A friend of mine died twelve days ago. I found out by text message several hours later.
I know that this isn’t a nice way to kick off a blog post. Yet, it’s something big, that happened recently and I feel the need to write about it.
Death is odd, in so many ways. It’s the one thing in life that is guaranteed. If you’ve been lucky enough to step foot in this world, you will at some point, die. And most probably before you do, people around you, people that you love and care about will have their lives extinguished – through both natural and unnatural causes.
My friend’s death was not wholly unexpected in the end. He had been sick. Well, that’s not entirely true. He had been very healthy, working out at the gym every morning, doing two-day bike rides with his equally as fit wife and putting other people of all ages to shame (he is my elder by thirty years), with his fitness prowess.
Then he got sick and if that doesn’t demonstrate how unfair life can be, I don’t know what does. My friend should have been living a long life to a ripe old age, growing old with his beautiful wife. He should have seen his boys get married and have kids of their own. He’d worked hard his entire life and he deserved to retire, to spend lazy days in his holiday house up the coast, taking his dog for walks around his hometown and whiling away the hours at his favourite café, where everyone knows his name.
Except, he’s gone. Prematurely. And it breaks my heart, that I’ll never get another email from him. We’ll never share office gossip (he was once my boss) over a hot beverage on my visits home. He’ll never poke me in the ribs, call me “kiddo” even though I’m pretty much an adult now, or tell me that he’s proud of me again.
The one thing I know I can hold onto is that I’m 100% sure he knew how much I appreciated his influence in my life (amongst many others, as he was that kind of figurehead in our local community) and his friendship.
If it’s one thing I’ve learned from life – not travelling, not living overseas, just living your life, it’s that it is so essential to tell the people in your life that they mean something to you. That they are special. That they are appreciated. That they are important.
At least then, when they are lost to you forever, you can make your peace with the fact that they went onto the next life, into the light, or whatever it is that happens when we die knowing they are loved, knowing that they are cared for and knowing that they will be missed. Oh, will they be missed.
Death in its way, is a reminder to live. And no, not in a “quit your job, explore the world!” kind of way – blog posts like that really, truly annoy me. Rather, to not sweat the small stuff and just be grateful for your lot.
I spent the first half of that week worrying about stupid little things, like a trailer company that screwed me over during my move to Melbourne and whether I’d ever fit into the majority of my wardrobe again. Then my friend died and suddenly, all those things became so insignificant to that one, sad event. Although, I do want my money back from the nasty trailer company and I would like to be skinny again, it doesn’t seem worth getting worked up over. Rather, I want to be grateful for everything that happens in my stupid, little life. And writing that, I feel the need to quote the last line from the film, American Beauty, where Lester says:
… it’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once and it’s too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst. And then I remember to relax and stop trying to hold onto it. And then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life.
I am grateful for so many things and when I think of them, it helps heal my heart. Even though my friend is gone, I’m grateful that I got the chance to know him, for everything he did for me and for anytime I got to return the favour.
And although the grief can be all encompassing at times… well you can’t feel grief without first having felt love. I’ve always agreed with William Faulkner, who once wrote: “Between grief and nothing, I will take grief.”
Grief signifies loss, yes, but if you cared about something or someone enough that their removal from your life has shattered your heart… then you are very lucky indeed.
Rest in peace, dear friend. You will be missed.