So I am reeling this week, overwhelmed by such sadness and anger and fear. My friend of nearly 50 years, the incomparable and irreplaceable Miss Beans, unexpectedly lost her battle – her third battle – with cancer. I can’t seem to accept it. I’m distracted. I’m aimless. My Mom talks to me and I don’t even register what she’s saying. I’m lost. I’m brokenhearted.
And logically I know that death is a part of life. We’re taught that from the time we’re young. The Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible (and then the great Pete Seeger via song) tells us that “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to be born and a time to die.”
I’ve experienced death before, of course. I lost my maternal grandmother before I even knew her and my maternal grandfather when I was a toddler. I’ve lost cousins and acquaintances. I lost the love of my life a few short weeks before what was the hardest loss of all: my darling Dad, who is gone over 6 years now. Each one of these losses takes a little piece of your heart, leaves a little scar that doesn’t really heal, imprints sadness on your soul that never goes away.
Even though I am older than I can possibly grasp, I never think of myself as old. Perhaps it is because I am lucky enough to still have my Mom with me and I believe that you always think of yourself as a child when your parent is still there for you. But old is what I am and this untimely death of Miss Beans has made me face my mortality – and the mortality of those I love – in a way I haven’t before.
Most of my closest friends are from high school so I have known them for decades, almost half a century. And I know that is a blessing from above. The random good fortune that all of our parents chose the same great Catholic high school for us and the randomness of us being grouped alphabetically in class in many cases means that I was connected to some of these girls from the time I was 14 and they have become the cornerstone of my very existence.
But this also means that all of these girls – and my Mom and my sisters and my cousins – are all facing down our mortality and I’m going to ultimately have to deal with losing people I love dearly far more often than I can possibly prepare for. I’m not sure I’m ready to face that. I’m not sure I know how to do it. I am sure I don’t want to do it.
My contemporaries and I are aging and beginning to feel the effects of that aging. We all have various ailments and conditions that we’ll try to manage and control but, like a wind-up toy, eventually we – and everyone we know and love – will slow down and stop. The circle of life and all that.
As we age, it gets harder to connect with new people, to make new friends. I knew someone a long time ago who told me that he knew within 5 minutes of meeting someone whether they’d be friends or not. He believed that life was too short to spend on people who wouldn’t be able to be your friend for whatever reason. I sort of agree with his theory. Life is short and the chances to establish a true friendship, a kinship with someone who gets who you are is rare. And the chance of me ever meeting another person who measures up to my love and connecting with that person for a happily-ever-after is remote as well. I accept that as my reality and it makes me cling to my friends here now even tighter.
So to lose one – and to know that I (and they) will be faced with losing others – is very hard. But it being hard is filtering it through what I feel and I know that’s selfish. My friend was suffering and wasn’t going to get better. She is in a better place now and I know our paths will cross again. I know that in dying we are born to eternal life. I just wish, selfishly, it didn’t have to happen this soon.
Don’t waste time on things that don’t matter. Don’t hold grudges. Hug each other. Make that call. Go to church and thank God for your blessings. Get enough sleep. Forgive and forget. Love one another and hold on for dear life for we may never pass this way again.
Goodbye, my friend. You made my life better in so many ways. I’ll keep talking to you even though you can’t answer back any more. I know you’ll be the little voice in my shoulder encouraging me, kicking my butt when needed, letting me know you’re still here even if I can’t see you. Because there is a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
I’m going to weep and laugh and mourn and dance for you, Miss Beans. I’ll see you again one day. Godspeed, my friend.