Until Death Do Us Part

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It’s been a tough week to say the least. Yesterday, I attended two funerals: one for one of my student’s mom, and the other for a friend and old coworker (whose children I both had the honor to teach). Cancer got the best of both of them, even though they both fought hard for years.

Until yesterday, I hadn’t attended any funerals in my lifetime. Not because I hadn’t lost anyone in my life ’til then, but because I just couldn’t bring myself to go to them. I’ve visited graves and have gone to wakes, but death just never sat well with me (as it probably doesn’t for most). But I knew that I had to go yesterday. To both of them. For my students (current and previous). And for myself.

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In the days leading up to yesterday, I didn’t know how to feel, how to act, or what to say. And I still don’t quite know how to feel, how to act, or what to say. It all feels a bit surreal to be honest. It just seems so strange that someone can just stop existing. It’s so hard to wrap my mind around that–that all the photos and memories you have with that person will be it. Forever. That I can never text or email them again. Ever. That three children will now grow up without a mother. That they’re just gone…forever.

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Last night, I had trouble sleeping. I couldn’t stop thinking about my friend, Liz. I couldn’t stop feeling guilty. Guilty for not seeing her (and other friends) after I moved to LA. Guilty for not staying in touch after all these years. Guilty for succumbing to my out-of-sight-out-of-mind tendency. Guilty for being so painfully introverted. Guilty for just assuming that there always will be more time. But knowing Liz, she would not want me to feel guilty. If anything, she was probably happy that I finally returned to my roots to see old friends and former students (a lot of who are taller than me now).

So…I’m sorry Liz for not visiting last summer when you had a pool party at your new house. I’m sorry for not keeping in touch all these years. I will try to not let distance or old demons keep me from seeing old friends ever again. I will try to make more effort to stay in touch with friends, like you would have. Thank you for all the laughs, for all the vent sessions, for trusting me with your two beautiful children, for all the hugs and comfort during my first years of teaching, for all the chocolate and snacks during staff meetings, and for the encouragement to be myself. I miss you so much dear friend. I hope you’re swimming in a sea of chocolate and dessert wherever you are now.

Losing these two women has definitely put some things into perspective. Suddenly things that seemed so important seem so trivial and silly now. I’m torn between all the extremes of having a YOLO attitude and to live frivolously; an urgency to chase my dreams and to chase them now; and a reminder to be grateful for all the people and things I have in my life and to hold them close. These are all fine extremes to bounce between, but I’m worried though that after a while, I will go back to the status quo: Back to being my painfully introverted, withdrawn self. Back to being content with staying in my little bubble. Back to not keeping in touch with those not in a 20-mile radius. Back to well, being me. It seems silly and a little selfish, but I almost feel that if I didn’t learn anything from their lives and their deaths, then it almost seems as if they died in vain. I owe it both of them to make more of an effort to live a little more and worry less; to chase after my dreams and to do it now; and to be grateful for all that I have.

“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all love you want to give, but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in the hallow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”

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