“The death of a beloved is an amputation.”
― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
I grieve. I grieve for someone who still lives. I know now that is possible. I have found out this year more than any other year through the culling that sometimes occurs when the universe tells us through the loss of friends we outgrow, or who no longer serve us, that the grief that follows these losses or this loss is the same as that for someone who actually dies. For it is a death, this loss. To lose a friend that you thought was a friend, only to find out that no, indeed they were not, maybe never your friend is an amputation of the self. There are good days, which seem to flow like an uninterrupted current in a river, then there are the bad days, when something reminds me of who we used to be, and how it was all just an illusion. How we met. How we talked and talked, and in the years ever after, he would speak of that first time, and how impressed he was by the way I could speak about any subject with insight and intelligence. I felt the same way about him. Maybe that was an illusion too. Maybe what he saw in that conversation was something of my vulnerability and that was what interested him, for it gave him ammunition for years on end the more he learned about me, which coincided with me trusting him more and more with who I was and who I grew into as the years passed. I saw so much possibility in him; in the kindness he seemed to have, in the gentleness he seemed to possess, which I wrapped myself in like a warm blanket. I am reminded of something else Lewis says in his book “A Grief Observed:”
“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth of falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?”
And when that rope is used by your friend to hang you with, everything you were, vulnerabilities and weaknesses and all, everything you did with him and for him, perceived by him as just more weakness, instead of the strength it is supposed to be–for love is a strength; friendship is a strength–it makes the entire endeavor and work that goes into cultivating friendship and love into the weapon designed to destroy me. This friendship was important to me. I was willing to wait for it to grow and blossom and willing to work at it in a way that I was never willing for anyone else. I believed in it. I believed in him. He was my best friend and now he’s gone. Forever. By my choice, and probably his. When the truth is unveiled you can’t go back. I can’t go back and tell the girl I was not to get into his car that first night. That is what I would do now if I could.
Still, I find myself in tears from time to time over this loss and stunned still by the unreality of it all. The friendship spilled over into his family and mine. I loved his family and I thought they liked me. Perhaps that was an illusion too.
Writing is a healthy way for me to work out this grief and I suppose that is where the poem “You, Death,” came from. It honestly never occurred to me how everything he touched or everything I tried to grow died when it was left alone with him. A garden I worked tirelessly to grow mostly died despite my best efforts. What a metaphor for this friendship. Two peace plants I gave him died when he was left to tend them. There was rarely peace in the friendship. After a while he would bail, more than once, and I would be left torturing myself about what I did wrong. Believing in God as I did, and still do, it never once crossed my mind that my friend’s vision of God was quite different from mine and how he used God to justify everything he did—presenting himself as somehow more patient than me, more willing to trust in God than me–it never once occurred to me that maybe he really believed in nothing at all and only mirrored my belief to make himself look better than me and feel better about himself.
So I observe this grief as I write and I grieve for the friendship that never was. I grieve for the man he never was. I grieve for myself and all I gave, for nothing. I understand this loss was for my own good; that I am better off without him. I understand that this friendship dragged me down and held me back and now I am free of it, free to have faith in the unknown, the unknowable, free to live unencumbered by worry and doubt about him. He had me doubting God at the end. That was God’s way of telling me that something was dreadfully wrong with the whole thing, and that freedom lay in trusting the unseen path ahead, not the dream I wanted. I am alive, I will live; and there is the hope in grief, that life did not end the day our friendship died, even though I felt as if I would never live again; that love is never wasted, even when the other person does not understand it, does not understand what they rejected. I made many mistakes with him over the years and so I am no better than he is.
I am just who I am; and I make no apologies for being trusting, for loving, for extending my hand in friendship. These are not weaknesses. They are the best things about life.
Still, sorrow is a process, with good days when she does not appear, and bad days, when it seems all is grey and tears come unbidden. Still the sun rises every day; and still the stars come out at night. There are less grey days and more sunny days as time heals me and I am comforted still by the sight of deer.
I just wish…..I just wish that my friendship with him was real. I wish so much that we will both become better people in the future. I will always love him anyway. How can you not love a person when you see them all alone, never happy, never looking forward to anything, and incapable of understanding compassion, empathy and love? I wouldn’t wish that kind of a life on anyone and I am sorrowful of the people like that who must live that way always.
I will love again. I love myself enough to have faith in an uncertain future that will hopefully help me grow as a person even if my best companion is God and myself. I do not need someone to validate who I am; I love myself enough not to continue suffering in a pairing that does not suit me or my growth. I love myself enough to get away from that. I am willing to wait for whatever comes and I make peace somehow with the uncertainty of the future, trusting that nothing but good is coming. I spend my time extending a hand to others, giving a smile, listening to friends instead of talking.
It’s going to be okay.
“This is one of the miracles of love: It gives a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted.”
― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed