About six weeks ago, I lost someone I loved and respected. This person was a member of my long-lost family, but he and I had formed a special bond. What started as a casual Skype conversation developed into a friendship.
My friend was such a gentle, kind and wise man, that I gradually opened up to him. I had forgotten the relief, the joy to be able to trust someone. My friend stood out from the crowd because unlike my other friends, he had seen quite a lot of the world. What I mean is that he had formed a shrewd idea of what really mattered, without losing curiosity and joie de vivre either.
He could see further than me, but he never made me feel inadequate. Not only he listened to me, but he, too, opened up and in time he let me read his poems. We had a nick name for each other and usually shared thoughts, ideas and, sometimes, fears – usually mine.
I was lucky to have known the complicity of a real friendship, even more so because I knew that my friend was seriously ill. The truth is that I sometimes forgot about that, because my friend never complained, was always ready to listen and had a delicious sense of humour. He gave his illness the finger and smiled at life.
A few weeks later he left us, quietly. And then silence descended over me. I have since lived in a muffled world.
The other day, just as I was in the quiet place next to the river, where I give myself permission to cry over my friend’s loss, I realised that his loss has reminded me of three things that grief does to people.
Grief robs you of your energy: I am grieving, because I feel the injustice of a life lost so soon, so prematurely. I am mourning the waste. He was such a curious and alert person and I cannot help thinking of the loss of what has not yet been: the conversations about the places I will visit, the people I will meet, the demons I have not yet beaten, the hopes I have not yet lost and the facts I have not yet quite grasped and those I have and he refused to see. I miss making mental notes about funny, strange, unusual things to share them with him and then I realise he is not with us and feel so tired I could dissolve into thin air.
Grief is a thief: since my friend has gone, I have been unable to write, which is my passion. Grief has taken away my imagination and I have let it. I tell myself I must get on with it, snap out of this ennui, so I keep busy and get on with it. But ‘it’ is hollower since my friend has gone. Then I feel guilty, because my friend loved life and the least I could do is living, because that’s what he wanted. I know this for a fact, because he wrote a poem for his children and entrusted it to me, until the time came. His poem was very wise and full of wisdom and deliciously sweet. It was about life.
Grief can be shared: I grew up nursing the pain of having lost someone I had loved and who had abandoned me. I did so keeping as much of the pain to me, because I believe that our grief is our burden. I do not like to display sacrifices, disappointments, pain as medals, for everyone to see. But my friend and some other friends, argue and argued that sometimes grief can be shared. I doubt it, but I might as well try. This is perhaps one of the hardest lessons for me. Perhaps now I understand what my late friend meant when he told me to live truly and utterly.
So, I have taken the plunge and here I am: writing again. Not only that: I am writing about my own loss in a public platform, because my pain is not a shame, it’s a fact I have to deal with.
Sharing the burden for the first time in my life is a great risk, but not the first I have ever taken. What’s more I am going to start writing again, because I have to go on, get on with it and that ‘it’ is an adventure and it could turn out to be a good adventure too. Who knows, I may even learn something new.
Which brings me neatly to the part about hope: it’s stronger than pain. My friend has taught me that there is always hope, that everything can be fixed. I have lost him, but he has given me a few very happy moments, lots of laughter and an adorable nickname.
So, dear friend, thank you! Good journey! May you rest in peace. I will miss you for the rest of my life, but I will live. Every time I learn something, meet someone new, remember something I had forgotten, make up for my mistakes, I will think of you. I will live, not only that: I will live truly and utterly, as you wisely advised.
Here’s to you: thanks for being my friend.