I lost a friend to cancer over a week ago. Yesterday was the first time I was able to even speak about her with my husband because I couldn’t talk without crying. I spoke through tears. There are too many parts about her very brave life and her very brave cancer battle that were just stinking unfair and right now I’m pretty angry at the world. I feel more comfortable letting the anger have space in my head because the hurt is a bit much.
I loved my friend. Many people loved her. We were each, in our own way, touched and amazed and awed by her ability to take whatever life gave her, and it gave her a LOT, with genuine grace and strength. She possessed a brave and true beauty, one of soul and of heart.
The Empty Places I Notice Now
Each morning now when I sit down to enjoy my cup of coffee and a few moments of quiet before the day begins, I am struck with the awareness that she isn’t going to sit in her spot and enjoy her cup of coffee anymore. I won’t be able to meet her for lunch and talk with her about the books that we are reading because she isn’t here to read any more books. We won’t laugh and cry together anymore over all the questions we have about life and relationships and church. She’s gone and the world is still moving.
Grief has a way of turning the world into a place of disbelief. I can’t believe she’s not here. Cancer took her. I can’t believe she won’t be here to see her kids move through life and for her kids to have their mom. It’s a powerful confusion. Yet, people have been living and loving and losing and dying since the beginning of time, and the world does keep moving. Somehow we eventually find our way…somehow.
You know how you have friends, but then you have your people? They’re the ones your heart really connects to, like your family, and friends who are like family. There’s no question that they’ll have your back and you’ll have theirs. She was one of my people, and I don’t have many. Maybe that’s one of the reasons this loss, this death is hitting me so hard. I lost the first of my three people six years ago, to cancer, and it took me a long time to walk through that grief.
Cancer Always Sucks, but Especially In a Pandemic
Cancer sucks. Losing someone you love is crazy hard. Finding your way through the pain-filled fog seems never-ending. Letting go is especially hard when you don’t have a choice, but the world never asks us if we’re ready to let people go.
Right after she got the diagnosis, my friend knew she wasn’t ready to go. She had kids that were getting married and grandkids she knew would be coming. So she chose to fight. And, selfishly, we were so glad. But then we watched as she tried harder, even when the pain was intense, and then it got worse. That’s the thing with cancer sometimes – it just eats away at the body and the mind with the constant pain and struggle.
So she had to go and we had to let her go, from a distance, because of this whole pandemic thing going on (as if dying isn’t hard enough). Now, so many, like my friend, have to die without getting to see longtime friends and family. I’m so glad she was protected, but the timing just adds to the sadness. For example, check out the article by Jason Spendelow, How to Cope with Bereavement During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
So I’ll keep asking questions (most of which won’t be answered in this lifetime). But part of grief is the asking, and then the wrestling with what seems to us to be so unfair. And when I’ve done that hard work, I know I will eventually find peace in the memories and gifts my very brave friend left in my heart. Thank you, sweet friend. I’ll always miss you.
For more reference from a fellow We Spot writer Stacy McClelland on grief and enduring hardship, click here.