I've been thinking a lot about death lately. To be honest I think about death quite a bit most of the time, since I’m obsessed with reading about true crime, I frequently walk home alone, and am semi-regularly advised the on myriad of ways in which my various illnesses might kill me.
One of my childhood friends died suddenly last year and it knocked me for six.
She was the other half of me for the majority of my childhood and teenage years and we would hysterically laugh, argue like cat and dog, send S.W.A.L.K-heavy platonic love-letters to one another, and talk for hours about the future and what it would entail (babies for her, marriage to David Bowie for me). We were inseparable for so much of our lives, that the idea that she was suddenly no longer in the world anymore was excruciating.
OK so maybe I was never going to be able to marry David Bowie (RIP my sweet love), but she still had all the time in the world to produce cute babies with hair the colour of golden syrup! Suddenly she didn't. And I was faced with the realisation that people my age, people I’ve hugged, people I love; can be taken away from me in an instant. I know and have always known, that life is short. I just felt it crushingly unfair that it was her life being shortened.
I have grieved for my friend and I think I always will to a certain extent. I think we are always grieving for those we loved and lost because they have left a hole that we can't simply fill with some cheap emotional grout. It's a hole that widens from time to time; on anniversaries, birthdays, or when we are reminded of a song they loved or a thing they used to say.
I understand grief. Loss. I also understand that grief doesn’t have to be defined solely by death.
I grieve for my past life in a similar way; the life I lived before my diagnosis and before my body was ravaged by illness. I grieve for an unlived future – the one I’d hoped to live before sickness took over. But as with the grief we feel for those we love, our grieving for our own perceived loss is a wound which opens and closes over time. Mine has all but stitched itself back up entirely; only occasionally do I feel the pull of it, taking me back into a self-pitying spiral. But it passes. As all grief does. We can find something new from a loss. Strength, empathy, understanding.
I loved my friend and I miss the 'what might have been' for her. I miss it for me too, but I understand I am incredibly lucky. I don’t want to be selfish enough to grieve for a life I might have had when this one is already so full of heart-swelling love and laughter. I am lucky to be here to grieve for my friend, and for my 'old life' because I’m living a new one. Slightly modified, maybe a little harder than I would have liked, but maybe even better than the imagined one.