When I received the phone call I wrote about in yesterday's post early on Saturday afternoon, I was - strangely enough - reading a book of epitaphs. Those always fascinated me, an attempt to sum up a deceased loved one's, or even one's own, worth in this life. It was an old book and many of the epitaphs were humorous in nature. Now it seems its more popular to say that the deceased person was a beloved father, brother, and son, etc. I suppose the most poignant epitaph I personally ever saw was one I found on teenage boys grave. It read:
Dying wasn't hard.
Living was hard.
However, I tend to think that death is hardest on the survivors. I can't muster any real conviction for an afterlife (although I would love to be able to). If as Ingersoll once suggested, death is at worst an eternal dreamless sleep, it can't be hard on the deceased, for they will be unaware that they are no longer aware.
But those of us survive, well now, that's another matter.
When my older brother died one of my first reflections was that now there would no more of those odd hours phone calls he was famous for making. He was my friend and confident. I sought his advice and enjoyed his insights. There was nothing we could not talk about. Each of us had busy lives, so we didn't get together that often. But the connection was always there, via phone, and we used it often. When I lost him I lost a part of myself. A big part of myself.
And so it is. Death changes things for the deceased, to be sure. But to those of us left behind it takes away a piece of ourselves and of our own lives. It isn't so much that these deaths of friends and loved ones remind me of my own mortality. I've always been aware of that, and my philosophy for many years has been that of living each day to its fullest. I try to enjoy literally every moment; every sunrise and sunset I take in, each meal, every sweet fragrance, each personal interaction, literally, every enjoyable moment. And I endure those less savory things as I await the next good thing.
So grief, when examined, can almost seem selfish. To those who believe in the survival of death, those passed on should only be envied (unless one is bedeviled by belief in Hell). But for those of us left behind, we miss them and the hole that they leave in our lives. It hurts and causes us pain. Most of us eventually learn to adjust, but the sadness of the loss is always there. The bond of human affection is powerful beyond words.
As regards my friend who is now facing the end, as my mind has been flooded these past two days with my memories of our times together, I realize that I tried to enjoy every good moment I spent with her as I was spending them. The bad moments, weren't enjoyed, but dealt with as quickly as possible and then tucked away by both of us into some insignificant corners of our minds. We no longer have regular contact with one another, but I always knew and she always knew we could pick up the phone and either of us would be there for the other. Just that comforting knowledge that another special person will no longer be there, even if only as a soothing voice on the phone, is painful. I suppose that is why mediums have always been popular among the grieving.
Right now I'm wishing and hoping for one more phone call, one more chance to say to her again that I care and that I appreciate the difference she made in my life. And as this is such a sad topic, this will be my last post about it, at least for now.