Life and Death
I thought that I could handle it. The bitterness of it. The stinging stabs, the bite of it. As if I was somehow immune.
But to watch someone else go through it pains in a way that suffocates. Watching my dear friend vomit up the pain of her loss. Of the stress. The grief. All in those acute first 24 hours of it.
My dear friend, a 78-year-old woman, laying on a twin bed - which they moved into her room not long ago when they moved out the king size. That way she could still sleep in the same room as her beloved, whose illness progressed to the point of needing his own, hospital bed.
My dear friend, a 78-year-old woman with diabetes and other illnesses of her own. Having one of her vomit attacks. But this time her husband had just passed. She lay there in fetal position, panting through the overwhelm of the physical and emotional pain, in that twin bed, with a bucket on the floor next to her.
His hospital bed still next to her with signs that read about the medications he needed and times to distribute.
She’s defeated. Beat down. Yeah, I remember that’s the way it feels.
There is so much pain in this world. So much our genuine, innocent souls go through as being incarnate on this planet.
Why aren't we stopping every way we’re being other than being there for each other? Providing empathy. Love and laughter. Taking the edge off. Disarming and nurturing. Do we not know how badly it’s needed? Can we not see it or do we willingly blind ourselves to it? What other chances will we have to feel so connected and be there for our loved ones?
I went through it. Grief. Loss. After losing my sister Jessica months ago, my heart still hits me with new ways to ache. It’s such an unfamiliar feeling and it stays that way. It keeps presenting itself in new forms of grief or sadness, or whatever - I can’t place my fingers on it. It’s untouchable. But it touches you. I think that’s part of the pain. That it keeps hitting and in new ways. It’s not something you can ever know or get used to.
I look back at the months that have passed since I lost Jess and I wonder if I’ve been gentle enough with myself during them. Have I had empathy for myself? For my siblings and my parents? Have I given myself the same support? Did I have the same support? Have I harbored relationships that honor and respect my pain?
I watched my sister Sam lay there in bed with my dear friend, holding her as she vomited her pain out. I was so proud of Sam, so taken back by her comfort. I was sobered by her ability - when it really comes down to the pain of things - to really be there for someone. To lay right down there with them and go through the thick of it with them.
I think of grief. The grief of my own loss, or of watching a loved one go through it, or of not necessarily losing someone but indirectly hurting someone who loves me. I think of all the heavy and light miscommunication in this world.
Grief is something you carry. It’s not quite something you move through. You learn where it fits, where it’s recurved the structure of your body. What parts of your skin ache when seated a certain way now. And respecting that. You find a new normal now. You don’t go back to the old one.
Losing your husband - the love of your life - and then getting slapped with a five-figure bill to dignifiedly commend the temple that was his body and take care of it in a way he wanted. The pain of that. I can't imagine. The pain of the hit, one after another.
How do you pick yourself up from that? From that gut-tearing moment. How do you push your chin back up with tears rolling down your face to get slapped again? When it's that bad, when it's that deep and it feels like the whole world - every ounce of it - is crashing on you.
This moment you look at the hurt, the energy and deepness of the pain, right in the eye and understand you’ll never go back to where you were before this happened. This moment, somewhere in you, you know that each time you push your chin back up means one more beating, but one of the times you push your chin back up, the beating will cease. Even if it means every unsuccessful time and subsequent beating in between there and now, you know you will still push your chin back up because it takes one more time to find the time the beating stops.
The strength I saw in her, a 78-year-old woman with illness of her own, having one of her vomit attacks. I was bewildered by the strength that kept this seemingly fragile woman going.
I’ll tell you how I have managed to move forward. I softened. I yielded. I gentled. I decided that every dripping moment of my life, I will be appreciative for - even the pain. The pain as intense as watching my dear friend. Because that pain means love. I love my dear friend and I am alive. I get to feel love.
And so in some way, I feel that I am living fully these feelings of life for those I’ve lost. Out of respect for them. I push, I drive harder and harder to be everything I want to be, to make everything work to live my life fully, and to not simply exist but to thrive. That is the way I show my respect to those I’ve lost and my respect to life as a whole. To honor my life as much as possible.
To be there for others. To soften when it feels easier to harden. To be kind and genuine and real and authentic and exposed and raw. Because the world needs more of it.
I want to give myself unto this world which I’ve somehow managed to come into in this amazing form of consciousness to experience. What energy brought me here is beyond my comprehension at this stage in this exact moment, but I honor it. And I think it would be really good for you if you did too.
My life has only become more alive at the same time it has been the hardest year of my life. It has been the most lived time of my life. You show up. You love with all your heart. You breathe with all of your lungs. You allow yourself to fall in love. You make mistakes and allow yourself to keep making them. You listen to yourself. You listen to others. You take in all this great big world has to offer.
Because in all of that, you find a capacity to not just exist, but to thrive.
The strength I saw in my dear friend. I know it’s because she is an entirely soft and loving person, that she is so strong.