I was never much good at goodbyes.
I made this statement the other night to a friend of mine at the bar, sort of a warning statement. Her uncle had just died, and I was letting her know that — I think not so much due to any sort of autistic or social-custom unawareness, but more owing to my acceptance of death (some would say my inability to attach to anything or anyone) — while I’m good at being “strong” (it’s not really being strong if it doesn’t bother you, though, right?) for others, I have a tendency to say inappropriate things.
Like, really inappropriate. Moreso than usual — not that what I’m saying is wrong, but my timing, she could use a little work. So, usually, I say nothing, because it’s safer.
It’s a bad combination of having a really black, often tasteless sense of humor, and being perfectly okay with the idea of death. Mine, yours, my wife’s and siblings’ and friends. It’s gonna happen to us all, sooner or later, so why not be okay with it? Appreciate what you have while you have it instead of wasting your time obsessing about the inevitable unknown. And it’s not a religious thing at all — while I imagine that this is the one life we’ve got, who am I to say? Maybe the Hindus are right, maybe the Christians are, and maybe there’s something awaiting us that no one has even conceived of yet. No, I’m just okay with what I know.
I’m not the only one. I’m sure that there are different reasons, a different source of being okay with it (probably spiritual), but I know that there are others who are capable of detaching themselves from those in their lives, of realizing that you were you before they came into your life and you can continue to be. People that would rather celebrate the lives that touched theirs instead of dwelling on what they’ve lost.
(Some of this probably sounds unnecessarily harsh, and probably tinged with a little Asperger’s; I’m not implying that people that mourn or have difficulty continuing on after the loss of a loved one are weak or otherwise inferior. But I am aware that my words read that way; I’m just tired of wrestling with what I’m trying to say to change it again)
I walked/drove away from the memorial service for my friend Jill on Saturday a week ago, and I wasn’t down, or wistfully nostalgic, or any of the usual states that you might associate post-memorial/funeral. In fact, I felt really good about life. The service was a celebration of Jill’s life, a recounting of stories about what made Jill special, mentions of everything that she had to overcome and how she never gave up or looked away from the future, even until the end.
It was very life-affirming, to be uncharacteristic.
The one thing that stands out to me, that Dave repeated a couple of times, was that Jill didn’t want to be remembered for having Leukemia or Guillain Barre syndrome. And it’s hard, sometimes, to not remember people as they were at the end — cancer victim, suicide, murder victim. I’ve known many people who have died, and many of them still come attached to a label of finality, at least on the surface. But I suspect that – more than anyone I know – I won’t relate Jill to Leukemia, but rather a forward-looking strength and perserverence that allowed her to appreciate life more than far too many more circumstance-fortunate people that I’ve known.