The thing about life … and death

I lost a friend Sunday, probably my very closest and best friend. While he had been seriously sick and recovering for the better part of a year, he was improving. He was able to travel and come home. We had 5 glorious days of talking, laughing, arguing like siblings, just being. While there is no blood relation between us, whatever mysterious ingredients create the dynamic that begets family ties, it was us.

And now he’s gone.

As I finish this post, it has been a few days since that fateful Sunday. Whereas before I could not imagine a world without him somewhere in it, my new normal is painfully uncomfortable learning to cope with that reality. Our guest room still has the bed he slept in, his clothes neatly stacked where he left put them, the hamper with his clothing to be washed still has items in it. I see his shoes where he took them off, cherished books on the table by the bed. Only his laptop and phone have been disturbed so I could get the notifications done.

His final requests were simple, yet painstakingly described in a matter-of-fact, step-by-step descriptions including specific sources and contact information. In life he was an accountant, an auditor, and his sharp attention to small details defined his death and what came after in his same clear and direct manner. He wanted no funeral, no memorial service. His body was to be offered to a specific medical facility for research and if they declined, a local medical school. Failing that, he wished to be cremated and scattered somewhere peaceful. No public tributes on social media, which he abhorred and avoided.

He always enjoyed when I blogged about him, and I know he’d understand my methods to process my seemingly endless well of grief.

The list of people to contact was long, 38 people, and those 38 had similar lists of people they would be contacting to ensure his many friends and acquaintances would hear he was gone. It has been hard for me, because of those names I knew or have met less than a third. The rest – a bunch of awkward and uncomfortable and emotional conversations. But I got them done as quickly and efficiently as possible, then the follow-ups and the reaching out communications. It’s been overwhelming in primarily good and positive ways. But my compartmentalization has its limits.

Thankfully the initial shocking communications and halting, stilted conversation, the emotions are scaling back to manageable levels is fading now. There is still a lot of questions, few answers, and so much emotion attched. I admit – I am so mad at him for this circumstance, for leaving me with all this administrative paperwork and not being here to let me verbally rail on him about it. I have cried silently off and on through my solo practices at the gym and may continue to do so, the most unfettered time where thoughts and memories sneak in and take my breath away. I am not sleeping well.

It’s hard. Grief sucks.

The thing for me – life goes on. As much as I want the world to stop spinning to let me catch my breath and just be infinitely sad, the day-to-day business of living my life continues and persists. I have deadlines and commitments to clients, I am determined to continue with my better health quest, our fluffy-butted kit-cats would not understand why the food ceases to appear on schedule and treats are not dispersed at usual time periods. So I’m sucking it up much of the time, while being grateful for enough life to fill up the empty space and good reasons to push my sadness aside and keep plowing ahead.

Managing his possessions, his stuff, and specific bequests starts for me today and for M and I this weekend. There have been several generous offers from friends to assist, but until I get the very specific items and very specific bequests fulfilled, I am reluctant to accept their kind and generous offers. My reticience – for me, it feels like a sacred trust and will leave me with deep regret if I falter or fail. There are moments when I’m grateful for my hyper-responsible proclivities; I am not 100% certain now is one of them.

I know there is time. I know I am in good health and less likely, hopefully, to be maimed or injured or die myself before this portion of his requests are completed. But I want to get it done, off my own very long to-do list, and receive some respite from the shade that cloud of responsibility. While I know it is not all on me, a great deal of my sense of self is my reliability. In these final tasks and requests from my old friend, I know there is a great deal of comfort and joy and feeling good about myself in my ability to see them through.

So I’m sad. And I’m mad. Mostly I’m glad. A life well lived is to be celebrated, but the light and spirit that has left this world – it is hard to accept that I will not bask in it again.

14 thoughts on “The thing about life … and death

  1. How he must have trusted you, to have left you with this enormous task. How secure he must have felt in your relationship, to know that you’d come through for him. I’m sorry Janelle, a friendship like this was is a rare and beautiful thing. xx

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