Now, over twenty five years on, as I’ve grown older, I recognize how much his directness and “no bullshit accepted” attitude has impacted my life. It’s surely encouraged me to seek the company those who are genuine. It nudged me not to wish for, but to expect sincerity and honesty and integrity from my friends. I’ve also begun to develop a strong distaste for those who live in denial or refuse to face up to consequences for how they act. To my naive surprise, honesty and accepting responsibility are not a given. In some cases maybe I expect too much from relationships.
I know that I’m not perfect at all, and often misstep myself. For sure sometimes I press things too forcibly in the wrong moment. I get impatient, my timing is not always impeccable. I can be insensitive to the unseen, unknown struggles of friends. Especially when I’m focused on what could even be a simple petty issue of my own. So I try to be forgiving too, at the least since I often need to ask forgiveness. We all have shadow sides within us which we likely will never completely erase. But unless we articulate our true feelings with each other, at least half of us are left guessing in the dark.
We all process life differently, and we each define where we can or want to expend our energy. At times I feel driven by the awareness that life in the sunlight is very short, so in such moments when friends are not willing to try or able to be forthright it’s very frustrating for my own shadowy selfishness. Sad too, because I think even our clumsily shared efforts in this direction engender trust, and for me trust is the essential foundation of any friendship or relationship. Our shared time is so very brief, at first it’s often hard to comprehend another’s desire to avoid being open and truthful. Given some reflection though, I come to realize often there are internal struggles and challenges someone is facing that limit their own openness. In any event my friendship with my ill friend has helped me better appreciate folks who strive to be whole and honest.
And especially in this last few weeks, it’s made clear how much I appreciate and love him. So naturally, thinking about losing him (or anyone we love), him dying, is tough. Is this selfish? Maybe. I think intellectually I really do get the “circle of life” stuff. But the slow process of becoming aware of our shared mortality, and experiencing being with another who is living into the shadows of death is altogether another thing. There’s the separation aspect, the severing of being in each other’s presence that I hate. Plus much of our culture just sucks at support in this process. Some agencies are wonderful, but often we avoid even looking at death, there’s limited societal support for helping us die with dignity. It’s like we’re so afraid of death we scramble in a dozen directions when it approaches: some are desperate medical attempts to stave it off, other activities seem to be pure distractions from the reality at hand, and still other responses (including many “religious ones” feel like borderline denials.
I’m not so spiritually enlightened to claim death is appealing; I don’t look forward to my life ending. But I’m also not into the standardized Christian “only good folks go to heaven” schtick. I’m more just kinda curious as hell about what happens after we depart from these particular physical forms of the moment. I tend to feel we merge into the Whole, but will/can we be aware when this goes down? And what the heck IS that vague, all-encompassing Whole, anyway?
I don’t want to cling when it’s my friend’s time to let go—he’d hate such sentimentality. But for sure I’ll be sad. And I’m keenly aware I could still die first. I’d also like to tell myself that I don’t I want to cling when it’s my time to let go either. But that’s far easier said than done! — I mean, for one thing, when do you “give in” or “really know” it’s “your time” versus fighting fiercely to keep alive? Speculating is so friggin’ easy, surviving through harrowing experiences is not.
So right now, all I know is I want to try and find the beauty within this grand passage that we all at some point must endure with those we love, and will one day face our selves. In the meantime, I want to continue to seek out what my heart feels is sincere, and share the honest beauty in everything I encounter.