Tonight I went to dinner with an old friend. A friend the that has known me, well, forever, when forever counted.
It was a perfect evening. An evening which included understanding without explanation. It included memories that only encompassed two words.
My friend, you see, was one of the first people to arrive at my side after Doug died. She was actually the second person to arrive in the aftermath. I remember clearly the first. She arrived that next morning I think. I can’t honestly remember clearly btu I do remember that I was sitting on the sofa, directly across from the front door. I had been thinking about what I was going to say to her when she arrived and how I needed to keep it all together…
She walked through the door, I looked at her, seeing she was trying to keep it together as well and I only remember the embrace. Her breaking down in my arms, sobbing. Not sure what to do, what to say…
My friend tonight – she followed soon after. They were there that second night. Sleeping in the same bed. A grown’s man dream of three women in the same bed together.
Tonight, over four years later, once again, taught me something about friendship. About grief.
It had been a long time since seeing my friend. She and I go back many years…decades.
It was at one point in our conversation that she said, “I don’t know how this will make you feel and I’m sorry if you cry but I’m sure I’ll cry as well but I still have the empty Guiness can that I drank when we went to the crash site. I have it up in a cabinet above the stove. Sometimes, I open the cabinet and it falls over or I have to move it and I always think of Doug – I hate Guinness. That is the one and only Guinness I ever drank”.
I remember that. Several of my and Doug’s close friends flew in to Portland within days of his death. I knew a few of them would try to go the crash site and I wanted them to go there without being disturbed and I wanted to go myself. So I made it happen. I rode in a jeep with two of my closest girlfriends and found myself pointing out landmarks and talking about the coffee places we passed on the way as well as the size of the trees…can we say “shock”…nothing more from me.
We had to hike a ways back to the crash site.
I remember looking at one particular tree that was set a little off of the direct impact site and just feeling his presence there. Seeing him leaned up against that tree smoking a cigarette and drinking a Guiness and reaching out to me. Just letting me know he was ok.
I remember drinking a beer there. I may have smoked a cigarette. I remember just trying to be strong enough for his friends. For my friends. Trying to not completely break down. I think I eventually did. I honestly don’t remember.
But tonight, tonight, I remember seeing a friend celebrating the road I’ve travelled as well as feeling that she hasn’t been there for every step. I could tell it weighed heavily on her. Then she shared the fact that she had that empty Guinness can in her cupboard, not sure what to do with it…
Oh, the gift of knowing that it is there.
I have no words.
There is such comfort.
The hardest thing about this is the fact that it took four years to share. And that is okay. One of the biggest things I’ve struggled with is knowing whether or not I’m the only one grieving Doug’s death.
Sure, you could say that it is ridiculous to think I am the only one grieving.
Grief though, can be very isolating as I have found it to be and I don’t blame friend or family for this – I just think that sometimes and often-times this is just how it is.
Tonight, I looked at my friend and told her that I didn’t want to not know about these things. I want to know – it brings me comfort. It makes me feel less alone. It makes me feel that our existence is really worth something. Instead of worrying about upsetting me, worry about not telling me enough.
I want to hear stories. I want to know how you are grieving. I want to know how you are celebrating.
A mutual friend of ours once told me that he always flies a kite on the anniversary of the death of his Father and that he did the same on the anniversary of Doug’s death. I like that thought. I like thinking that day will always be treasured as a special day. A day of remembrance of a friendship, relationship, mentorship. I like thinking that every time my friend opens her cupboard, she sees a little bit of Doug hidden away. Possibly popping out unexpectedly when the time is right. Remembering the hugs and the laughter. Especially the hugs.
It makes me feel so not alone in my grief. It makes me remember that it was all real. That it wasn’t a dream.
You sharing stories may make me cry but those stores fill my heart. Those stories you have, that are unique to your relationship with Doug are the thing that keep me going some days. They make me remember that it was all real. That he was real. Even as I move forward in this life, these stories – these stories – are running through my storyline. They are connected to me. They are a part of me.
They help me. They inspire me.
The can of Guinness in the cupboard is the same story of the box of ashes in my closet…
It is a reminder of a brilliant, loving, amazing life. A life that may not have been center stage for you but one one that would always remind you of what is real.
I share this only because I know that my friendship has grown through the sharing of the Guinness in the cupboard…We all should be so bold. There needs to be no fear of upsetting the situation more. No fear of releasing the waterfall of tears…all of that is ever present in some degree or another.
I want to know and hear how you are grieving. How you have grieved.
I see how important it is that I share the same with friends and family that have lost deeply…
Sarah, I remember the beauty of your Mom on your wedding day. I will be forever moved by your love for her through her sickness and death. I will never forget your tender touch and soothing nature. What I saw in you, being a part of that moment in time, will forever guide me. I blame you for my reentry into a spiritual belief. That early morning/late night in the chapel, kneeling when I didn’t want to kneel…but finding peace through your peace…that, my friend, will forever reside so deep in my heart. I see your Mom’s death as part of my rebirth. I saw her spirit then, sitting before you in the waiting room, smiling down on you and exuding this sense of peace and knowing that you, you would be fine. You my friend, are amazing. Your Mom – man – I learned so much from her in such a short period of time. I want you to know that I think of her often. I look to her as a guardian angel – directing me to help those less fortunate. I think of her most every day. Honestly, it is when I think of you that she is taking the spotlight…
Angie. I remember holding you. Or maybe it was you holding me…You were the first to arrive. You were the first to try and get me out to have some fun. I look at your support and I hope you know that I see your losses in a new light. I feel them. I witness them. I have a new understanding and view of loss and all I want to say to you – I love you. I love you for being exactly who I’ve needed you to be. I love you.
Staci. Your story tonight made me realize that there are people out “there” that need to read this. That may have no words or not know what to do when they are standing front and just off to the side of a great loss. What is it that you say? What is it that you do? Share. Communicate and meet the person exactly where they are at the moment – that is what we have both walked away with tonight. You were the second person to arrive by my side. I will never forget sleeping in my bed, flanked by you and Angie. Thinking how Doug would totally love the fact that three beautiful girls were in his bed…I also want you to know, that I think of you and your loss of your father. I acknowledge and remember him. I don’t want you to ever think I don’t see that as part of your life or our friendship.
There are so many others that have made a huge impact on my life and my journey but this isn’t about that – this is about what it is to remember – to share. Share the stories. Share your memories. Share with those that have lost.
The stories help more than you know. Sharing how you remember them, honor them helps heal.
So long have I gone only knowing my own grief. Knowing only my own stories. Not knowing if his life meant anything to anyone but me…share.
Don’t assume they know or understand that you miss them too. Share the little things. Share the non-things. Just share.
My heart is full knowing that there is an empty Guinness can in the Cupboard that goes along with the box of ashes in my closet…maybe we need to have the two meet sometime…