I received some unexpected and sad news last week. Someone that was very near and dear to my family (and myself) had passed away after a long and courageous battle with Leukemia. It was unexpected because, after months of a downward spiral, things had taken a turn for the better, counts were up, and he was doing so well he was able to finally leave the hospital. This news swept through my family and the hole and devastation it left will probably echo for the rest of our lives.
I know that whenever anyone passes you hear people saying how great they were. It’s easy to remember the good times in the wake of loss and not hold onto the bad times. We are humans and are, by default, imperfect. However, in this case of our dear friend, I cannot think of one bad thing, bad story, bad memory associated with him. Neither could anyone else when we gathered after his funeral. Having had Leukemia for many many years he understood how precious life was and lived his life accordingly. This man was my father’s best friend, but those words fall seriously short. My father and him have known each other since childhood. Both having went through a divorce a few decades ago, and never remarrying, they relied on each other. They were companions. In a totally platonic sense of the word. Each filled that space for the other where we, as humans, have that need. Having a pretty different personality than my father, they were like Yin and Yang. Perfectly opposite yet perfectly compatible for each other.
I remember growing up and having my father’s best friend in my life. He was there when I was a child and still when I was a teenager. He was the comic relief when my sisters or I would argue with our father and quick to pull us aside and remind us that our father loves us so much and that is why he is concerned. In some weird way, to my sisters and I, he was like a stepparent. While reminiscing and talking with others I realized how thankful I was that my children had the same presence of this man in their lives as I had. He had truly impacted my life for the better in a huge way. Upon pondering this thankfulness, it suddenly hit me that not all of my children had the pleasure and privilege of knowing this man. That made me sad and then my mind started to wander deeper.
When the best friend of your father passes away, you can’t help but think of your own parents mortality. One day I will have to say goodbye to them. Along the way I may lose other people I love and care about. Parents, grandparents, siblings, friends… Life is a brief gift we are all given. Sharing it with each other, in love, is how we make it truly fulfilling. How many more people in my life, that mean the world to me, will never know my daughter and my daughter will never know them? This is another loss that I had never contemplated while relinquishing. However, to my credit, I assumed our open adoption would remain that way and it wouldn’t have to be something I would have to worry about.
As my grandfather progresses with Alzheimer’s (another huge influence in my life and someone I was very close to) I have come to accept the fact that, at the very least, he will never know my IKL. He no longer has the ability to keep her in his long-term memory, like my other children. I guess there is the slight possibility that she may be able to meet him before he passes but she will never truly know who he was since he is but a shadow of his former self. How absolutely sad.
God forbid that I lose anyone that would be considered “too young” to die but I have to face the reality that this is a possibility. These people in my family and close friends that have loved IKL from afar may not have the opportunity to ever know her or even hug her, just once, and tell her they love her. She may never be able to have the privilege of having these wonderful people in her life.
It is in this sense that I realize adoption is so much more than a “better” life for a child. The ripples that it leaves and the many facets of grief just keep expanding as I get older and wiser. It is hard enough to wrap my head around my father’s best friend no longer being here in physical form, but to wrap my head around the fact that this person, this piece of my husband and I that we love so much, may never get the chance to have some of the people in her life that we absolutely adore is even harder. It’s such a huge ambiguous loss. And, no doubt, a complicated thing to work out internally.
I’ll leave you with what I have learned from my father’s best friend passing. His legacy to me that I will do my best to hold onto in order to be a better person for myself and my kids, all of them. Maybe this is a way to show IKL a glimpse of the people she will not be able to know.
PS – Doug, if you have any pull with the man upstairs can you ask him to give me a little help down here. Thanks!
Today we said goodbye to someone we all love very much. I also was reminded to live my life the way he did. Slow to anger, easy to give, quick to comfort, generous with love, and to relish every moment of our lives here. It’s not the quantity but the quality of what you have to offer this world. That is a life well lived.