Thursday, 21 April 2011

Too Much Pain & Suffering


This week was the worst week in a long time.

I lost a good friend.

Over the weekend, Todd went fishing, had a great time, came home, played with his kids, went to bed and did not wake up. He had a severe cardiac arrest (not sure if it was classified as a massive myocardial infarction, but those are most often the silent killers when it comes to the heart). Any way you slice it, whatever you call it, a wonderful, warm, intense person died at age 42.

Death stinks. It isn't often as much for the deceased that we grieve as much as for the survivors: his wife, a sweet person who is suddenly bereft; their two kids, 5 years and 2 years; his parents and siblings; his coworkers and friends. We are all devastated and lost because someone we called friend is gone, irrevocably taken from us.

It is unfair, it is wrong, it is horrible. Nothing can be painted as positive in this save for the fact that his death was a peaceful as one could want. It came 40 years too soon, but other than that, he had a lovely weekend (I have this straight from the other fishing party), spent great time with his wife and kids, and went to bed a happy, contented man.

I went to the wake yesterday. There was a long line out the door and it was at a stop. Most of the Grounds guys were there, which was good - I know these guys and am always comfortable with them. Mark and Janet were there ahead in line as well. It was pleasant outside, so other than we were a quiet somber group, it was not an unpleasant wait.

As we slowly filed in to the funeral home, I could hear wailing. We were all upset, but his wife was completely undone - and understandably so. It's different when you are in your 70s or 80s and know that life is now something you have more of and that it may be that your time is coming up. But in your 40s, who plans, thinks about or discusses this? I don't mean that we don't plan things and see to our 401(k) plans and life insurance, but you are not usually actively thinking about you or your spouse not being alive the next day. Not when statistically speaking, this is only half of your life.

There is no way to be ready for this.

By the time we'd reached the front of the hall and could see photos of him, I was silently crying. When we made it to the casket, I was holding it in (mostly unsuccessfully). When I made it to his wife, we both cried like babies. I was looking for something to say, some magic words but all I could say was her name. But she said to me, "Todd loved you, too. He talked about you all the time. The things you did; all the changes you made." I fell completely apart. I told her we'd take care of her. And then it was time to move on.

I stayed only another ten minutes to join the guys from Grounds, hug Mark and chat with him (he was so upset), and then I couldn't take it anymore. I got to my car and cried most of the way home. It tore my guts out.

I cried on and off last night, told Luis about it. As usual, Luis is uncomfortable in huge displays of sadness but he tried his best to be reassuring. Still, what do you say? As much as I looked for words to make it hurt less and totally failed, so did he. There are no right words. Pain has to gone through. Not around, not over, not avoided but lived through. It's the only way to get through it and find some kind of peace.

This is too fresh, too terrible, too shocking - just four days later - to make sense of it. To move through it. It takes time, a long, long time. And we are all raw and hurting. I wish there was something more to do - but there is just time left.

Today was the funeral. I left the house at 0930, but there was a mess on Route 287 that must have been down in Morristown and I did not get to the huge church until 1035. I was embarrassed and parked on the street (parallel parking, if you can imagine and I actually did it!). I found my way into the back of the church, asked a woman for help and asked her if she could get me in unobtrusively. She was very nice, was sure no one would notice... and got me into the side of the huge chapel (I guess this is what it is called - I don't know my church terminology)... in the front! WHAT THE-- how unobtrusive was that?! I was uncomfortably aware that everyone could see me trying to sneak in.

That doesn't mean anyone did see me sneak in.

I am not one that is comfortable or at ease in this kind of situation. It's been a long time since I've been to a funeral and I rarely go to a church for anything. I find them to be beautiful, but I'm not religious. I am spiritual, but I feel this is something that is private and not to be shared so much. And I am not Christian. So a church is always so foreign to me. At some point, everyone says a prayer and as usual, I don't know where the words are, so I have nothing to say. I guess it is indoctrinated into even the most lapsed Catholic, but of course I never learned any of this, so I feel kind of self-conscious in this setting. I normally could care less but right there, as at weddings, I am lost and feel rather naked about it.

The topic of this being holy week came up, and I had totally forgotten about that. Good Friday always meant a day off for me. Easter doesn't mean anything, now. (It used to mean a ham dinner at my parents but holidays are too much for Ray and none of us are religious, so it only meant that.) And I was thinking what holiday is coming up this week? Yikes. The final insult about time having no meaning when one retires.

The service included stories about Todd and that was lovely but again, not a dry eye was to be found. By the time it was over, I was wrecked. Most people where. I did not want to talk to anyone, and except for a few guys from Grounds (who looked far better than I did but were great about not letting it show), I made it to my car in relative safety where I could use up several tissues blowing my nose heartily and trying to make my eyes look less red. I gave that up, but at least could clear my nose.

I got in line to process. It was a longer drive than I'd have thought (Summit is the size of a postage stamp. How long could it take to get to the cemetery?!) but it was at least sunny and clear. I have to admit that rain might have been more fitting to the mood but this was bad enough emotionally without adding that to it. And when we all parked and got out, the temperature suddenly dropped and it got windy - not breezy, like the weather report but windy! I was freezing my butt off. We all were suddenly cold.

It was an interesting ceremony at the graveside. We all got one flower to throw onto the casket or in the grave but first there were words said and then Todd's brother played a piece on a drum that was really very good. It reminded me of the Renaissance Faire and happier moments. I think the older crowd found it strange and in this kind of setting it certainly wasn't typical but the rest of us really liked it.

We did the flower thing and then I hugged Callie again and told her I loved her. Sometimes simple is best and I did not want to take up a lot of her time with so many others there and the wind still whipping through. We all processed back to our vehicles rather quickly and head to the club for the repast.

The repast - of course - was lovely and everyone there was so happy to see me. I was happy to see everyone, too. It was a good reunion, just unhappy circumstances. I was very happy to be distracted from the event that brought me there. I had a lot of good conversations. I sat with the Grounds guys again - we're all comfortable with each other and they know I can't be offended - and it was an enjoyable meal. One of the reps, Kevin from Storr, came to sit with us and tell amusing stories about his coming to BGC the first time, meeting Todd, etc. and it was very funny. He certainly described Todd perfectly!

Even so, by the time I left after 1600, I was exhausted and needed to go. I needed to be alone and cry some more. No doubt this will last a while, but losing a friend is a terrible business. Especially one meant to live so much longer.

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