To Absent Friends

Over the weekend I was talking with a friend who had just lost her mother. In listening to her recount her loss, my emotion swelled up and a tear sprang loose, invoking the same in her. I told her I was sorry and she asked me if it ever gets any easier–dealing with the loss of your mother. I told her that I need the moments where I can just be sad, let the tears flow freely, miss my mom, and express my pain and grief anew. I hugged her tightly and in that moment we grieved together for our mothers who are no longer with us and who at the same time are always with us.

Each year this date approaches and I contemplate how I’m going to deal with it. It is not the anniversary of my mom’s passing, but it is the anniversary of the passing of two dear friends and a beloved canine companion.

On this date when I was 17 years old I made the decision to put down my pet of 15 years, who had been my constant companion for as long as I remembered. Then on this date when I was 19 years old I lost a sweet friend in a tragic accident. Then on this date when I was 20 years old I lost a vibrant and seemingly “happy” friend to suicide. 17 years have passed but the pain of their absence lingers on.

I’ve not been able to pass this day without acknowledging my absent friends. It’s as if I feel I would somehow let them down if I did not remember. If I did not share that I remembered.

News of Robin William’s suicide broke as I was contemplating this anniversary. His death is tragic on so many levels. For those of us who did not know him but felt like we knew him because of the joy he brought into our lives, we mourn from a distance and with confusion. Mental illness, depression, and suicide touch so many yet our society still feels a need to stigmatize those who suffer.

So today I remember this anniversary that is so important to me with this prayer:

Lord, thank you for the gift of life. Thank you for all those souls who have touched my life. Help me to be present and to be kind. Please comfort those who mourn and strengthen those who suffer. May grace and peace guide my actions. Amen.

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4 responses to “To Absent Friends

  1. Beautiful. I think prayer is one of the best ways we can honor those people we have lost and who touched us deeply. I never knew you had such a tragic date…a lot to take. Holding you in thought and prayer, friend.

    • Thanks, that means a lot! It’s four days later and the flowers my hubby brought me still look great–they’re a symbolic celebration of my friends’ lives. You know, it was years later when I was rereading my journals that I realized I had put my dog to sleep on that same date. It’s uncanny sometimes the way life works out that way.

  2. Shannon, your story is very heartful and I, too, found the short prayer at the end quite meaningful. We lost my husband’s mom (my mother-in-heart) on March 5th, but it was truly a blessing for her and for us. She was 93 and had 2 surgeries in the last 15 months of her life for cancer. The second time the MD suggested Radiation treatment, which I could not grasp. She was 92, had lived a long and caring life and all I could think of was ‘quality of life’. It must be, to some degree, the way you felt when you chose to put your dog down after 15 years of faithful life. Not that I’m saying we should have ‘put mom down’ of course, but the same concept applies. She was in a great deal of pain for the last 8 weeks and was being cared for at her daughter’s home.

    I did the same thing for my mom in 1990, as her health declined from Lupus. She was just 74. The last 6 weeks were awful for both of us. I had crossed the border in mental madness due to many factors, not the least of which was my beloved sister being diagnosed with Leukemia. As well, I was becoming more and more sleep deprived since my mom slept for less and less amounts of time.She could sit up by herself in bed, but couldn’t lay down again. As the days passed, she began to do that more and more. I l slept in the same room as she did, so my sleep was interrupted often. I was there in the first place to allow my dear step-dad to continue work because they needed his income. Mom wanted to die at home and my sister and I had promised she would, planning on sharing the care.

    I tend to wander and I am a true ‘storyteller’, so be patient! I told my husband’s sister that I completely understood how she felt, except that she was basically sane AND had the support of family. My family was in a different state and, of course my sister was unable to help, since she was undergoing Chemo. At any rate, your story of loss touched my heart and I wanted to thank you for it! OK! DONE! Carol

    • Thank you, Carol, for sharing your story. It brings to mind many of the feelings I had walking with my mom through her final illness. Just today I was speaking with my father about a dear uncle’s declining health–my dad was concerned he might do the wrong thing in trying to express his love, care, and concern. It’s so hard to know what the right thing is. I assured my dad that my uncle would understand and appreciate and feel loved by the effort–it all matters and is important. Even “just” our presence, if we’re blessed to be nearby.

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