I thought he would be okay when he died.
Although I had been prepared for it, said my good-byes, told my family about his cancer so that they can say good-byes, it still ended up as hurt. The sadness hit me like a slap to my face, as if I was a child again chided for doing something wrong, as if I was the one who was in the wrong.
And maybe I was. It felt like I did something wrong. It felt as if I could have done more. It all felt like it was my fault.
When my friend Joseph died last year, I felt guilty. The last time I’ve spoken to him before his funeral was a few months ago, when he called me up to catch up, see how I was doing, how my life was going along.
“Everything is good,” was my generic answer to him, and to this day, I wondered if I should have said more, if I should have shared about better examples to make him feel more at ease, make him feel like I was going to be okay.
When we ended the call, I told him we should see each other, that we should catch up.
I never did.
Regret is the word that fills me at each death. Regret that I could have done more, that I could have spent more time with those who passed, that I could have been a better friend, a better family member, a better self.
But it never seems enough. Nothing ever seems enough when it’s gone. When it’s all a loss.
Grief hooks fast and never lets go, and even when it does, the wound from it never heals. It bleeds on and on, little by little, until you bleed no more.
The day before his death, he felt cold. He laid where the sun shone on the carpet, and slept with eyes closed as the warmth seeped through the floor.
I was cold too, and my girlfriend and friend Amie wondered why I was wearing a hoodie inside the house.
We were both dying slowly.
As a writer, this is what I do. I write after every death, I write as if I want to recount over and over again their life and death, as If I want to remember over and over again how the sadness feels. The grief is addictive, it feels right when I wallow myself into it, because in those moments, I don’t have to remember anything but the pain, the suffering. Just like whipping myself for my sins, I cry and recount the ways I couldn’t be, I couldn’t do.
To dig a grave is hard. The shovel only goes so deep before giving up, and all that ends up is you cursing as you place one foot into the grave, as you jump into it and bargain with the soil to give you one more inch. You ask it to not take this away from you, because digging is the only way you can find out how deep your grief goes, and to bury it helps you bury along your shame, your regrets.
But they don’t last. They will bloom like flowers in spring. And all that ends up being is you. You staring at the mound of dirt that rises from ground, the bump on the surface like a zit ready to burst. And then you cry. You say your last good-byes. Because you know you’ll never be able to let it go. That it was always an illusion to be able to bury it away. To reach a closure that would ever be satisfying.
I loved him for what he was. I loved him for being who he wasn’t. But love has never been enough. We were only brave enough to believe that something could ever surpass death.
Grief is a requirement for all of us who survive.