Jan 9, 2012

Death of a Friend

My mother called last night to inform me that a dear friend of many years and many circles had passed away after a valiant battle with Cancer.

This was not the first friend she has lost nor will be it the last.

So what are the "circles" I mentioned?

Well there are certain people in our lives who just keep showing up around each corner. We meet them when we are starting out our journey and spend quality, in-depth time with them and then they move on as do we.

A month, a year may go by and then one day they appear and suddenly you are working in the same office or taking the same class and its as if you never left them. Your friendship, your bond, is so strong that it levitates eternally and then reaches down and places you side by side as if you were never apart.


They go round and round and sometimes they make our heads spin and our hearts swoon for they are sacred. They encompass and exhude all the passion, excitement and adventure that rolls on and becomes bigger and larger and better through the people who move around and surround us.

Circles end. Not like straight lines. They end with one person still moving while the other no longer can. They have no more circles.

My mother's friend whom I will not name out of respect and privacy for the family, was diagnosed with one of the many dreaded versions of Cancer 5 years ago. She fought it and she won. I have to say that "she fought it" is an understatement. She battled, she suffered, she lost hope and then found it again in her childrens eyes and she fought past the terrible pain and the fear of death and its aloneness.

Unfortunately the Cancer returned and reared its ugly head and this time it packed one too many punches and she lost the battle. She was already hospitalized when her grandson was born and she will be buried tomorrow, the day before his bris - an occasion she has hoped not to miss.

For my mother who knew and befriended this wonderful person over the course of 40 years, having worked, studied, laughed and enjoyed life together - a parallel journey in most every way - there is great pain and sorrow and a feeling of loss of control and helplessness for the help she just couldn't give to save her life.

And although my mother hasn't verbalized it, I know that she reflects on her friends death as what will one day be her final breath from the light that is life to the dark that is death. She didn't have to say so in words but it was palbable in her voice and her gestures.

She asked that for her birthday this year, my siblings and I were not give her things for presents rather her request was for us to each spend some time with her whether it be showing her how to use an Iphone or Social Media or just a quiet talk over tea and cookies at her kitchen table on a snowy afternoon.

The kitchen table where my brothers and I all at one time sat with my mother receiving empathy, advice and support in our times of need. The kitchen table where we once ate as a family, laughing, telling stories and moving as one.

Tomorrow my mother will be there as her friend is remembered in a large room filled with many people - some who knew the deceased and others who are linked in some other way.

My mother will stick with her friend through the entire process - the funeral, the burial, the Shiva. She'll bring food for the family to warm their souls that cannot be warmed. She'll listen to the eulogy as she recites her own silently yet loudly in her mind and she'll lift that shovel and fill it with earth and then release it downward to land on the coffin that may carry her friends body but does not carry her friends soul as it flows from this life to another.

Losing a friend is losing a part of yourself. It's a dialogue that becomes a monologue when there was still so much more to say and it's a telephone number that you call forgetting that there is no one on the other end to answer.

It's the last thing you said to them and the last thing they said to you and no matter what it was - it suddenly becomes spectacular and memorable.

Circles of friends going round and round and eventually, inevitably, they drop off one by one making you wonder if you should just stop and walk a straight line.

But you don't because without the circle no one new can join, evolve and develop as a friend.

The death of a friend is part of life and life is not a straight line.

Hug a friend today - because you can.

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