Finding Balance between Mourning and Appreciation
I have lost a dear friend today. Just found out that she passed during the night, after a rather long battle with cancer. My first instinct was to search for distraction – to get away from my heavy emotions. But that felt like a disservice to this woman I loved. So I decided to feel instead. I began to sob heavily, grief-stricken by the loss of her in my life. Then I thought of her partner and children and the sadness felt unbearable. I suddenly realized how badly I wanted to be held, comforted, to help me bear the pain. Fortunately for me my husband was still in bed, sick, and he let me cry in his arms. At first, he tried to comfort me with words, and I requested that he not talk, just let me cry. This was the most healing for me.
At some point too soon, I realized I had a Skype call, so I walked into my office and tried to compose myself, be calm and “professional.” But finding myself alone again, a huge wave of grief hit me. I decided to make the call and just share it upfront . . . “I’m a bit devastated at the moment . . .” and the sharing of it gave me some space to carry on.
Once that was over, I wanted so badly to stay glued to the screen, any form of distraction would be better than to be with the tremendous hole in my gut. And yet, I opted to honor it, and therefore her. I began to be touched by my own grief . . . that this loss could only feel this big because she held a very special place in my heart.
And not only mine . . . on the WhatsApp group, the posts started to roll in about her . . . “she was a wonderful friend,” “a true giver,” “a lovely soul,” “amazing,” “so strong.” I share all of these thoughts and wondered what do they have to say about us? What is it that she contributed to us that causes us to use all of these positive descriptor words?
I’d like to speak less ABOUT my dear friend and move toward gratitude for all her contributions to my life . . . why I valued her friendship so much. Here’s where I land . . . she gave me all of the following ongoing gifts:
At all times, I knew she cared about me, in her smiles, in her warm embrace, in her questions about me and my life. There was genuine interest in and curiosity to know me.
I don’t ever recall having the sense that she thought I should change anything about myself. She accepted and loved me as I am. This is probably the greatest gift she gave me.
No matter what she was going through, she had a way of not speaking negatively about anything, ever. I was always in awe of this. She didn’t even allow herself to complain, but instead would find a positive angle to focus on. This gave me so much inspiration to do the same, even in the face of a dire situation like having terminal cancer.
She wasn’t raised to be very open about feelings or some of the real stuff going on in her. Yet, she attended a couple of my workshops on self-connection and self-care and showed a serious effort for going outside of her comfort zone. She shared in one of them for the first time that she had “terminal cancer” – something she was quite afraid to say for fear of bringing too much discomfort to others. We celebrated this together afterwards – the relief she said it brought her to simply speak her truth. This gave me so much hope for us humans to be less lonely.
She sang next to me in our choir, at least I always made an attempt to sit next to her at choir practice (that’s her in the yellow; I’m second from the right). I loved hearing her voice – she loved to sing. And she made me laugh often, whether it was by chastising her own singing, or by laughing heartily with our super entertaining director and other choir members.
She showed me in so many ways that she appreciated me and my presence in her life. She didn’t say the words, she just showed me by being her. Greeting me so warmly when I entered the choir room, inviting me over for “a chat,” offering me rides, and one I’ll never ever forget . . . the day before she died, we embraced for about 10 minutes. No words were needed. We loved each other very much.
Carol, I will miss you forever. So very grateful you were a part of my life. Your presence and gifts will stay with me always, dear friend. As we sing at your funeral, I know you’ll be present somehow. I’m so glad I got a chance to say that to you.