A very dear friend of mine is very sick. I only found out about this recently and I’m not sure I know how to contend with it yet. He’s been my friend for more than forty years. At times, he was among my best friends. A friend who I would do anything for and one who I suspect might have done anything for me. We’ve only seen each other a few times in the last twenty years but each time, at least to me anyway, it was like no time had passed at all. He was still him and I was still me and we looked sort of the same and we sounded kind of the same. It’s just that it had been a while.
I come from a large extended family with many older relatives. I’m used to people getting sick and leaving. I’ve lost some friends when I was younger to disease and accident. But I’m getting to the age now where friends are starting to get sick, not at the age of twenty or thirty. But now in their fifties. And it hurts like hell. Because getting sick at this age is still way too young. There’s still too much living to do. Too many birthdays and anniversaries to participate in and too many years of rest and retirement to enjoy.
It’s a fucker, is what it is.
I feel helpless and useless. There’s nothing I can do to help and there’s nothing I can do but worry and weep. And when it’s a friend your age, who you grew up with, it could very well be you. Or me. And that’s the kicker. When our friends or family suffer, we suffer. Not in the same way, but just the same.
When my parents and in-laws were dying, a part of me thinks that a good chunk of their suffering had to do with knowing the depth of the sadness it brought to their loved ones. But of course, that’s not entirely true. I think dying must be about the most lonesome of experiences. We each have to do it alone. We each have a unique experience we’re leaving behind. A set of memories and relationships that no one else can quite understand.
And depending what you believe, it’s either the beginning or the end. And no matter what you believe, there’s no way of knowing.
With every ounce of my being, I hope my friend gets better and has another forty years on this mortal coil. And if he doesn’t, I’m with him all the way. As much as I can be. And as much as he needs me to be.