About 200 years, ago, in Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Lord Byron wrote:
What is the worst of woes that wait on age?
What stamps the wrinkle deeper on the brow?
To view each loved one blotted from life's page,
And be alone on earth, as I am now.
Well, all right, I am not alone but it is true that if you live long enough one of “the worst of woes” is the inevitable loss of the people who mean so much to you; the inevitable shrinking of our personal worlds.
In the past month, two old friends died. Two. Although neither death was entirely unexpected (one by suicide, the other after years of struggle with a brain tumor) even when the circumstances of a person's life are dire, we hope, don't we? We can't help it.
When hope is dashed, we are left to mourn. Each in our own way. Long before I was old, I had buried too many friends. And my parents too.
Through those years and sadnesses, I noticed a strange and wonderful thing in regard to ones who lived far away: when they died, I didn't quite “get” it. Instead, it was though we hadn't visited in a long while and it continues to feel that way over time.
Back then when I lived in New York, it was usually west coast friends I felt were still there. These two latest deaths are east coast friends and the phenomenon holds – we just haven't visited lately.
That doesn't mean I am delusional. I know perfectly well those people are dead, that another piece of my life has gone permanently missing and of course, that is the awful thing, isn't it.
The woe in losing old friends is that there is that much less companionship, the particular easy familiarity with that certain person, the memories created together and that you can no longer say, “Remember when we...” and laugh or, sometimes, cry together.
That's gone now. There is never any point in trying to tell someone else about what happened back then. It is always something for which you had to be there. Sometimes I wonder, when I am the only one left to recall those events, if they really happened.
Eh. Existential indulgence is what that is.
So I trudge forward, wading through the melancholy one more time knowing it will not be the last and that I am a little bit more alone in the world than I was a month ago.
One of the things that has always bothered me when loved ones die is that people almost always say, “I loved him so much.” “I loved her so much.” How can that be – past tense? I still love them all. That part never ends.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Colleen Redman: Dear Dread