DISCLAIMER: This entry is very personal, and sad. If you choose to read further, don’t say that you weren’t warned.
In understanding my world, one of the obvious things to note is my absence.
There is a world in which I used to live, in which I am no longer present. That world is full of old friends and relatives — people alongside of whom I once thought I would always live — going about their daily lives, without me. It is full of tastes and smells, sights and sounds, many of which I have forgotten, as they shrink further and further into distant memory.
I intend to return to that world one day, but for the foreseeable future, I am where I am, viewing my old friends from afar, staying in touch but unable to be involved like I would like to be.
In this world of mine, tragedy takes on a new feel, as it did last weekend, when I learned that a good friend of mine had passed away. I had been away over the weekend, at a lake house retreat where cell reception was mostly unavailable. When I came home, my wife told me that something had happened to him, that it wasn’t clear, but old friends had simply said he had passed “suddenly”.
Denial, shock, and awe
In my 35 years, this may be the first person whose death I have had to truly morn. There were others who died, of course — special people, good friends — but for them, it had always simply seemed like it was more their time to go. We had some reason to expect it, be it sickness, age, frailty.
This was altogether different. This was a good friend, who passed well before his time had come, with few indicators that could have led us to suspect that such tragedy was on the horizon. This is one of those events that makes one start to question all things, to wonder if there is any purpose in anything at all. His death was unthinkable, but losing him may be equally as unthinkable, for all of us who remain behind.
In these situations, I don’t regret the path I have chosen, which took me to the other side of the world, but I find myself regretting the results of my choice. I regret that, though I was a friend in every way I could have been, my occupation made it so that I only appeared every couple of years, there for a few nights out with the old crowd, before being gone again. I regret that, regardless of how I feel about people, that is how I will appear to them for the foreseeable future.
I regret that my situation has made it so that I am still unable to find a single photo of me with my friend.
This is the path I chose, and I would not change it. But there are still things about this path which make me sad.
One more regret is that I could not be there for my friend, before his passing. Perhaps I could have done something. Perhaps I could have given him some hope in the future.
But on the other side of that experience, hope does exist. I would not have left my home, years ago, if I did not believe that. Hope exists because of the death of another friend, who died long, long ago.
That which I know to be true is not always in agreement with what I experience or feel. And the existence of hope is what allows me to reconcile knowledge with feelings. In the space between those two words is a chasm of sadness, regret, denial, and guilt. That chasm may never be closed, but it can be bridged with hope. The task at hand is to build that bridge by whatever means necessary.