Monday, December 9, 2013
More About David and Grieving
When my friend David passed away at 92, most of the responses I received were empathetic and caring. However, some of the comments I found myself trying to simply ignore because they were so ignorant, and not comforting at all:
"He was old and lived a long fulfilling life."
"He was old, it was his time to go."
He was old...
It felt like they were saying "why are you even upset?" I know I am not the only one who has experienced this, but it was as if they were telling me at 92, what did I expect?
I wanted to say to them, "I am not old! And, my mourning isn't about how old he was. It is about my loss and it's my mourning and if the amount you are allowed to mourn is centered around age, well then, I am only 29 and completely heartbroken to let go of one of my best friends!"but I was too drained.
I wasn't ready for him to go and I used to tell him this from time to time. I even said to him 3 days before he passed away, coming from my ego-centric selfish mindset "You can't die yet, I'm not ready."
Yes, we were that close.
Yes, we talked about these things.
Yes, I was selfish.
And yes this time when I said it to him, I knew it was coming. There was just something different about him that day. Things that he said to me. He was done, and ready to go. He didn't reply when I said you can't die yet with what he always told me, "I want to be the oldest WWII vet, I'm not going anywhere."
I took that conversation for granted. I was really upset that day and in a bad place, and surprisingly David was too, which was completely out of character for him. I wish I had known it was really the last time I would talk to him. I would have listened better. He was trying to tell me something. He wanted to talk. I could tell, but I was overwhelmed with the kids. I really thought we would catch up more the next day when we had a date for chocolate cake and good conversation. Oh, did David love his chocolate cake.
He had a major stroke sometime after that late evening conversation and the next morning.
I wonder if I was the last person he spoke to. If my ranting was the last human connection he had and I hate that thought. I don't beat myself up for it, I just don't like it. David knew me and knew how much I loved him and cherished our friendship. I guess I selfishly wanted a "proper" goodbye. I found out later, the chocolate cake was in his fridge, still waiting for me. I was too upset to go get it.
He was one of those once in a lifetime kind of friends, and while I stood there and held his hand and stayed with him the day that he passed, I tried my best to let go of my wants and my ego and I pray that I succeeded. I hope that I made it easier for him to leave, but maybe he was just making it easier for me to let go...
I felt humbled. Really really humbled as I drove home from the hospital. Of all the people he ever met over his 92 years on this earth, why was I one of the few people who stood there and held his hand as he took his last breath?
Yes, I still would make the selfish choice. I still want to pick up the phone and call him and hear his wisdom and write more of the awesome things he told me down, so this time, I wouldn't forget so many of them.
I helped clean up his apartment, and it was hard because I was just a friend and I had no say in anything. I helped as I watched my friend's life disappear into boxes and some of it even into the trash. I was fortunate enough to go through all of his photos from his life and make a slideshow. It was one last time to witness the stories he told me and the life he lived. I listened to the voicemail I have saved on my phone from him.
I watched an interview he did about his experiences during WWII. In the wee hours of the morning curled up on my couch listening to David one last time. I had never watched it before and I probably never listened to him more intently than I did that night. It was a great gift. Bean, my oldest son woke up while I was watching this video and said to me "Mommy why are you so sad, is it because your friend died?"I said "Yes honey, that is why Mommy is so sad, I miss my friend a lot." "Well, maybe I can sit out here with you and then you won't be alone while you are so sad." WOW, the 5 year old, got it better than most people.
He was ok with the fact that I needed to grieve and cry and I still cry, especially when I am having one of those days. You know, the ones when exhaustion has set in and you feel like the world has beaten you down one time more than what you can handle, and I just want to desperately pick up the phone and hear him say, " Well hello my dear, hold on a minute so I can prepare myself to listen to you." I'd hear him set down the phone. His footsteps moving across his floor as he turned off whatever he was listening to. It was usually one of the three; classical music, Frank Sinatra, or a book on tape. I'd hear it get quiet and then I'd hear his feet as he walked back towards the phone.
Then he'd get back on the line
"Ok, I'm back now go ahead and tell me how you really are "
And the peace would just flood over me, because when he spoke I knew it was real. I knew it was from the heart. I knew how temporary what I was feeling was, and how fleeting life was.
I remember one conversation, when I was so over being told what feelings I could and should have, and I asked him quite direct, "Where the hell these optimistic positive, smiling people come from?" "You know David, the ones who are always upbeat, not the ones that fake it for a show, but the ones that can't help themselves but be that way." He said something to me I will never forget. " I think those people are just born that way, and the rest of us, like you and me, well, we have to spend our lives working really damn hard at it."
He made it ok. He made it ok to be pissed, rotten, angry, frustrated sad and he made it ok to cry. He also made it ok to be way too happy, smile too much, laugh too loudly.... because he made it ok to just be. No matter how I showed up in that moment, he was completely ok with me.
As this year has progressed, I can't tell you how many times I was told how I should feel, and what I should think. So many people passed away from last October to this one. I started to become numb. I would pick up the phone and start to expect it; David, my Aunt, my Grandmother, my friend's Mother, my friend's Father, my friend's husband. One of our dogs even died. I was pregnant and sick during a great deal of this time(in case you missed the last post), and the fact that it felt like someone was passing away every other day, just made me more anxious about how sick I was quickly becoming.
I needed to grieve.
I needed to process.
I needed David.
David's daughter and son- in- law gave me his dog tags from the Air Force. The one thing of his that I have.
I held onto them a lot this year and thought about David.
I thought about all of the bomb missions he made as the navigator during the war... and they gave me comfort.
David said once, "You know what we did a lot up in the air?"
" We Prayed."
I thought about how those tags were with him on every flight. Having them with me helped me through this year. I had told him he could come to Tadpole's birth which I mentioned in my post, Happy 90th Birthday David and I never called him. So, when I became pregnant shortly after he passed, I felt a lot of sadness that I would never be able to make one of his wishes come true; to actually witness the birth of a child.
I think we all need to be ok with allowing others to feel what they feel. Yes, there is something to be said for positive thinking, but there is also something more to be said for possessing the ability to be present with someone. That was a gift David had. I don't think any of us need someone to tell us how we should feel and think. What we need more, especially when life gets hard, is empathy.
I learned real quick this year who those people are in my life and I am very thankful for everything they did for me. I am especially thankful for them granting me the space to just be me. I didn't need anyone telling me how to grieve my losses or how to do sick, like there is a right and wrong way to grieve and be sick. I think everyone has moments of doubt and weakness and the ability to process them is what brings us to a more positive place.
I prefer to think David was here for all of this in some way but,
I still miss him.
I still grieve the idea that I will never hear his voice on the other side of the phone.
On what would've been his 93rd birthday, Rock and I went to dinner, and ate chocolate cake.