Monday, September 17, 2007

Fear and loss

A couple of you asked me to update you on my friend. I'm very sad to report that she died. Writing that seems so cold, so clinical. There is no way to write those words so that they can convey even one iota of the confusion and sadness I feel. Even I as I write it my mind can't comprehend it. Even though I went to the funeral home and attempted in some small way to offer comfort to her family, I still can't make it seem real. Calling her my friend in some way feels false because truthfully, other than speaking in passing at the local county fair last year, I haven't talked to Leslie in years. But she was more than an acquaintance. In high school I definitely would have called her a friend. She was a fringe member of the nerd herd and definitely another smart girl.

Friday night I went to the funeral home for the visitation. I waited in line for two hours to have a chance to let her family know what a special person I thought she was. Mr. Daddy wanted to know why I felt such an urgency to go when I hadn't seen or talked to her in ages. But I'd known this girl -- this woman -- all my life. We went to camp together as children, played Little League softball together, went to middle and high school together. I felt I owed it to her and to her family to let them know that she meant something to me.

And I have to tell you that going took every fiber of my being. Not only because I was worried about what to say -- what do you say to a mother and father and young husband who have just lost their daughter, wife, other than I'm sorry. But also because it forced me to face my greatest fear. And that is that something will happen to me and I won't live to see my children grow up. I think about this a lot. I don't mean I dwell on it daily, but here's why I think about it.....my grandmother died at the age of 37 from cancer when my mother was only 7 months old (this was in 1940). All my life I've known this fact, but the reality of it only hit home a few years ago. I was going through some boxes in my mom's house and I came across two small boxes bound together. One was a box full of lacy, handsewn, smocked baby clothes, and the other was full of cards and telegrams that were sent to my grandfather at my grandmother's death. I wasn't even a mother then, but the absolute sadness of the situation hit me with such force that I began to sob. What must it be like to carry and give birth to a beautiful baby and know that there is a great likelihood that you won't live to see it grow up. Now that I'm a mother, I can't even really think about such a thing for very long without feeling like I'm about to suffocate. I literally have to force the thoughts from my mind.

Truthfully, this fear is greater for me than the fear of something happening to my children. I must confess that as I wrote that sentence I feel like I need to be crossing my fingers, knocking on wood, biting my tongue and throwing salt over my shoulder. Am I tempting the gods too much to even admit such a thing? Will they come and take my children just to show me how wrong I am? I know my fears are irrational, but I can't help them.

Leslie's children were at the funeral home. I only saw two of them, but I believe they were all there. And they seemed so unaware. Which is normal, I think, but heartbreaking all the same. My mother's father died when she was seven years old and she says that she can remember thinking "Why is everybody so sad?" and wondering why her older brother, who was 17 at the time, was crying. Leslie's oldest is 8. What will her memories be of her mother? What of the youngest, who is 2? That child will likely have no memories of it's mother -- how much she loved all of them, how patient she was with them, what a good person she was. And that is my fear for my own children. I cannot stand the thought of day going by without being able to hug them and kiss them and tell them how much I love them. Or the thought of them growing up without knowing how much their lives made MY life. While I was getting ready to go to the funeral home, Bubba, Punkin', Mr. Daddy and I were all dancing around in the kitchen to a silly song we'd downloaded. It seemed so incongruous and I couldn't help but think of Leslie's children and it was all I could do not to sweep everyone into my arms and run somewhere to a deep dark cave and hide. Yet at the same time I wanted to keep dancing and celebrate the life we have here together. Because we are truly blessed.

So, go. Hug. Dance. Kiss. Love. Celebrate. Every day.

9 comments:

Laurel said...

What a thought provoking post. I am so sad for that little family. What a tragedy. It does bring home the fragility of life. How unexpected and unknown it all is. And yet, there is only wasted time in fearing the future. Living in the moment is our happy consolation. Our joy for now.

Susan said...

I'm sorry about your loss -- even if you didn't see or talk to your friend much in the last few years, it is still a loss for you and the past you shared with her.

And sometimes an "I'm sorry" and showing your support brings more comfort than you might think.

Mir said...

You did the right thing in going, and hopefully it gave Leslie's family some comfort and will also help you be less afraid of the what-ifs. (I am very familiar with those fear, by the way... not casting aspersions here, just commiserating!)

Lauren said...

I recently attended the funeral of a friend from high school..it was terribly sad-and made me think all the things you said. I just had to keep telling myself that God knows what He's doing...and hope that something good would come out of such a tragedy.

We'll keep them in our prayers...

Sophie said...

I'm so sorry to hear of your loss and your friends. I do wish I had magical words to take everyone's pain away. My dad died when I was nine, so this is a subject near and dear to my heart. However, I'm still awkward in consoling others in that situation. So here's my attempt, warts and all. Hugs to you.

Leslie said...

What a lovely tribute to your friend. Thank you, too, for reminding us to celebrate life every day. I know that I'm certainly guilty of getting caught up in the drudgery and stress of daily life. I'll be praying for Leslie's family.

Lulu said...

I'm so sorry for you and your friend's family.

My husband's sister died of breast cancer at 37, leaving behind her 4-year old daughter and 7-year old son. It was such an awful tragedy, but her children are now flourishing with their aunt and uncle (sadly, their father died a little more than 3 years later).

We just have to be thankful for each day that we have with our children.

tammy said...

That's very sad... I'm so sorry.

Esme said...

Delurking to say that I've started writing this commment five times now, and I just can't put how I feel into words. Thank you for writing such a moving post, for making me think, and reminding me to be thankful.