My best friend Amy died in October of 2009. July 23rd would have been her 36th birthday. This post was published on Owning Pink during the summer of 2010 (I believe).
Less than nine months ago, I wrote a blog post about death. I’d never lost anyone very close to me. I’d lost grandparents and great aunts and uncles that I didn’t know very well when I was too young to understand. I’d lost my father-in-law and, although I was distraught for a few days, it came more from realizing what my daughters would be missing instead of a personal loss for me. He lived states away and I’d never had much of an opportunity to get to know him either.
So, I wrote about death without knowing death. I wrote that death is life’s greatest reward, that when we die our souls are finally free. It is something we earn after we’ve completed our life goals and experienced the highs and lows of this human existence.
On October 25, 2009, I met death. I saw a different, more painful side. My best friend of seventeen years died of a ruptured brain aneurism just two days after giving birth to her first two children. The twins were born on Friday, and Amy was sent to the ICU with a diagnosis of pneumonia, where she could only see pictures of her boys. On Saturday night, she cried and told someone she thought she was going to die before she ever held her babies. On Sunday morning, she was gone.
When I lost Amy I lost a sister. I had taken her into my heart in 1993 and she’d had a home there ever since. I was left breathless with the realization that no one stays forever. There is no rhyme or reason to the circle of life. Outer appearances don’t change our vulnerability – when we see a young, healthy, pregnant mother, we think she has a long life ahead of her. We believe that the life or lives inside her assure her a place in this world. I learned through Amy’s death that it is just not true.
Knowledge equaled fear
When I returned from Amy’s funeral, I was weighed down with the knowledge of that vulnerability. I looked at my own family with new eyes. I realized how precious they were and regretted the times I’d been too busy or preoccupied to gift them with my presence. I also experienced fear and anxiety in a form I’d never quite felt before. My imagination would go to dark places and I’d swim in thoughts of losing those that were dearest to me. I had a new picture of what death looked like. It was real, and it could happen to anyone at any age.
A wake-up call
I struggled with this anxiety for a few months. It peaked one day when I called my husband’s office believing he would be there, and he didn’t answer the phone. I panicked and dialed his cell (which he never uses) and luckily he answered. He’d made an unexpected stop on the way to work which had caused him to be late. I cried when he answered and admitted that I’d been consumed by these fears since Amy’s death.
I like to think that I am the “spiritual” one of the two of us, but once in a while my husband says something that lets me know he’s way ahead of me on the path. This was one of those times. It’s going to sound simple, but for me in that moment it was profound. He said something like, “We do everything we can to assure that we will be healthy and safe. That is all we can do. There is stuff out there that may or may not happen to us. When we know we’ve done the best we can, we just have to let go of the rest. Worrying isn’t going to keep it from happening if it’s meant to.”
The value of connections
After that I stopped obsessing about death and loved ones leaving me. Something just clicked. I still think of Amy every day. The people closest to her still suffer, but they have two precious reminders of her life and love. In October we were awoken to what is valuable to us in this life, at least for a little while. It is through our connections with others that we get to express the love that is within us.