One of my best and oldest friends died two days after I got engaged. I had known her for 12 years, since I was about 13 and she was 14. We met the way a lot of people increasingly meet now – online, in silly circumstances that don’t require recounting now that I’m in my twenties. But we were immensely close in our teens. My day began and ended with her. She was a household name for my family, myself for hers. As we grew older, we grew apart. I’d check in, she’d check in, and once she was diagnosed with cancer, we checked in more frequently.
After her diagnosis, there was an understanding that we would not talk about it. I could ask if anything had changed, but for the most part, we would talk about me. When she died, I didn’t react initially. I couldn’t comprehend it. It was so out of left field – the possibility of her passing because of her cancer had never even crossed my mind, she spoke of it so little. The news of her passing was the first thing I saw when I woke up. Instinctly, I texted my now-fiancé and told him. And then I cried.
Luci, or Eki, or another name that she no longer wished to use when she passed. I told my mother that she had passed, and my mother started crying. My fiancé teared up even as he tried to console me. When I showered, after reading her obituary, my lungs felt like they were made of lead. I couldn’t hold myself up. I showered mostly on my knees. There are times now when I feel like falling to my knees if I think about her too deeply. My palm or wrist itch; I’m seized by the desire to do something drastic.
When I finally told my therapist, nearly 4 months after the fact, she was aghast that I had not processed it earlier. How could I? I was torn between her passing and the happiest time in my life; and then I was whisked away into the graduate program of my dreams. But not a day went by where the ground beneath me didn’t feel like it would give away under the sudden anvil that my legs would become.
I’m speaking in past tense as if my legs aren’t leaden now, as if my wrist isn’t itching, as if my throat doesn’t keep closing, as if my eyes aren’t hot and my head isn’t foggy. The truth is, I have put my grief away in a small box in my mind that is full of perforations. Sometimes, the grief leaks out and seeps into the other neatly organized boxes that are front and center in my life: graduate school, working, planning a wedding, managing my anxiety, being a good friend, being a loving fiancée. As if I don’t know that that box exists. As if that box will stay exactly where it is if I will it to.
The truth is, I haven’t come to terms with Luci’s passing. Sometimes I’ll be so filled with the desire to text her something stupid and wait for her incredulous response that the realization that I can’t makes me want to put my head through a window. Other times, I’ll rip my headphones from my ears because I was dumb enough to think I can listen to a song without it reminding me of my teen years which, inevitably, would remind me of her. Worst of all, I’ll think of my wedding and feel a hole in my heart where she said some of her last words to me – paraphrased because I can’t bring myself to look at our last few conversations – “I can’t wait to be at your wedding.”
The last thing I ever said to her was that I was engaged, along with a picture of my engagement ring. I now know that was only a few hours before she had passed.
The other truth is, I don’t know when I’ll be able to come to terms with Luci’s passing. There’s no neat moment in my day that I can set aside to think of her – not at the expense of my entire day. As it is, in writing this post, I’m jeopardizing precious time I could be spending catching up on my classes, writing various applications, etc. And then: who gives a crap? Who gives a single, absolute crap that I might fall behind on my classes? What value am I ascribing to one of the truest friends I will ever have?
I don’t have a pin to stick in this. At some point, this summer, after I am married and when I have a few weeks to sit by myself and weep, I will weep. Until then, I have to weather the weight, shock myself out of the fog, and endure. And miss. Always miss.