I’ve lost both of my parents and all my aunts and uncles. Although my father died of wounds from WWII earlier than he should have, he likely would have died by this age anyway. He would have been 103 this year had he lived. Thankfully, I still have all my siblings but the loss of family seemed natural to me.
Loss of High School Friend
The loss of friends, however, seems different and for me hurts just a little bit more. I had a high school friend who I had been companions with since we had been a few months old. Our parents were friends so we were together right from the start. Throughout our high school years, we were almost inseparable. We had fun together and got into trouble together. Even the one cop in the small town we grew up in knew us and our parents. For high school kids, that can be good and bad.
I have one memory of some new walkie-talkies that my father bought. I took them to town and grabbed my friend as we went out “looking for trouble.” The only thing was our one cop in town seemed to show up wherever we were and put an end to any pranks we had in mind before we could get in trouble. We couldn’t figure out how he always knew where we were and what we were up to until we discovered that his police scanner could hear our walkie-talkies.
I couldn’t imagine being away from him until our lives diverged after high school. I headed for college. He went to Viet Nam. After he returned we just didn’t seem to have much in common anymore. That was sad to me but I figured it was part of growing up.
But then years later he came down with cancer and came to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I was living at the time, and he was getting treatment at the U of M Medical Center. I’m so thankful that he and his wife (who also graduated from the same high school) reached out to me and let me know what he was going through and arranged times together when he was in town for treatments. Our old friendship began to rekindle, and we had some wonderful times together.
A few months later my friend’s son called me and said his dad was bedridden and couldn’t speak and I should come and see him if I could. I immediately drove the 3 hours it took to get to his home to find him in bed with no hair and extremely emaciated. I wouldn’t have recognized him if I didn’t know who it was. His wife and two children told me he had been bedridden and comatose for a couple of days. I stroked his forehead, talked of some of our fun times together, and told him how much I missed him. He squeezed my hand!
After talking with his wife and two children I headed back home. By the time I got there, his son had called to say his father had passed soon after I left. I saw him during the last few hours of his life and I may have been the only one whose hand he squeezed. I just had to cry. We had been together for 18 years, apart for a few, then back together again for about a year before he died. Losing a good friend like that was very different than losing family to normal aging processes.
Another friend who graduated from Michigan, as I had, came to work for me a few years after I finished school. We became very good friends. In fact, after that first construction project together when we headed in different directions, we always kept in touch. As it turned out, our kids were not too different in age and they have known each other since childhood. In this blog, I couldn’t even begin to tell you all the fun we’ve had together through the years including river rafting, “up North” (Michigan) trips, and others.
I always had to laugh because he was one of the very first users of spreadsheet programs and recorded many aspects of his life and plans on them. If he was telling me about an upcoming trip I would finally say, “Show me the spreadsheet.” He would smile and then bring out the spreadsheet. He even began to incorporate color as technology advanced.
He retired a few years ago but soon after was diagnosed with cancer. After we found out, he began to tell me all the things he wanted to do and accomplish while he still had his health. I said, “Show me the spreadsheet.” He smiled, then showed me the multiple-page, color spreadsheet. It was all there, everything he wanted to accomplish. He had some ups and downs but we were able to enjoy each other’s company on a regular basis.
He died recently. I was able to see him a few weeks ago on one of his good days but I’m having a hard time coming to grips with the loss. The next day I was in my doctor’s office for a regular check-up and I couldn’t stop crying. It took the doctor several minutes to diagnose grief over something physically wrong with me.
One definition is, “Grief is a strong, sometimes overwhelming emotion.” It certainly has been strong in my life with the loss of my friend, but I don’t think it has gotten too overwhelming where my own physical or mental health is concerned. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be careful and aware to make sure it doesn’t.
What is the Purpose of Loss?
I don’t know the answer to that. I’m sure there are some intellectual answers about making you stronger or preparing you for other or deeper losses. I just don’t feel it at the moment. This is terribly sad to me.
God set the example when His only son, Jesus, was crucified. God’s loss and Jesus’s sacrifice provided salvation for me.
I know that loss is supposed to make us stronger and it probably will in the long run. But right now it’s just painful.
I raised the question with a group of friends the other day. One of them who is a reader of my blog said he thought I was experiencing it because I would write about it in my blog and it would help many others.
All of those ideas are probably part of the answer but right now I just feel sadness.
Maybe that’s part of the answer. Much of the world tells us we should be happy all of the time. That’s not true! We will and do experience sadness in life. It’s unnatural to think we won’t or shouldn’t.
Handle your losses with dignity.