I remember the first time I ever felt like an actual adult. It took me by such surprise. I had married a man, had a baby, bought a car, bought a house, sold a house, and yet I still felt like a sixteen year old girl playing make-believe.
It wasn’t until my psycho cat had reached her expiration date, and needed to be put to sleep, that I realized I was not only qualified for the position, but also that I was required to come through for her. No one else could, or should do it. This crazy black and white terror of a feline had been with me through most of my childhood and well into the actual adulting stage of my life. She pissed in coffee pots, crapped in toasters, and required my presence in the middle of the night to watch her eat.
She was a horrid little creature but she was mine. And while she had terrible habits, she also had endearing ones, like climbing up my body to eat marshmallows out of my mouth, so it wasn’t all bad.
I waited until the last possible moment, to take her, hoping that I could somehow get out of having to do it. I was sure that some other adult was far more qualified to handle such an event. In the end though, it was me. I was finally a grown up.
I was twenty-three years old.
Nothing had prepared me to have to put down my cat. It was just something that came along in life and had to be handled. If you sign up to love something, truly love something, you not only sign up for the good but you also sign up for the very fine print that no one wants to even acknowledge.
I remember the first time I ever felt like death wasn’t fair. I lost all of my grandparents to old age. I didn’t have to mourn them. They lived long, happy lives with people who loved them until the very end. I lost a few relatives, entirely too early, but to deaths that could have been avoided by some better life choices. I only mourned them for the others that mourned them.
I have watched people mourn the loss of others, and I have never understood it. I’ve been removed enough from the situation to not feel it, and black and white enough to rationalize that death comes for everyone and we should just accept it for what it is, a part of life.
And then I lost someone who didn’t get to grow old. Someone that didn’t make poor choices that resulted in his demise. I lost someone my age, who I had known for two-thirds of my life. He was someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s father and my friend.
I was yesterday years old.
Almost two years ago, he was diagnosed with brain cancer, and I was so immune to the emotions that go along with people dying, that I basically signed up to go on this journey with him. I had no idea what I was doing.
I didn’t know if I was helpful or encouraging or down right annoying and it led to me feeling mostly terrible, all the time. But when it got rough and I thought I was maybe in over my head a bit, I would repeat my mantra, “I will heal, he will not,” and I just kept with him.
He made quite a comeback though. So much so, that I thought for sure he was going to beat this. The monster in his brain would not defeat him. I thought he would be the one that baffled all the doctors, the one who would grow old and gray, and tell stories about how once when he was young he was told he had cancer and how he defeated it because he had the strength and will power to do so.
He called me a month ago to say good-bye. He knew it was almost the end, and he wanted to thank me and my husband for being there, for welcoming him into our lives, for allowing him to come here and stay with us and go on whatever adventures we could drum up. I couldn’t stand what he was saying, that he was using whatever energy he could to get his words out correctly.
I thanked him for letting me in his life, for sharing some of his time with us, for giving me memories that I will never forget.
We said good-bye. I got to say good-bye.
But it left me with the feeling that I had had from the very beginning. Every time I talked to him, or saw him, every adventure we went on, I expected to feel relief and closure, and I just never did. I felt anxious and fidgety. I thought of more things that I wanted to say. And then I finally realized, it will never feel like enough because it just isn’t. There will never be enough time with him because he didn’t have enough time. No one that loved him will feel like they said it all or spent enough time with him, because they didn’t. His life was being cut short and nothing would make that feel okay.
On Friday morning while drinking coffee in bed, I looked at my husband and said, “I think he is gone.” I had no reason to think so, I was in a cabin at the bottom of our mountain with no form of technology available and two states away, but I just knew.
I believe he is in a better place, and I can say all the positive things about how he doesn’t feel pain any more.
But I do.
I feel it as I walk around my house with a heaviness upon me, and I feel it every time I start to fall asleep. I feel it when I think about his parents and his son, and all the people who knew and loved him more than I did. I feel it every time I hear someone say he lost his battle to cancer.
Because he didn’t.
He won battle after battle after battle. He just lost the war.
Nothing prepared me for losing my friend. I signed up to love him through the worst time in his life, but I didn’t read the fine print.
The part that said I might feel his absence……………………………………….
more than I EVER felt his presence.