I have reached the age where it is not terribly uncommon that my peers are having strokes, heart attacks, cancer, body part replacement, and major illnesses requiring longer recovery times. I’ve also reached the age where some of us don’t make it; we succumb to our ailments.
Realizing that you are in this phase of life and that it will never subside, nay that it will actually get worse as you age, is a bit disorienting. I still see my friends through the lens of our prime. I see us as young, wandering the streets of Adams Morgan in DC on the weekends, having Jacks and cokes with a giant slice of pizza after the clubs close and before we head home to sleep it off so we can do it again the next night.
I notice our gray hairs; I wave at our children and marvel at how much they’ve grown. We all aren’t as slim as we used to be, but we’re still young at heart and fly in spirit.
Our parents are aging, even if we are in denial about our own aging process. Some of our parents are dying and leaving us behind to ponder what to do without them.
I began thinking about my own mortality right around the age of 30 when a close friend died very suddenly due to a brain aneurysm. He had just moved into a custom built home with his girlfriend. He was dead about 4 days after moving in. I was devastated. We were young. We were finally getting serious about life. Friends were marrying, having kids. I had just bought my own home a couple of years before. The loss left a huge hole in our friend group that was so hard to recover from.
Fast forward nearly 20 years and I am still thinking about mortality. The only difference is that I also think about grief so much more now. I’ve had to learn a lot about grief since becoming Hope’s mother.
I’ve learned that I think about death a lot and what it feels like to lose people you love. I’ve had wrap my head around what Hope’s grief must feel like. I still have my parents, and I think about losing them and how hard that will be. I learned that grief is hella messy. It’s like this Gordian knot of a bunch of different emotions that is so hard to untangle that it’s easier to give up and just wallow in the mess. I’ve read a lot, and I’ve talked to a lot of people as I try to understand how to work through and around grief.
I’ve learned it’s so hard.
I’ve briefly mentioned in other posts that one of my exes died last year. His death was incredibly sad for me, but it wasn’t entirely shocking. His history suggested that without intervention and a major life turn around that he would probably die young, and he did. I still struggle with his death. I harbor feelings about what might have happened if I hadn’t left him a decade ago. Could I have saved him?
I know I couldn’t have, but I still think about it. And I’m still working through it. I’m always a work in progress.
My messy feelings about that loss were compounded this weekend when I learned that Elihu, my more recent ex and love that appeared sporadically in this space, passed way this weekend. I feel like I’ve been in shock for days now. I haven’t dropped a tear; I haven’t heaved. I wish I could cry; I feel like it would help me get through this, but it’s not happened yet.
Instead I feel white hot anger.
And profound sadness.
And more anger.
And more sadness.
And I’ve questioned whether he’s really gone.
I’ve run scenarios in my head.
I’ve tried to make sense of it.
I can’t. None of it makes sense.
I know that it is true. I know that it is real. And my heart hurts; my head hurts.
It just hurts so badly.
I replay the best, most glorious times in my head. I remember the pain of our separation. I remember settling into a distant friendship that I never let bloom into a full friendship because I knew reconciliation might come up and I didn’t want that. I feel regret for that distance even though I know it was probably for the best.
I replay his laugh and his deep baritone voice that spoke beautifully accented English.
And I’m just so sad and mad and a bunch of other feelings that I just can’t even name.
The grief is overwhelming.
I’m reminded of all the friends and acquaintances who have passed away in the last 5 years. The number is impressive for all the wrong reasons, and the number continues to grow. Still being here, still living this life… It makes me so grateful that I’m healthy, but it’s terrifies me that at anytime I could fall victim to my own demise. I am increasingly preoccupied by death.
I would rather be focused on living.
So, I’m trying to get myself together this week. I’ll continue to be kind to myself. I’ve contacted an attorney to update all my estate plans, and I had the morbid conversation with Hope about my final wishes. Doing these things eases the intensity of the feelings. They give me a sense of control when everything seems a little out of control.
The intensity of these feelings will pass. I will continue to experience this phenomenon though…the notification that someone else I know has left this life. I’ll go through this again. I don’t like the notion of getting used to it, but I know that there will be some level of acceptance that comes. Acceptance allows the feelings to wash over me without drowning me. I see that with my parents, and I saw it with my grandparents.
I didn’t anticipate contemplating acceptance of mortality without fear at this point in my life, but here we are.
I’m grateful to my daughter for being so kind to me the last few days. Hope is incredibly empathetic on most days, but I know of all the people in my life that she gets this. She sees my grief. She reminds me that life goes on. She says the things I’ve said to her over the last 6 years. It’s a great comfort to me. It also is confirmation that maybe, just maybe I helped her with her grief.
I’m hopeful that like her, I can somehow integrate this grief in ways that allow me to keep moving forward.
Time will tell.