A friend died a week ago.
I got the call while I was at work, and when my body started shaking and I couldn’t look anyone in the eyes and I broke down when my boss called to check on me, I went home. As we do, my people banded together. A text thread was created for immediate needs. Russ and I went to buy groceries. Others dropped off necessities. Plans were made for the house to be clean and hosting parents and beginning the devastating process of what stays and what goes. And through it all, through every new text and offer to volunteer, I kept waiting for the grief to hit. I kept waiting for the wall of pain.
If I’m honest, I don’t know how I’m doing. When people ask me, I just shrug and say, “okay?” My voice lifting at the end because how can you quantify something like this? How can you explain dealing with someone just not…being anymore?
Most moments, I go about my day as I normally do and in some ways that’s maddening because it reminds me of a Robert Frost poem. The last thing I want to be thinking about right now is poetry and its talk of death. But it’s where my brain is going and those connections keep happening. Oh, I guess they were right, I’ll think. And then squeeze my nails into my palms and try to think of something else. Which, having a two year old makes this unnervingly easy.
Eventually though, I knew I needed to face it. I needed to let myself go there: to whisper to my heart that I was ready to face the fact that he wasn’t coming back.
And you know what? I forgot something about grief: that wall of pain is more like a wave. It never comes at once, that’s too much for me to handle. It comes in pieces, at random moments throughout my day. It hits me when I’m driving to work and I start sobbing. Or when I think I hear a coworker say, “hey, darlin’” and I look up, expecting to see my friend’s face. It hits me when I’m standing in the kitchen and I see a box addressed to him waiting on the table, unopened. It hits me when I carry the bag with his things from his desk off the floor at work, down the elevator, and to my car.
The weight of the bag pulling me down and keeping me cognizant of its meaning.
Do not forget. This is him. This was him.
It hits me when I hand the bag of his things to his partner.
“Did you look through it?” she asks.
“No,” I respond. Knowing it wouldn’t have mattered — she wouldn’t have cared. But also knowing those things felt sacred and I wanted her to be the first to pick them up and remember.
Talismans can appear anywhere.
Like these words. My friend would often ask me if I was writing anything — how my stories were doing. I often would roll my eyes and grimace and he would laugh, a booming sound that vibrated everything around him and forced his head back.
“Sore subject?” He’d wink.
“More like no subject,” I’d whine. But then I’d process through it with him: the timing, the waiting, the believing it’s there just not ready-ness of writing. He would nod the entire time, looking me in the eyes.
“Well I know you’ll start eventually,” he’d say, another smirk on his face. “You can’t ever stay away from writing for long, can ya?”
And I’ll remember now how well my friend knew the people in his life. How he knew what to ask and how to support and sprinkle in belief in just the right measure that it always left me feeling inspired. And I’ll open my computer and pull up this screen and hem and haw for a few minutes before I write the first sentence that comes to mind that seems to stick.
A friend died a week ago.
And I’ll know.
Coop, look. You were right. I’m writing again, see?