Sadness always takes me by surprise.
I usually don’t realize I’m sad until I’m reading Pablo Neruda and listening to “The Promise” by Tracy Chapman.
It’s been a long while since my last serious post, but the other day I had quite a peculiar feeling that threw me headlong into sadness. The story can be a little hard to follow so I’ll do my best to keep things simple.
A little over two years ago, a dear friend of mine passed away unexpectedly. It happened so suddenly that none of us were ready for it. She was here and then she was gone. That was it. There was no goodbye. There was no last text message or facebook comment. In one phone call my friend’s life was over and even now I still go over that day and the following week in my head like a bad movie.
For about a month after she died I had the feeling that I would wake up and realize that those days and weeks I had been living were a bad dream brought on by Chinese food. I waited for her to walk through the door like nothing had ever happened. The time we had been living in the wake of her death would disappear and the memories of it would be replaced with pleasant ones in which she was very much present. Unfortunately, that time has passed and I’m very much aware of the fact that she is indeed gone and it may be a long time before I see her again.
I keep a picture of her in my car and also one tucked away in my Bible. For some reason I’ve always been scared that I was going to forget her even though I still remember what her laugh sounded like. Her picture is also the wallpaper on my computer. It’s a snapshot of her smiling in Jamaica with a little girl sitting happily on her lap. Whenever I boot up my computer I feel an equal measure of pain and joy at seeing her face. This past weekend, however, I felt much more pain than joy.
As I was sitting down at my laptop, I looked at her face and a strange voice said to me, “She wouldn’t mind if you changed it, Gyasi.”
I immediately shut my computer down and stayed in my room for the remainder of the day.
To put it mildly, I felt like the worst friend on the face of the earth for even considering it. In my head changing that picture would be like slapping her in the face and saying that she didn’t matter to me anymore. It would be the equivalent of saying, “Ok, I cried. I went to your funeral. It’s been two years. I’m done grieving for you now.” Are these thoughts irrational? Yes, but grief doesn’t care.
One thing I’ve learned is that grief never really leaves you. You’re never “done” with it. There is no end to the grieving process; just days that suck slightly less than the days before. Grief tends to wait in the unexpected places. About three months after my friend died, when I had finally stopped crying, I found a card she had given me tucked away in my bible. When it slipped out and I saw her messy o’s and a’s, I cried as though she had died all over again.
Grief doesn’t care.
Now, I feel like I’ve gone back in time to two years ago when the wound was still raw and sore and bleeding.
Even though that voice (God? myself?) said that it would be ok, that she was ok, my grief still hold sway.
Perhaps one day I’ll wake up and without even giving it a second thought I’ll change the picture. Maybe one day I’ll realize that my love for my friend isn’t proved by how long I keep insignificant reminders of her life. There may even be a time when I’m smart enough and rational enough to know that I’ll never forget her. That in my eighties I’ll catch a trace of her somewhere and smile to myself as I remember the beautiful life she lived. Instead of going over the day she died and the months following, I’ll think of the times we sat laughing and talking in the kitchen with our other friends. I’ll think of when we were a group untouched by grief. We were only a bunch of silly girls navigating our way through life.
These are the things I’ll think about.
Rather than worrying about a picture, I’ll live like she would have.