Last night I learned of the tragic death of one of my closest friends. We hadn’t been in touch too much in the past couple years, but she was one of my first and dearest friends in life.
I learned about it over facebook, which is a strange experience in and of itself. First I didn’t believe it. I almost just got up and closed my computer, as though if I came back and the feed had changed this message would be gone, gone into electronic oblivion and the truth of this new reality would be back to what it was before, the mistake would have been discovered and all would be restored.
As I scanned through people’s responses I began to think, maybe this actually happened… What happened? My first response was to ask what happened, with the thought somewhere in my mind still, that all these people must be mistaken, that Amy is actually somewhere else, unaware that this is going on, and that she will set everyone straight as soon as she finds out that all these people are so worried and concerned for her.
But then calls started to come, and as each tearful, loving, laughing, remembering conversation has added to the last a new piece of belief in what has happened I begin to understand more deeply that this is a person I will not see alive and embodied again. There is a huge anguished cry of love and loss going out right now, which I am a part of.
Yet in the midst of sorrow my apartment is a different place this morning. The air feels new, different, strange, not bad or good, just alive with flickers of the new experience, the new reality. Suddenly things remind me of her, whether they have anything to do with her or not. In fact nothing seems to be separate from her right now. The flowers from my garden on my table remind me of her. The blood orange tea she introduced me to 10 years ago, the clothes in my closet I bought at an estate sale she took me to, the photographs, hundreds or thousands of photographs of her, me, and the things we did together. But also objects of beauty, things that make me laugh, things I can see her in, I can almost see her walking around in here, looking at things and asking me in the way she did, “this is pretty, can I have it?” The things that feel full of life, feel full of Amy right now…
I think of the people in my life she introduced me to, the arc of her endeavors, I can hear her laugh, see her straight face, remember helping her move, remember all the teas, the parties, the adventures, our road trip, sleep-overs, I can hear her saying “Dashy,” she was the only one to call me that when she was trying to console me or explain something to me. I see her walking through my front door with some beautiful shirt on that she made, with her graceful beautiful walk, giving my mom and dad hugs, giving me a hug, and being ready for adventure. This is how I am remembering her right now…
I remember a lot about Amy. Amy, even when she was tired or grumpy (she was after all also human), was incarnate joy, love, happiness, creativity, spark, vibrancy, vitality, an instigator of big plans and dreams… Amy was a vision-er, a woman who lived to craft her visions and dreams into real life, and luckily for all of us she also LOVED to bring others along in that journey of making something real and tangible from what was before only a possibility. She had a will to manifest and to share that messy journey of creation with her friends and loves…
Swimming in the river of memories that are flooding through me, and through the mouths and minds of friends in phone calls, emails, posts, and photos, I feel her presence. I know beyond doubt that her desire for each of us would still be to create and craft, in each moment of life, including this moment that is shot through with bitter-sweetness. The memories, the viewpoints, the words that people have offered to me, and to each other, and to the situation in general, feel to me to be a web of great strength, beauty and integrity; it is the web of her life showing itself. As this web becomes aware of itself in her passing, we are all seeing across to the other side, into what a life well lived looks like in its liver’s absence, what structure is left behind when we have crafted things well.
It is an interesting thing to behold people coming together to see and to witness together, as a community of sorts, what she gave to the world one hundred times over in the ways she wove her life. As we bring our gifts of memories out to share with each other, we are reflecting with great reverence and gratitude the strength and integrity of her life. She changed us just by being herself, just by following her heart… I don’t really care how trite or cheesy it sounds- Amy affirmed life
Still my body and mind are reeling. A week ago I was driving near the campus where I went to college, as I came down a windy road there was suddenly a huge piece of sky where a building should have been. As we turned another curve what I could see was a huge machine slowly pulling away at the rebar and concrete, rolling atop an enormous pile of unrecognizable rubble. My friend and I stared with awe, amazed at the sight. It’s kind of funny because normally watching a building being torn down wouldn’t seem like such a big deal, but having lived right next to the huge monstrous thing for many years, it was a part of my mental landscape. The sky behind it seemed like new sky, the space around it felt vast, the expectation that it is there still strikes me as I drive by, even though logically I now know it is not. This is how I feel about Amy. It doesn’t feel possible that she is gone, I don’t know how to comprehend where she is or what this means for our friendship. Right now I feel like I am staring at and exploring this gaping hole where I helplessly continue to expect her to be, but that is nonetheless filled with beautiful blue sky.