiving the email Wednesday afternoon. It’s been months of tears, on and off whenever I’d see her. But when the email came two days ago that she was back in the hospital, in and out of consciousness, I knew we were heading to a dark place. I didn’t anticipate how incredibly bereft I would feel though. I’ve seen my share of death in 40 years, but I realized last night, as I finished a dinner of peanut m&ms and wine, that I’ve never lost a close friend as an adult. The deaths I’ve known have been like a package on a shelf too high for me to reach. Something I can see and reach for, but not touch. The brother of an old boyfriend, a gradeschool acquaintance, a distant uncle. I was a child when the children of my parent’s friends died. And the kindergarten teacher. And the elderly babysitter. This is the first person that I will notice being gone after the funeral procession passes. I will feel the emptiness of the space where she once sat. I will look up into the night sky and ask her, “what do I do now?” about a project we were working on.
And oh, I am sad. I am heartbroken for the loss of her. I am angry at the injustice of all we have lost by not having her here anymore.
This is not eloquent; it is not edited or well thought out. But I needed to write. I needed to express my despair at the vulnerability of life and how bitter the taste of chaos and unpredictability. I keep trying to curl up into a ball on the floor, wrapping my wool sweater tighter around me, trying to squeeze out some of the pain. It comes in waves down my face, scrunched up and silent, turned into a corner so the boys don’t see. After a round of this, I’m able to take a deep breath and make it another 15 minutes before I see her face again and the utter collapse of missing her. Missing the possibility of her.
I’ve been hearing Mary Oliver whisper gently in my ear, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” My friend did so much with her life. She was a force to be reckoned with. She was witty and smart and generous and gracious. She was a woman I would have liked to have known for a long, long time. I am overwhelmed with sympathy for her husband and two young sons. The knowledge that her journey is never that far from being my journey is playing strongly in my pain I’m sure. So I march on with my one, wild, precious life. Saying ‘yes’, giving thanks, embracing friends with great enthusiasm when I see them. Remembering to smile and forgive. To recognize our common humanity and to let go of perfection. Today is good enough. I have today.
Rest in peace Andrea. I will miss you horribly.