My friends keep leaving.

By Anita Garner

Several friends died in one recent week and another just received word that she has probably spent her last Christmas here. Those of us of an age are reminded every day with every loss that we’ve used up more of life than is left to us.

Obituaries list accomplishments, relationships, family ties, travels, hobbies and service to the community.  I read them and am proud of the lives they lived but my memories are mostly about everyday conversations, back when we didn’t know what day they’d be leaving.

Every time I say goodbye to a friend the “why” ritual begins.  Why him?  Why her?  Why am I still here? Am I doing what I’m meant to be doing with whatever time is left?  I don’t think we consider purpose often enough in our younger years but now it’s a constant. I move on to prayers of gratitude for every blessing so far.  I commune with those who left.

I remember some of our last encounters. Most of our conversations were about small things, with the exception of Ed who was never anything but intense, therefore there were no small things.

Paulette explained to me repeatedly how she grew the extraordinary hydrangeas in her garden.  She offered pruning tips and feeding tips but remained puzzled that though I tried to follow her advice I was never able to replicate her success. I could manage a couple of plants with a modest number of blossoms.  For Paulette, hydrangeas grew halfway up the side of her house and showed off every time I passed by.

I remember the combination of turmoil and soul and business acumen that was Eddie.  Talented and driven and always swirling around inside some creative vortex, near the end of his life he was awed by the steadfast nature of his wife.  Kathy had passed years before but in every conversation before he left, he still wanted to talk about her, about how he hadn’t been nearly a good enough husband for her.

Memory replays conversations with a friend scheduled for surgery some years back.  Pete was apprehensive about the operation, but because he was so well prepared for the active future he envisioned, we all pushed back those fears. Over glasses of good wine (one of his passions) he held forth about his plans for the near future.  He was excited that he’d done well enough to afford to buy a sweet spot in California’s Gold Country because Sandra loved it and a new home they prepared to occupy at De Silva Island in Mill Valley. He didn’t move into either place. He was gone as soon as surgery began.

Losses remind us to get our own things in order but it’s the nature of the living to believe we have at least this one more day to do it.  We say goodbye to dear ones and also remind ourselves there’s no guilt in celebrating every time we welcome a sunrise. I hope it’s what they’d be doing if they were here.


6 thoughts on “My friends keep leaving.”

  1. This is the theme of my every day thinking. My husband, who is 10 years older than I am, is declining rapidly, and I’m caring for my very fragile ancient parents. I tease Mom about her snoring, try to get Dad to laugh a couple times a day, and think about all the things Ray does daily to make my life easier like setting the alarm and making the bed and reading to me and and and… The feeling that I may turn around tomorrow and all three will have left is palpable. And yet, there is still time to be annoyed, to feel burdened, to miss time with friends, and to wonder at the weirdness that is “people.” It’s a good experience. I hope it’s polishing this rough spirit of mine to be more patient and to show others when I love them instead of just keeping that happy feeling to myself.

  2. Beautifully said, Allison. Comes a time when we have to realize that loss is coming for all of us, much of it sooner rather than later. I love the ways you’re making the most of every minute with the ones you love. Good reminders here. Thank you.

  3. Herb, so true – so many dear ones in just the past little while. Partly, I guess, it’s reaching a certain age, but then there’s everything else swirling around as well.

  4. I used to wonder if old people often think about dying but I didn’t have the nerve to ask one. Now I don’t have to ask because I am living it and the answer is yes.

    Beautiful thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Thanks for reading, Dave. Your answer made me smile. I also used to wonder the same thing and it’s a yes for me too. It seemed almost too self-centered to mention how often the thought occurs. Now the subject is pretty much a constant companion, but not necessarily sad. It just is.

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