Yes, you’re quite right. She’s been quiet. Terribly quiet. Scary quiet. The kind of quiet that comes when silence is all you can manage.
Life happens that way sometimes. Change, death, crisis, and chaos will all do that to a person. If one or two crisis or changes happen, you can recover and sometimes the recovery is easy. You just shake it off, grow your backbone and move on. But, when the craziness strikes heavily and all at once, well, stunned is perhaps the only place it’s going to take you and no amount of backbone is going to help you suck it up and move on. Life can leave you stunned and silent and when it happens like that, time is the only healer. That is where I have been for the last five months. Trying so hard just to swim up out of the silence.
Stunned, quiet and reeling from everything that came much too soon and in rapid fire. It took all of five months to catch my breath and make some changes of my own. It was five months ago this week that one of my oldest and dearest friend from childhood died quite unexpectedly. When you talk about something taking your breath away, Mary was just that. Healthy and happy on April 3rd and dead on the 19th. Shocking, stunning…all those kind of words applied immediately. ( Just a side note and not to share too many of her personal details but I do want to pass a long to anyone reading this that it was lung and breathing related and, as you meander your way into these next winter months, do not mess with pneumonia. Please, don’t. She was healthy, she was vivacious but when the “worst case scenario” drops into your lap, there is just not a lot you can do. Pneumonia is a tough opponent. So, be careful out there and if you find yourself on the bad end of pneumonia or anything breathing related….PLEASE….go to the doctor.)
Anyway, as I said, shocked and stunned were my first response for a lot of reasons. I had known her since first grade and, being from a small town, friends become like family. There weren’t that many of us so you can’t just drop someone and move to another friend. People in small towns become like second nature to you and when you lose them, it’s like losing a witness to your life. There were things ONLY Mary knew. With her gone, it was as though it no longer happened. She was witness to the greatest laugh I ever had. Decades later, when we’d see each other, we still talked about it, laughed about it. She’d still bring up the time when I was six and I got ALL my hair cut off into a “pixie” cut WAY back in the day. She would tell me how much I told her I loved the hair cut and I can’t even remember it. She was my witness and with her gone, it’s like part of my childhood died with her.
Losing Mary was tough and it got tougher when, as parents, I realized the son she left behind was just about the same age as my daughter. When I saw the pain and anger in him, I thought of my girl and how lost she’d be too. I realized, as single moms, we both shared an extra set of fears that other parents may not since we played the role of mom and dad full time by ourselves.
Losing friends is not easy. She was healthy, she was a professional, she was tough and I understood, for the first time, that youth would not guarantee longevity. Life happens, with your permission and even without. Life happens and sometimes it’s not at all fair. And, as I dug in my heels and cried through my tantrum and asked God why… it did not change anything. All it did was make my head hurt. Finally, after three months and a memorial service, my angry fog began to clear and a new word emerged from the anger that defined the loss of Mary with more appropriate emotion. It defined who she was. And, as the anger cleared, I was finally able to understand it and to feel it.
And then another word emerged….Blessing.
I never ever thought I would see gift or blessing as a description for Mary’s passing. Angry, mad, confused and heart hurt were all better descriptions until I looked across my life and into the faces of my children and realized Mary was a reality check for me. I can see so much more clearly since her passing. Yes, I pouted for a few months and God and I were on the outs during those same months but, in looking at the big picture, even I finally get that there are no guarantees… except to appreciate the gifts you are given. No one ever said everyone gets to kick up their heels until they are eighty. No one ever said that we will all find Mr. Amazing. No one ever said all children will be perfect. No one ever said life will be fair and just and pretty.
Life will be life.
Life will be what you make it. And, for me, this was the key. Mary showed me that if your life is not what you want…change it. If the people you have in your life are not gifts who nurture, love and add to the quality of your life, then change that too! Don’t crowd your life with unkindness and unkind people and then complain that you aren’t smiling. CHANGE IT. Your life is a mix of what you allow into it so make it gorgeous, make it loving and make it YOU. And, when those beautiful people like Mary pass from your life, soak in the amazing gift they were to you and how lucky you were to have them. Love what you have as long as you have it and then be thankful for the gift.
I love Mary more today than I ever have. And, thanks to my dear Mary, my life will be better because she showed me how very lucky I am and she put a very clean mirror in front of my face that clearly showed me I am NOT living the life I should be living. I have been skating. Wasting my hours playing on Facebook walls, enduring the unkindness of fake friends, spending time being frustrated by boy brain and chasing after relationships that are not fulfilling or healthy. Losing Mary helped me to see that I was filling my life with whatever I found along the way . When I took a step back I realized that a good many of the people I was clustering into my life were not good friends, not good role models for my kids and not even good people sometimes.
Thank to Mary, changes are coming. Good changes, great changes but not one of them is an easy change. Mary showed me that I need to grow my own backbone, set healthy standards and boundaries and fill my life with positive pieces because our lives are not meant to be mere trash receptacles set about to catch all the rubbish that abounds in life. We are all meant for more than that. Mary also reminded me childhood is a very short period of time and you have to drink it in, chaos and calm are equally important and have to be loved. So I am off to start loving it all.
I have work ahead, changes to make and children to appreciate. Next stop…deconstructing a life!