Goodbye

Several months ago, a dear friend called to say goodbye. Like in… forever. I was shocked when she told me why she was calling. I was something else, too. Grateful.

I knew she wasn’t well and hadn’t been for quite some time. Congestive heart failure was one of the ailments on her long list along with others I couldn’t begin to pronounce. She said she was calling because she wanted me know how much our friendship meant to her and she wanted to thank me before she became too ill. Wow.

My mother battled with terminal cancer for many years before she died. During that time, she and I had the opportunity to set up the closure we both needed, but when my father died, it was sudden. He had a heart attack and was gone before I got to him. I remember the feelings of shock, disbelief, awareness of unanswered questions and great loss, that stayed with me. There was no closure and that still haunts me. But parents are different, aren’t they?

A couple years ago one of my best friends succumbed to prostate cancer. He had been treated successfully for several years and then the disease was back with a vengeance. We e-mailed back and forth occasionally, but I didn’t realize how quickly his illness had progressed and before I knew it, he was in the hospital and his brother wasn’t allowing any visitors or phone calls. He died and I never got to say, goodbye.

Another best friend was an artist and we shared our great love of art in many forms. We didn’t call or write often, but when we did contact one another, we just picked up where we had left off from the previous conversation.

I was working on a project and decided to run some ideas by her so I picked up the phone and dialed her number. Her husband answered. When I asked to speak with her, he told me she’d had a rapid-growing brain tumor and had passed away three months before. I couldn’t believe it! We were best friends. How could I not know she was ill, much less that she had died?

Again I was sick with shock and grief. As I sat stunned with sorrow, I recalled the news of another friend who had committed suicide. Each death was different, but my feelings about them were the same; profound sadness and the realization of the permanency of my sense of loss. I felt disappointment, even anger that I didn’t have the chance to say, goodbye. I didn’t have closure. Loss was loss. Whether it related to parents or friends, it was the same heart-wrenching pain.

In my first paragraph, I spoke of a friend who called to say, goodbye. She’s still living and she and I call each other every other week or so to reiterate our feelings of friendship and camaraderie. As time goes by, I can sense in her voice the progression of her disease and sometimes she hasn’t the strength to talk for long, but I appreciate her even more and I’m  grateful for this opportunity. If  her time is up before mine, I will have closure. I’ll be sad, of course, but I will also have the comfort of knowing we made the most of our friendship in the time we had left. I think she feels the same way.

This whole experience has changed how I relate to other friends and to my relatives. Since my stroke last summer, I realize my existence here on Earth could be shortened or ended at any second, so I’ve decided to be like my friend and let people know now how dear they are to me, and do it often. I’ve also decided not to fret over people who disappoint me or who don’t value me. I’ve decided to be influenced by more positive things than negative ones and to truly be grateful for and rejoice in each day.

As a result, I’ve found dealing with thoughts of end-of-life has given me a renewed lease-on-life replete with love and gratitude.

22 Comments

Filed under life, musings

22 responses to “Goodbye

  1. What a wonderful post, Coco. I needed to hear this, and appreciate your sharing.

  2. A lovely post, Coco. Loss is always hard to deal with, and it’s even more difficult when you can’t say good-bye. In the spirit of your post, allow me to say I’m glad I’ve had a chance to get to know you a little. I’ve enjoyed our e-friendship, and hope someday we meet for real.

    • Thank you, Pat. You of all people know about loss and you’ve expressed your thoughts and emotions about this subject so eloquently, I hesitated writing about it, too, but it kept nudging me until I did.

      I thank you for sharing your feelings and observations over the last few years. Know that I value your friendship, as well. If we don’t meet on this plane, we most likely will on the next, providing you plan on going up. 🙂

  3. Connie McNulty

    I loved this message. My uncle, who was only 11 months older than me, died suddenly on Friday. We have not spoken in years and kept up with each other through other family members. I have been wrestling with regrets all weekend. Your message and his death make me determined to reach out and make contact and tell others how important they are to me. Thank you.

    • Thank you, Connie. It took me the same kind of experience to learn what you have just described. There is something to the saying that with age comes wisdom, but only if we act upon the lessons we learn. As I told another friend, here’s to learning!

  4. Doris Ann Norris

    Coco, thank you for letting us know…though you may still have a lot of time left. I’m happy I met you at conferences and have your book….and your name in Chris Grabenstein’s FUN HOUSE. You will be remembered with love.

    • Doris, what a pleasure hearing from the “2,000 year old librarian!” Yes, between, Bouchercon and Malice, we have met several times over the years and, of course, there’s always DorothyL. You, my friend, are quite revered. Thank you for your kind words.

  5. You have expressed so well sentiments that we all are encountering, especially at this stage of our lives. Time so easily gets away from us and so easily sneaks upon us.

    • Thank you, Susan. How right you are. When we are young, we feel so infallibly immortal. It takes the maturity of time and experiences, both personal and acquired, to set our perspectives straight. Our quality of life depends on how well and how soon we learn these lessons. Here’s to learning!

  6. Robert Warms

    Well said, dear friend………..do it now, keep in touch, because most of us aren’t aware of what is coming. In my words, “we ain’t gettin’ any younger” !

  7. Suzanne Baginskie

    Having lost my Dad recently to prostate and colin cancer. I’ve had those same thoughts. It is best to stay in touch, but most times we may not have the chance to do so with distant friends. There are no guarantees in life for any one or any age. A two-year-old can perish in a pool in the blink of an eye. So cherish each day and know that a better place is waiting. Do your best to enjoy each day and everyone you meet. Coco, your blogs are always heartfelt and emotional. Thanks.

    • Thanks so much for your input, Suzanne. You are right on the mark. I’ve had an overwhelming amount of responses to this blog post, both here and in e-mails to me and I find most people have said they have really learned from their life’s experiences, particularly involving this topic. That sounds trite, but to me it means that most of us are really caring individuals. Refreshing. Most newscasters would tell you the opposite is true.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  8. Brenda

    This was a wonderful post on saying good-bye. I lost a long distance best friend too this past year.

  9. Ann

    What a beautiful post. It’s so disappointing when you don’t have some kind of closure.
    Ann

  10. Thank you for a hearfelt and touching post, Coco. I too had the sudden death of my father and the lingering death of my mother. We need to say goodbye to each of our loved ones who have gone before us, and even when it is expected, there is still that element of shock.

    • You are so right, Christine. Nothing totally prepares us for such losses, but knowing ahead of time eases some of the pain, provided we are active in the process. Dying is a part of living and the older we get, the more experience we have with it. If we learn to put away fear and deal practically with it, it’s not so overwhelming and sad. We can rejoice in our friends and relatives sooner. Does that make sense?

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