When you’re 25 you learn how to balance a calendar full of engagement celebrations, housewarmings, weddings, baby showers and kid’s birthday parties. When you’re 25 you buy yourself a nice outfit and a thoughtful gift for the cherubic baby or happy couple then you eat cake. When you’re 25 you merrily clink glasses in cheer while sharing warm hugs and kissing wine flushed cheeks. When you’re 25 you are young, beautiful and have the rest of your life ahead of you. Going to funerals for your friends is the last thing on your mind – except when you and all of your friends share a life-threatening disease.
“When you have a silent killer lurking in your very being, you rejoice every milestone”
When your days are marked just making it to 25 is a blessing. Every day lived is a precious gift and attending mundane societal normalcies are just extras for us. When you have a silent killer lurking in your very being, you rejoice every milestone you or your friends reach because you know that your time together could be limited. Just being there to grow up with one another and see each other succeed is a miracle. Every cookout, every casual get-together, every baseball game spent with your friends you try to imprint the moment in your brain, you try to burn their image in your eyes – just in case you never see them again.
Having a friend die is heartbreaking; Having a friend die from the same slow, methodic, malignant disease that you have is catastrophic. Your throat closes up and the blood in your veins freeze as you stand in front of the casket and realize that it could be you next. You look at the family and see ambivalence – pain, grief, acceptance and relief – because the one they love is gone but they’re no longer suffering. Not only do you mourn your dear friend but you mourn the very idea that maybe just maybe you could live your life normally – You remember that you’re still sick.
There’s something about pain and struggle that brings people together. It’s the reason firefighters, military and police officers call each other “brother”. When you find others like you, you can support each other and even fight back like the Mothers Against Drunk Driving. You make life-long friends and sometimes even meet the love of your life (Like I did!) all because your existence became complicated somewhere along the line. You form bonds with friends who become family and you get some of the light back in your life.
“The sad truth is we go when we go”
Unfortunately, as we all know, death is inevitable. We’d all like to believe we will die at peace, lying in bed surrounded by loved ones and remembering our long lives dotted with proud moments. We’d like to believe that we’ll die of old age with wisdom to impart upon our subsequent generations. But the sad truth is we go when we go.
Today my husband and I said goodbye to one of our very close friends, he was 34. My husband had the privilege of being one of his pallbearers and was asked by his father to say something during the service. I watched the shoulders of his mother rise and fall in muffled sobs as my husband recalled happy moments with her son. I choked behind my handkerchief trying to contain my own dispair as I heard the soft cries and sniffles of others around me.
When we found out about our friend’s passing it was impossible to believe at first, I was waiting for someone to say, “Gotcha” but no one did.
Nearly a week passed after I got the news and I still couldn’t believe it until I saw his body in a casket with my own eyes. He looked so peaceful and happy. He looked like he might open his eyes and tell me it was all a prank. I reached into the casket and laid one of my most prized possessions on his chest and drove home to finally allow myself to break down.
” If you don’t focus on breathing you feel like you might forget how to”
All week I forced myself to grit my teeth and carry on as normal. I went to work where I smiled and joked in a vain attempt to push my feelings aside. When asked how I was doing I simply replied, “Fine” because I couldn’t tell them what was really gnawing at my insides – they wouldn’t understand. Sympathetic nods and cooing noises made me wish I hadn’t told anyone anything at all. I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, if anything, I wanted everyone to be sorry that this world lost one hell of a man.
Losing someone to the very thing that brought you together knocks the wind out of your chest and all you can do is sit very still because if you don’t focus on breathing you feel like you might forget how to. It will take a long time to heal from the loss of someone who brought so much life and laughter to our lives but I am grateful that my husband and I have each other lean on.
If you are struggling with something please understand that life is short and there’s no need to suffer in silence. Reach out to someone and give yourself a fighting chance. As for me, I will continue to live with my own affliction and try to make every day count. There isn’t enough time to worry if you look fat in that dress or keep up with what’s trending on Facebook or wonder why your ex cheated on you. Keep moving on and moving forward.
Love deeply and aim to serve others – doing so hasn’t let me down so far.
Thanks for reading.
Until next time