My heart sank when I heard the above message while trying to reach a friend by phone. Optimistically, I called again hoping I had mis-dialed the first time. No. the message repeated.
In this most recent experience I was calling a gentleman I had met online, someone I used to see before I moved from California to New Mexico. We became good friends, but he had severe health problems that worsened after I left. His condition deteriorated so dramatically that that was our main topic of conversation when we talked by phone. Nonetheless, he regularly tried to liven up the dialogue by asking, “Are you running for Mayor yet?” Now he was dead.
Loss of friends and family members is painful, but that is the price we pay for having outlived them. I remind myself daily to be grateful for each moment that I have when I can do as I please, something as simple as getting out of bed on my own.
When we are young we don’t think about our physical moves. I used to drive my car into the garage and make numerous trips sprinting up and down the front stairs while carrying groceries and children. No longer. Now I plan each move, especially when getting in and out of the car.
Another significant loss occurred when a friend called to say she saw a high school friend’s name in the Los Angeles Times obituaries. I called his home and confirmed that he had died. He was my boyfriend from junior high school. We remained friends from then on, albeit with many time gaps of non-interaction as we moved our separate ways. But over the last decades we had renewed our friendship, mostly via e-mail and an occasional phone call and attendance at special occasions.
When close friends and family members die, especially mates, loneliness is a realistic expectation. But it isn’t a given. One must continue to honor and cherish the gift of life that we have been given.
After my husband died in 2007, I co-authored a book with Fredda Wasserman called, Saying Goodbye to Someone You Love: Your Emotional Journey through End of Life and Grief (Demos, 2010). We included a pithy quote from someone in a grief support group.
“Do you believe in life after death?”
“Yes, MY life!”
Norine Dresser is a folklorist who, despite widowhood and infirmities, is grateful for every day that she has.