A dear friend from high school sent me two obituaries this week of people we knew from high school. One was the slightly older brother of a boy who dated one of my friends in high school. I remember this man mostly as a football player in high school. Although he was my high school boyfriend's age, he was not in my boyfriend's circle of friends. The other obituary was for a woman who graduated with me from my all girls' high school. Unfortunately I cannot place who this woman was and I no longer have my high school yearbook handy. My friend promises to scan the picture from the yearbook to see if I can remember this classmate. There were only 108 girls in my graduating class so I am sure I knew her but I just cannot remember her right now. Before death comes the loss of memory.
I think a lot about my two friends who have aggressive cancer. Both are women in their early 50s and both are struggling with massive doses of chemo. As I mentioned above, one of these friends is no longer ambulatory. To cheer me up, my husband likes to describe in gruesome detail the last days of his father's fight with cancer-- the pain, the immobility, the deterioration. Oh joy. And I am supposed to be the Debbie Downer. As I talked to my friend on Friday evening, in the midst of the discussion of the chemo and the pain and the tumors, and through the fogginess of her massive doses of painkillers, I also experienced the person she has always been notwithstanding this terrible disease-- a mother who delights in her relationship with her daughter, a brilliant Harvard graduate who still enjoys a discussion about politics, a friend who wants to shield me and her other friends from the pain she is enduring, a funny, life loving person with wonderful quirks whom I love dearly. I have told her I love her more in recent months than I have in the 20 years of our friendship. And, as George Vaillant has concluded based on his years of research with the Grant study I do indeed feel more vulnerable expressing that love because I do not know how I will deal with the loss of this wonderful person in my life.
So maybe it is not just June gloom. Maybe it is my life at this stage of living. And loss is part of life so best to appreciate what we have in the here and now. That's why I will continue to express my love to those I do love.