A few weeks ago I was suddenly confronted by a startling realisation: that for the first time in my life I was about to lose two people whom I love so, very dearly within the foreseeable future.
And, frankly, I hadn’t really psyched myself up for that.
Now, I should clarify what types of loss we’re talking about: one of these darlings is likely to die sometime soon as he deteriorates with his old age. Thus, his death will hardly be a surprise and he has had a great innings, living a long, happy life.
The other has just found out that she has landed a whiz bang dream job in LA and is thus going to move thousands and thousands of kilometres away in a matter of days.
So, it’s obviously not a life or death situation, but it would also be fair to note that I have never experienced the loss of someone I love in my 22 years of existence.
On the one hand this is a great thing – I feel immensely blessed to not have had anyone I’m close to die. Yet, on the other hand, I see not having experienced grief as a disadvantage of sorts. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not something which I’ve been looking forward to. Rather, I know that it is, in many respects, an essential and inevitable part of life and delaying the first time round is not going to make it any easier when I first encounter it. I also think that it means that I probably can’t empathise with other people’s loss to the same extent that I could if I had lost someone myself.
It all came about rather suddenly. In the case of my old family member, he’s very elderly and has been edging closer and closer to the end of his life for a while now. But a few weeks ago his condition deteriorated quite rapidly. At the time I said, “Well, I hope he’ll last until my birthday.” (Which is in three months.)
Dad: “I don’t think he’ll be around then…”
Me: (Horrified) “Well, at least we’ll have one last Christmas together.”
Dad: “Darling, he may not last that long.”
I was mortified. My stomach dropped. It all seemed so surreal. And I felt so helpless.
I spent the next few hours gripped by tears as I snuggled up to this special man. I had to smell his smell and hold him while he was still present because his corporeal existence and our time together were suddenly so very finite. There was going to be a line drawn, a finish point and it was going to be soon.
In the case of my (rather talented) friend who has scored the awesome job, I’m not going to lie: my first response was selfish. Don’t get me wrong, I am truly ecstatic for her – it’s a foot in the door to her dream job and she had always hoped to move to the States after uni – partly because a large chunk of her heart resides there. I love her and want what’s best for her, but that didn’t stop me from sitting and crying when I received the news (thankfully, via text). Since then we’ve barely been able to see each other because she has, understandably, been hectically busy trying to organise moving to The States with less than a months notice. Fair enough. But it’s all happened so quickly and our time together is now so limited and finite.
I think part of the reason why I’m going to miss her so much is because I don’t have any other friends who are quite like her. And, frankly, now that she’s moving, a part of me would like someone else to fill the gap she will leave. I don’t even know how to fully describe her in words so I’ll have to get back to you on what the shape of her gap will look like.
Often, when I was younger, if a friend moved away for whatever reason I would find myself wishing that I had spent more time with them and invested more in our relationship, but it had become too late. This happened multiple times… which would indicate that I don’t learn from my mistakes quickly. Nice one, Alex.
However, I’m really glad to say that with these two that I did, from my perspective, invest as much of my love, time and energy into our relationships as I could. Sure, we’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve also had so many happy, hilarious, crazy, content, sad, non-sober times together and I, to employ a cliche, have no regrets.
Of course you could just say, “Why don’t you just stay in touch with your friend, Alex? Skype was invented for a reason, you know! That’d mean you’d only be losing one person rather than two!”
I happily agree with you, amigo. However, I have a track record of being categorically sh!t at keeping in contact with friends who live overseas – no matter how much I love them. Of course, I aspire to keep in contact with my friend, but I’m trying to be realistic, too. And realistically, it may take a minor miracle to make me better at keeping in touch.
So, where to now? I’m not sure really. How on earth are you meant to prepare for loss?
I guess at the moment I am just really thankful for what I’ve had up until this point and I am trying, somehow, to ready myself for what’s approaching.
A post-script. Since I began drafting this post a few weeks ago my family member’s condition has dramatically improved.. so much so that I think he may well make it until my birthday..