Gone — flitted away,
Taken the stars from the night and the sun
From the day!
Gone, and a cloud in my heart.
- Alfred Tennyson
I've been eating peanut butter on toast, lunch and dinner, for the past two days. To be more precise, peanut butter on baguette, fresh or toasted, but that's just semantics. Fastidious. Under the circumstances. I've been eating a lot of peanut butter on toast. Peanut butter on toast is my ultimate comfort food. I eat it when I am sick and I eat it when I am sad. I woke up Tuesday morning, logged onto Facebook, as is my habit first thing after coffee, and discovered the death of a friend. A man just a year older than I, killed in an automobile accident in Orlando, Florida.
It's funny how the death of someone can stop us in our tracks. Everything is going all hunky dory, the days flowing more or less smoothly one into the next, one son preparing his final architecture project, other son searching for his third-year internship, husband off to meetings for his project, Ilva and I compromising on how much time we take off from Plated Stories while we are each away on summer vacation and suddenly in one status update my world is flipped on its head. We are so caught up focusing on the little details of our lives and then BOOM we read about an old, old friend our own age who lost his life in a flash just gone and we stop, shocked, unable to move although we must. Standing still, the world spinning relentlessly around us, and all of those little selfish details seem almost irrelevant, at least for the moment. A friend, a brother and we at once want to live harder, hold on tighter, laugh louder and cry, pause, slow down, both at once how can we decide, pulled every which way as we are, our head spinning.
Incomprehension intertwines with the pain; we look at their life and think of all they had yet to accomplish, the years and road ahead of them, the promise their life held, and we wonder if the tears are for them or for ourselves. Their death brings us closer to our own destiny and, truth be told, we just aren’t ready, we have such a long time ahead of us, there is still so much to do, so how is this possible? The loss is so close, too close; with each death, we feel that much more orphaned, left alone in the world to battle it out, to overcome each hurdle alone. Without that person to share it with. It is as if we have lost a limb or part of ourselves. And now we return to our family our home our job and must move ahead.
Sometimes only when they are gone, do we begin to understand the impact they had on our life, the importance of the memories of the time spent together. We dig out big brown paper envelopes stuffed with letters (handwritten!), postcards and photographs and read through each one carefully. We allow ourselves to be carried away deep into memory on a wave of laughter and wonder at the tears streaming down our cheeks.
A friend of mine once spoke to me of the importance of grieving: “The death of a loved one is something that we all experience at some point in our lives and I think it is important to talk about it instead of tidily brushing it under the carpet. When my grandfather died, I was so unprepared and had no idea how to deal with my emotions.” Another friend of mine sent me a fascinating book about reincarnation. Her philosophy? Spirits are all around us but aren’t there to do harm but rather to watch over us, help us understand what we don’t understand and we should simply give a friendly Hello from time to time and let them know we appreciate the visit and the care. Talking with her is so comforting, no black thoughts, no fear of the unknown, rather the joy of life, the dream of an afterlife and never losing touch with those who have passed on.
Yet for just a few minutes, a few hours we have to focus on the pain and the heartbreak. Again. Before tucking it back away out of sight. And getting on with life without them.
RIP Rhett, my friend. You were much loved.