It’s interesting to see who shows up for you when you are in need.
When my father died there was one person in particular I expected to “get” what I needed. I had known him since I was five and after we graduated 8th grade and he moved to Montana, we exchanged weekly letters and phone calls. Through that correspondence, we became best friends. For years he was my confidante. When I’d cry about my Dad being so depressed or drunk or the pervasive sadness that hung around my house, he’d be the one I called or poured my heart out to in page after page of teen angst letters. He knew me. And so when my father passed away I just assumed he’d be there for me.
I was wrong.
He didn’t call me back. He wrote me a letter and in it he basically said that my dad was a good man and it should be a relief that his suffering was over. Or something to that effect.It’s hard to remember now the exact wording but the way I felt upon reading that letter is still fresh in my mind, sixteen years later.
It’s like that famous quote, “People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” That letter made me feel very alone. I eventually wrote him, sharing how hurt I was and after that, we stopped talking for many, many years. It felt like my heart broke twice. First I lost my dad, then I lost one of my best friends.
All I really wanted was someone to show up for me. Someone that knew me to my core and didn’t need anything from me. Because when you lose someone special to you, you’re all over the map. Mourning is like that. It’s unpredictable. One minute you are chatting away, lost in a story and the next you’re somber and sullen, retreating into your own mind. You can run through emotions like a sprinter- you’re crying then you’re laughing then you feel guilty then you’re angry and back to crying. In the span of five minutes.
It’s not every person that can handle that- that can show up and just be there. Because honestly? That’s all I wanted. Someone to call me up and say, “I’m sorry you are hurting. I love you.” and then just let me cry or scream or hold my hand silently. Just let me be but not be alone. Luckily for me, I was surrounded by people who did that and to this day, I’m still so grateful. Death scares the crap out of people. The majority of us are confused as to how to respond when someone dies and no one wants to face their own mortality. But letting our own issues get in the way of showing up for a person in pain is just not right. Not in my book.
The point of all this is to say that in the midst of grief, I am once again reminded that comfort can be found in the most unlikey of places. And in people that care enough to show up. . . but it’s not always the ones you expected to.
P.S. Thank you to each of you who wrote, called, tweeted, blogged and just all around sent me sympathy and love yesterday. It made me cry repeatedly but they were good tears- of feeling loved and cared for. You were there for me and that means so much to me.
*Maya Angelou quote though some websites wrongly attribute it to Oprah. Don’t people get by now that Oprah uses other peoples wisdom to sound enlightened?