We lost a dear, dear friend last month. The week I write this marks two painful reminders – the one month anniversary of her passing, and what would have been her 50th birthday.
I’ve been saying throughout her illness and death, that this is the toughest thing I’ve ever done. And that’s puzzled me, because I’m very clear how wretched and miserable I was in my twenties around my parents’ decline and death.
In my mid twenties, I was starting my seventh year of undergraduate study. I was still in school because I’d always been in school and couldn’t imagine another life. I was on track to become the 30-something in my parents’ basement. At the same time, I was trying to take care of my mother, who had Alzheimer’s, and my father, who was over 350 pounds, and severely depressed.
I was mired in my own depression. I had no direction. Painfully shy, I was terrified of the future, helpless, hapless and hopeless. I alternated between doing my best to control my parents health and doing my best to bury my feelings. The way I “handled loss” was trying to escape it.
It was, without a doubt, the worst period of my life.
But not the hardest.
We found out in July that she had metastasized cancer. Already disabled, she had just hired a live-in caregiver. And she was in a new relationship with someone she met online. Together with Flame and I, we were the Catgirl Care Team. For the last six months of her life, we pulled together to provide her the best possible quality of life.
There are obvious differences. In my twenties, I was lost, while now I have a pretty clear idea of who I am and where I’m headed. I was alone and shy then, and now I’m surrounded by loving community. I’ve done my work.
So why do I see this as so hard? Because THIS time, I stayed present. This time, I spoke my pain and grief, and expressed my love. This time, I sat with my feelings and my experience instead of numbing out, escaping into games pushing to control the situation.
I stayed vulnerable, and it was painful. And freeing.
What I lost out on the first time around was connection. And honestly, on easing some of my parents suffering. My own, too, of course.
So, it’s been a month since she passed. I’m still deep in my grieving process. And even here, I’m staying present, connected. I’m trusting my friends who offer me time, and as a result, building closer relationships with them as well.
I’m even writing this.
When we launched Art Transforms Life, it was to start a new direction in Flame’s art. It was and is our answer to “Why Art?” Of course, this site is about selling art, but if that were all it’s about, we might as well have corporate jobs.
Transformation is a cornerstone of our relationship. Dreaming of what life could be like, and then being in action to create that dream. Once we thought about it, it was obvious. Art is Flame’s expression of the world that is possible, and a call to all like-minded souls to create our vision.
I did everything in my power to create a safe, sacred space for our friend to pass. It was hard, and it enriched my life.
I have no art to share this month. Instead, I’ve included a few images of a beautiful life, well lived.
And, as always, a desire to hear from you – how are you handling loss in your life? What are you proud of? Please share your stories!