Friday was my friend Sean’s memorial service. I went to see his family the day he died. It was all such a shock and I don’t think it really hit me until the next day. I guess part of me understood on Saturday, I just know that come Sunday I didn’t feel like I could keep myself together for a minute. The whole thing just felt too familiar yet unfathomable. When I hugged Sean’s son on Saturday, I cried for my own father and I cried for this 18 year old kid who was far too young to lose his dad. I blubbered to him that it was going to suck. That he was going to be up and down and all over the place. I told him what I probably shouldn’t have- that it had been 5 months since I’d lost my dad and I still cried for him every day. But still, I hadn’t really processed it.
I still had to process that I’d known Sean and Allison since high school. That now, someone who I went to high school with had died of a heart attack. Someone who wasn’t a drug addict or a drunk, but who had a couple of health problems that you don’t necessarily think of as being fatal. It was hard to get my head around this. I’m too young for that, it wasn’t right. How do I make sense of it? How do I think of all that time ago with this person who was suddenly gone?
Even more importantly, how do I say something, anything to his wife and his children to make them feel the tiniest amount better? It was then, when I really thought about these things and how they felt for me, that this sadness just took me over and shook me. I didn’t have the same experience- my husband did not die though I had lost him suddenly and without warning. I knew what it was like to be in the same house that you had shared and to have every last thing jar you with a memory. I knew what it was like to think that you had this whole life planned out together one day and have it ripped out of your hands the next- for better or worse. But my husband didn’t die and though we had many years, we didn’t have half of our lives the way that Allison and Sean did. So I had an idea of what Allison felt, but really just a fraction of it. I know that my husband leaving absolutely leveled me in a way that I had never experienced before and don’t hope to again. I know that the whole thing left me damaged in a way that I can’t ever explain and wonder sometimes if I will ever truly overcome. I know that it changed something about me that I didn’t want changed. I know that I wondered if it would’ve been easier if he had died and I didn’t have to think about his life without me instead of thinking of what could have been. In a way, I guess I had both of those things to think about-but it wasn’t the same thing that Allison experienced, how could it be? And then I thought about losing my father.
I’m not going to lie and say that my dad and I always had a fantastic relationship. The particulars are long, varied, and unimportant now. What is important is that these last few years my father was there for me in every way, and whatever friction we had had in the past didn’t matter any more. While I am ever thankful that we were given the chance to have a relationship that was solid and good, in another way it was all the more cruel when he was taken from me- this person who became such a large and vital part of my life. But when I looked at my friends’ son, I thought about how different this would’ve been if my father had died when I was 18, or 15, like his younger son. Sean didn’t have the same relationship with his boys that I did with my dad but even when my dad and I did get along well, my adult relationship with him was rich in ways that I never expected. So I cried for these boys in the way that I understood what it was like to lose your father. And I cried for them some more because they didn’t have enough years to see him with their own years of experience behind them-for better or worse, they were cheated for this just as Sean was cheated for not seeing what his sons would become.
What it came down to really, the day after Sean died, was one thing that I was told over and over again the week that my father died- that life is unfair and it fucking sucks. Sure, there is a large part of me that has always felt that way-but never more so than I did when my father died. I don’t know that I’d ever felt so cheated as I did that day and at least for a little while every day since. That was maybe the worst thing-to be reminded of that- to know that feeling to the very core of my being and to know that though it was different, though I didn’t lose my father as a teenager, though my husband didn’t die-I could never say I knew just how they felt. I could only imagine some of what these dear friends were going through. What I did understand was what it felt like to feel like you had been cheated, like you had done your best and still lost in the end. I understood the sadness and the anger you just couldn’t direct anywhere. So I didn’t tell them it was all going to be okay. We were all cheated with Sean’s death- his family, his friends, his fans, and Sean himself. I’m not going to tell anyone that that is somehow acceptable or that there was some good reason behind it. All I could tell them is that life is unfair and it fucking sucks.
But eventually, it doesn’t hurt quite as much.