The deep pain that is felt at the death of every friendly soul arises from the feeling that there is in every individual something which is inexpressible, peculiar to him alone, and is, therefore, absolutely and irretrievably lost.
I’ve been mourning the loss of a very close childhood friend. She was very literally the first friend I ever had. Because we moved quite far apart, in the last several years, our contact has been social networking and phone calls on each other’s birthdays (my lucky number, 22, is owing to her birthday of February 22nd). I do have to give her a wry thumbs-up because it was very clever to die of breast cancer in October so that we’d all remember every year to donate and walk and light candles and the like, but I can’t say I have been much of a fan of the actual passing.
In any man who dies there dies with him
his first snow and kiss and fight….
Not people die but worlds die in them.
(Yevgeny Yevtushenko, People.)
My friend had time to say goodbye to her sons, her husband, her sister and her parents, and to all of the rest of us who loved her. But what I have been struggling with is the loss of that world inside her: a world whose first gasps I was lucky enough to share with her, a world whose confident, feet-found orbit was still only just beginning. I feel so bitter and helpless about it. I didn’t realize how badly I’d been repressing it until I went to her funeral at our old church several hours away (alone, which was a terrible mistake). I didn’t weep or make a spectacle, but I didn’t stop crying. It was like I couldn’t.
Afterward, a very nice, very short woman came up and began gently asking me about my friend, and I explained that we’d known each other since we were very, very young, and had even gone to school together off and on. Turns out the woman was one of my kindergarten teachers. The nice one. Still nice, after all these years. I’ll explain that another day.
The point is — horrible. Bitterness. Anger. Grief. But not so much anger that I wish to assuage it by some sort of strike back; that would not at all comfort me, because I’m not down to facts just yet. I’m not ready to slap on a pink-ribboned tank top and run any marathons to make things better for others, because I don’t give a shit about all that yet. That is for sure.
I feel like a lost and selfish monster, surrounded by all this breast cancer awareness promotional material and not even up to the point of resentment of the disease; ergo, mystified by the idea of embracing that activism to trump my grief. I don’t like to feel that way. And I like to do all kinds of charity malarkey. I really do. I’ve donated this month already in the name of another friend’s mother, who beat it two years ago.
But this new thing — I am just not ready to even think of my friend’s death in terms of what killed her. That seems objective to the point of frightening. But I should strive for it? Right? How do you get to there?