Many of us have lost friends and family members over the years, through accidents, illness or arguments. Whatever the cause may be, the loss of someone dear to you, someone who has touched your life, your heart, your mind and/or your soul, can be extremely complex.
My best friend, mentor, and intellectual soulmate was laid to rest last year from an astonishingly aggressive form of stomach cancer. He passed within 3 months of being diagnosed with it. I still carry his text messages on my phone, from the night he told me his prognosis, he only had a few weeks left to live AND he was sorry things turned out this way(!!). I received that text on the first night of Pesach (Passover). He was gone 11 days later.
We had a friendship that withstood time and space – literally. At one point, we went for years without seeing each other in person but were so intertwined with our families through the beauty(beast) that is Facebook, that we did not feel we missed a second of each other’s lives. We had a level of closeness, a bond, that was so secure in who we were in each other’s lives that it didn’t matter if a text message or email went unanswered for days. We had worked together for many years, again, rarely in the same city at the same time, and while work-related emails were always answered, personal chats were treated with a little bit more decorum and saved for when we could focus on each other.
I am the type of person who devotes time and energy to most people I meet. I am one of those who has a lot of Facebook (beauty/beast?) friends from all the years at school, different countries I have lived in and the umpteen colleagues who have managed to touch my life and cross the LinkedIn/Facebook divide. I can remember at least 3 things about each of these people – past or present memory irrelevant.
As most of you read this, you will have undoubtedly perceived an illusion of something more than just friendship between Him and I – mainly because He was a man and I am a woman.
You see, I have been blessed this year with a ‘new’ best friend. Both of us are going through transitional phases in our lives and as individuals. She (Bestie) and I just click. We are both very Alpha people, extremely communicative and talk almost on a daily basis. Bestie and I have the same level of closeness and bond that He and I had. Thanks to Bestie, and the experiences we have shared together in the last two months, I have been able to face many things about myself, my journey through life since He passed and the choices I made as a result. I did not realise then, that the loss of Him, would affect me the way it did. I had lost other friends in the past, and it was nothing like this.
Looking back on the last 12 months, I wasn’t encouraged to mourn by those around me. I just buckled down and ‘got on’ with life. Unfortunately, the loss was too great. No more late night text messages that I would read when I stirred in the middle of the night. No more updates on His gorgeous family (whom I also know well). There was just nothing. I knew that would be the case after the wake. I was part of the procession the day he was interred.
I moved away from Chicago last December, and returned to the one place that I felt was closest to being a home for me – the UK. That was an illusion. Now, I can see that I had returned because it was where He and I had started our friendship – in my subconscious mind, I was back to 8 years ago. I also know now that when I started spending more time in Chicago from 2004, it was also to be where He had moved back to. The company we worked for had me traveling to ORD often and it just felt natural for me to be in Chicago. I still have some of the greatest friends in Chi-town.
Needless to say, the illusion of home in the UK, started to crumble over time. I was in a state of flux. I felt better when I was living out of a suitcase and traveling for work than I did when I was ‘home’. Fast forward to now. I returned to the US and to Chicago a couple of weeks ago. Half of that time, I spent in LA and Austin due to my new super fun job.
Last Saturday, I went to help a couple of my closest friends here house-hunt. As we were driving around, at one of the junctions, I realised where we were and my entire body froze. We were on the road the procession had taken and the memories just came flooding back, images and scenes as real as if they were happening right in front of my eyes right there and then. Muscle memory is a bitch 😐
I knew I could no longer avoid visiting Him. It was time to say goodbye, in earnest, and it was time to let go. I was ready to face the one real fear I had and walk through the mirror. This past Thursday, I had set up my day to ensure I would not bail out on myself – I had a lunch meeting near the town where He is buried, visit Him and then rush to get my hair cut. Simples. I am a fairly logical person first, emotional second.
On the drive to my lunch meeting, muscle memory kicked in as I wove my way through the very streets the procession had taken. Tears began to roll down my face involuntarily. By the time I arrived at my lunch meeting, I needed to speak with Bestie. When she answered the phone, I lost my nerve. I cried harder than I ever had in my life. Finally, I was letting it all out. I admitted to Bestie that deep down, I still thought I would get a text message from him. That he really is not gone and it is just like it was when we had our long period of not seeing each other.
I recomposed myself, had my meeting, then made my way to the cemetery. As I drove into the gates, I felt trepidation. Even after all this time, I still remembered where His plot is. I had no tears as I drove up to the section where He is. As I walked around, I almost panicked when I could not find the tree that I had stood under during His burial – it looked different as He was buried in early summer and it is now autumn. Then I found Him.
I cried, and I cried – out of sadness, out of joy at the good times, out of anger that he was taken from everyone so soon, out of regret that we did not get more time before He passed, out of my entire being. Kissing His forehead before His coffin was closed, and watching Him being lowered into ground did not give me the closure that I so desperately needed.
I placed my hand on His headstone and I said goodbye. At that moment, I felt this great weight lift off my shoulders. This was it.
I texted Bestie to tell her I was leaving Him and headed for my haircut. She asked how I was and I replied,…
“I am ready to live.”