I have lost three friends in less than three months.
All women, all my age. Each one, leaving far too soon, before I was done saying the things I needed to say to them and doing the things I needed to do with them. Each dying under different circumstances, but does that really matter? Whether you die from disease or a self-inflicted bullet to the head, you’re just as dead. No one’s coming back.
A text came in late last night, just before the stroke of midnight. The buzz of my phone woke me up. Squinting, I tried to make out the words. She’s dead, my friend wrote. I reached for my glasses, so sure that I had misread the text in my grogginess and farsightedness. She’s dead. The words now clear and unmistakeable. I didn’t cry last night, because it didn’t seem real. I didn’t sleep much, either.
Early today, I escaped to the cool darkness of the woods with Max. There I cried, off and on, walking and trudging and making sure my bouts of tears weren’t witnessed by anyone else. Wanting, above all else, to avoid that awkward explanation of why I was upset. What’s wrong? they ask. I needed to be alone in the woods with my grief. Today was going to be a day of compartmentalization, I decided. I had yoga classes to teach and I had grief to attend to. Today, they needed to be separate. Predictably, the woods opened up their sighing arms and wrapped me in their cover.
Inexplicably and powerfully, I was drawn to this woman. I don’t think she’s interested in having fans, our mutual friend told me early on when I shared with him my attraction to this person. I didn’t want to be a fan, I wanted to be a friend. To soak up her knowledge, because she was far, far smarter than the whole bunch of us combined. An old soul, who’s depths defied any chance of plumbing. She was bitingly funny and sarcastic and loved her loved ones as fiercely as I’ve ever seen. Not just a patron of the arts, but an avid, rabid supporter of everything from punk rock to blues and soul, fashion, design and all manners of visual art. A defender of the marginalized, she was outspoken and fearless in her beliefs. She made me think deeper and care more about the world and the social injustices happening every day. I learned from her, absorbed from her. I became a better person because of her.
And I worried about her. I worried when she seemed to disappear from Facebook and asked other friends to check up on her. Her physical challenges were not for the fainthearted, and she wasn’t one to sugarcoat her struggles. She’d disappear and then be back. Gee, I think you’re swell, she’d write, and I’d breathe a deep sigh of relief. I just need to know you’re here, I told her in my last message.
Please tell me she’s not gone.
The last words she wrote to me was on my birthday. She called me “sweet and fierce” and we talked about squeezing each other tight and cooking together in her kitchen in New Orleans where she’d pour me champagne and cook collard greens. I planned on that, counted on that, couldn’t wait for the chance to do that.
I can’t do that now.
I know I’m not alone in my grief. I know many have suffered more profound losses. I know that. But I’m tired of this shit. I’ve run out of philosophical musings to explain away the pain.
Out in the woods today, I remembered something my daughter’s gymnastic coach often said: Life is good, but not fair at all.
I always loved the blunt truth of that statement. Life is good, for the most part, but it’s not fair at all that I’ve lost three friends since Memorial Day. It’s not fair to me and it’s not fair to anyone. It’s not fair that we lost another shining star.
Go hug your friends and tell them you love them. It’s best not to wait.