I know I haven’t written for a while. I just haven’t had the energy. I have been muddling along for weeks: angry, sad, distracted, lethargic. The grief process makes no sense and works differently for everyone. And every time I think things are getting better: Slam! Something happens again. First Charles, then Edith, now Nancy.
I have three very close friends, all who live west in South Dakota; Jeanie, Renee and Nancy. Jeanie has been a dear friend for over 40 years. I married her brother and was part of their family for 10 years. Her mother, Edith, passed away a couple of weeks ago. In fact, right after I got home from my brother’s funeral. Edith was a wonderful woman. A second mother to me and grandmother to my daughter Brook. She, Jeanie and I worked very hard to stay friends after my divorce from her son. We did it originally for Brook, but we also did it for ourselves. And I am so happy to say it worked. I will miss her.
Nancy has been a close friend for 17 years. We met through a doctor we were both seeing. She is tall, thin, blonde and at least 15 years younger than I. We look very funny walking down the street together, like a female version of Mutt and Jeff. But we have something special between us that neither can name. It just works. Nancy called the other day…she has breast cancer.
Someone asked me “Why is all this happening to you?” And I agreed…why all this Sh….? What did I do to deserve all this pain? And I sulked and felt sorry for myself for days. But it hit me hard yesterday. This isn’t happening to me. It affects me, yes. But I can let it go for minutes, hours, even days at a time now. Others can’t, because the grief affects them all day, every day.
Donna lost her husband, the man she had married only 3 months before. My parents lost their only son. Yes, I lost my brother. But we had been living states apart for years. I would see him a couple times a year, and talk to him maybe once a month. I’ll feel the pain when I think “I haven’t talked to Charles for awhile”. But I won’t feel it every day. Donna will. And my parents will.
Jeanie lost her mother. Brook lost a grandmother. Edith was a friend, a woman I had known for years. But I hadn’t seen much of her lately. I knew she was sick, from Jeanie and from Brook. They keep me apprised of her health. But I didn’t go see her when we were back for Charles’ funeral. I was too busy and too distraught. Both Jeanie and Brook understood. And they also understood that I didn’t have the strength to go to her funeral. But shame on me. Why didn’t I? A close friend and my daughter needed my support. The pain was happening to them and they will feel it daily. I’ll feel the pain when I think of the kind woman that is gone. And anytime I see a piece of green glass. But I won’t feel it everyday.
Nancy is now fighting for her life. I went through this with Renee years ago. So I know how hard it will be for Nancy. The surgery, chemo and radiation take you to death’s door. Then you have to work your way back to life. She’ll have to go through this pain and sickness every day. And once she is healthy again, she’ll have to hold her breath and cross her fingers every morning that she wakes, praying that the cancer stays away. I feel her pain right now. I am scared too. But I don’t think about it every minute of every day. Nancy will.
So am I a bad sister and friend? I didn’t think so. But now I wonder. I think part of the reason I don’t have to deal with their grief daily is my distance from them. Distance in miles. And distance in emotion. I can’t do anything about the mileage, except strive to go west when I’m needed. But I can work on the emotion. I guess it comes down to…you can’t distance yourself from life. If you do, you get to miss the grief and pain, but you also miss the fun, the love, and the friendships that last a lifetime. Unfortunately, sometimes you wait too long, and your chance is gone.
We retired to our piece of heaven in SW Minnesota in 2006 and have been happily clearing an over abundance of buckthorn and mulberry trees growing in between the American elms, maples and box elders. And I am now spending time on my favorite obsession, fiber: specifically wool. Our life is hard work at an easy pace. And I never want to go back to a city.