Two weeks ago yesterday they told me my friend was dead. Like that. No preparatory remarks. No cushion. No landing zone. She was dead.
Not passed away. Not gone. Not having left us.
We'd known she was terminally ill for two years. We'd had scares before. But we'd always been kept at arm's length from the reality of her cancer. She didn't want to see anybody; that's what we were told. I was closest to her age. Maybe she didn't want to see me. I never knew.
I wrote three letters to her over the two years. Not much. But they were intimate letters. I drew on every shared experience I could remember to bridge the gap between us, guessing all the way at what she might find too trivial, too sentimental. I ended up deciding better she should laugh at me than that I risk not letting her know that, after all of it, I loved her and had her centered in my spiritual discourse with the universe, things I would have appreciated knowing from a lifelong friend. From someone who did not take the gifts of life lightly.
As it turned out, Becky rebuffed my grieving for her. Her mother rebuffed my grieving for her. Norma denied me a place at the private funeral. I ended up feeling that my sorrow wasn't good enough for her little girl. I didn't measure up, and I don't know why.
I have taken Norma Jo's rejection very personally.
I feel like a ghost traveling the mists with Scrooge, carrying my agonized grieving groans like so many anchors shackled by heavy chains to my feet. I can do nothing but lurch forward at every step with the renewed knowledge that she is not here. She is nowhere in the world of shadow and light which I inhabit and have always inhabited, the world of dread and shame and guilt over things done and things imagined.
She is in a place--or not-place--that I cannot begin to imagine. She is--or she isn't. I have no power to understand her circumstance . I am completely cut off from knowing what, who, or where she is. And so shall the situation remain until I close my eyes and realize that I have taken my last breath. Will I be panicked, or will I be relieved? Will my experience by identical to hers? Is all human experience of death identical? Or is every separate experience unique?
What if the experience of crossing over really is as much worse than life as the experience of crossing over into life is worse than living in the womb? Why do we all fill ourselves with pleasant fantasies that the other side is a lovely existence and not an existence of suffering worse by powers of ten than anything knowable as human beings? Because we would spend lives drenched in dread, soaked in angst, simply mortified, to the degree that nothing positive in this world would ever be accomplished.
So. My friend is dead. I wonder where she is tonight. I hope she is in no pain.
I do not want to die only to learn that I was, in fact, guilty for having lived on without her.