I’ve heard this said so many times, and I do believe it.
The line comes from Tennyson’s poem, ‘In Memoriam’. It’s a long poem in which the poet struggles with grief and loss, and all the other emotions and questions of faith and life that accompany them. His thoughts and feelings are very much like mine at this point in time.
“I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.”
When a friendship ends or when a loved one dies, it’s really hard to be the one that is left behind. It hurts… a lot.
Both kinds of grief have happened to me in the past couple of weeks. It’s also two years today since I sat with my mother, held her hand, and watched and waited as she died. I’m sure the anniversary is adding to my pensive mood today as I consider the grief I have experience more recently.
A friend who means a very great deal to me turned on me and said he never wanted to talk with me again. I still don’t know what brought that on. I probably never will. He’s made his decision and I have to live with that, no matter how much it hurts, and no matter how much I really don’t like it.
We had been such close friends. We talked about everything. We shared hopes and dreams, happiness, pain, sorrow, loss, disappointment, and elation. He told me often that I was one of the best friends he had ever had. He told me that he valued me as a friend, as a confidante, as a sounding board.
Yet he allowed his anger over something that someone else had done to poison our friendship. He told me that he knew I hadn’t done anything wrong, and that he knew I couldn’t do anything to change it… but he couldn’t let it go. He cradled his hurt, fed it with resentment, and it grew into obsessive anger. He fertilised it with bitterness and self-pity, and it grew to be so big that it became a barrier between himself and everyone else. Then he blamed me and pushed me away.
I observed to a mutual friend at that time that it’s worse than when a friend dies because you know at least they wanted to be with you and they cherished your friendship. Being apart is not what either of you wanted. When it’s someone’s choice, and you are the one who is rejected, that’s really hard to accept.
Two weeks later, I’m faced with the imminent death of a dear friend who I care very much for.
She’s young, vibrant, spirited, loving, and one of those beautiful souls that touches the heart of everyone she meets in a very special way.
She has two young daughters and a husband who loves her very much.
Her family all adore her. She is the eldest daughter, the big sister, a loving aunt, a treasured cousin, a precious niece.
Never mind my grief. It’s nothing compared to theirs.
What are they going to do without her? How will they cope? How will they move on and keep on building their lives? I know their lives will be filled with the sentiment of “I wish she were here to see/experience/enjoy this”.
I am really struggling to deal with my grief. I don’t want her to die. I don’t want her daughters to have to grow up without their mother. I don’t want her struggle, our friendship, and the prayers of everyone who has supported and loved and cared for her to end this way.
I know cancer doesn’t actually choose its victims. I certainly don’t believe that God inflicts cancer, or any other disease, on people just for the hell of it.
My struggle is seeing someone beautiful and sweet and kind being eaten alive by this evil disease, while others who abuse and rape women and children, or murder people, or prey on the powerless for their own gratification, live healthy, long lives in relative comfort.
How is that fair?
These thoughts flood my heart and soul with anger and a strong desire for the world to be different, for the endings to be different, for evil diseases to only happen to the people who don’t love or appreciate or care for others, even while I’m trying to stem the tide and just deal with my personal grief.
I’ve always had a strong sense of justice and it’s just screaming now for relief and for something miraculous to happen.
Then I think about the friend who walked away, and I want to tell him that people aren’t disposable. Friendships are not about convenience or personal comfort, to be abandoned when things get a bit difficult. Loyalty, love and compassion in a friendship aren’t things you should just be able to walk away from… especially when friends like that can be taken away from you at any moment.
I want both of them to come back. I want to be able to talk and laugh and play and cry and tell stories and listen and drink coffee and relax with them.
I don’t want them to be gone.