Posted by: jt | May 7, 2008


I’m not good with boundaries. I take too much responsibility for things. I need to fix things. I can’t handle other people being in pain or being treated unjustly. The world simply must be in harmony and, when it’s not, I must do everything I can to make it so.

It’s trying, this life.

One of my dear friends just lost his partner. He died much too soon. It’s always too soon, but when you’re forty years old, you don’t lose the person you’ve pledged to spend the rest of your life with. That’s not okay. It’s just too much life to lose.

I spent a good chunk of the afternoon trying to figure out how to get to the funeral and I’m pissed because it’s not going to happen. I just can’t drop 500 bucks on a plane ticket right now. I checked to see if any of his coworkers are driving – it’s an eight hour drive – and none of them are. One person is flying out to represent, but no one is driving.

And I’m pissed.

Part of me can’t fathom that none of them are going. This is my friend and he’s dear and wonderful and everyone loves him so much it’s ridiculous. How can they not go? My boss, ever the wise woman, pointed out that they have major organizational events coming up very soon and my friend, who is rather key to their operations and would be normally leading these events, has been sitting at the bedside of his partner for the last three weeks. They have things to do. And yes, it’s an eight hour drive. But for this person?

I know that part of why I want to go is purely selfish. I can’t do a damn thing, so I just want to be there. I want to give him a hug and not know what to say. Because there’s nothing to say. But I can be and I can hug.

By contrast, I’m reminded of how when my former boss’ father died, in his 80s after an extended illness, it was requisite that all of the staff attend his funeral. Plans were made for the office to close because, it was assumed, we were all going. I knew my boss better than I wanted to, so I didn’t mind having to coddle her, but several of my coworkers felt extremely put upon and uncomfortable. How do you tell someone who’s grieving that you’re sorry, but…

Boundaries. They’re tricky.

My first experience with death was when my great grandmother died, just shy of her 101st birthday. Her funeral was one huge celebration of her 100 years of life. I was six years old and I remember two main things about it: it felt like a party and, as she lay in her casket, someone wiped some of great grandma’s lipstick off of her because, Grandma never wore that much lipstick!

I used to think that such a positive first experience with death was a good thing but, after the last few years, I’m not so sure. Perhaps something more realistic would have been helpful. I used to view death mainly as just another part of life. I had some grand delusion that it involved closure and circles and everything happened for a reason.

At this point, I think that death just reeks of inequity. It’s not fair, it’s not pretty and damn, is it so rarely anything resembling a party. And if there’s a reason, it’s well beyond me.

Two years ago my inner circle was hit with death after death after death – four people, gone, within two months. All of them were horrid, untimely, agonizing deaths. For two months, pretty much everyone I saw on a regular basis was in a daze of disbelief. I sat at my friend’s funeral wiping tears off my face and listening to her pastor rant that this was not God’s plan. We were all a little shaken, but he was right. No higher power would have planned to take someone so wise, compassionate and loving that soon.

Death isn’t fair, it doesn’t make sense and it will never make sense. Veto. The world should be just and harmonious. Why must worlds end in such wretched ways?

I’m pissed. I’m pissed at the gross inequity of people leaving too soon. I’m pissed that I can’t figure out how to go to the funeral. I’m pissed that one of life’s most painful moments is complicated by the fact that my friend is gay and some people will realize that for the first time because of this. I’m pissed that not everyone needs to empathize the way I do and just be there. I’m pissed that my friend is being cheated out of time.

And I’m devastatingly sad. My wonderful, lovely friend, who doesn’t open up to many people, has lost the person closest to him. I can’t fix it. I can’t make it okay. And I can’t be there.

All I can do is love.



  1. “all I can do is love”

    that is so much! that is so powerful! don’t under estimate the force of that and don’t forget that it can be felt across miles and time.

    your friend will need support for a long time to come, grief is tricky that way. and you will always find ways to be there for him.

    give yourself a break. it will give you more energy to do more – for others and for yourself.

  2. I’m glad I found this writing. A former partner of mine died in 2005 of a seizure. At the time of his death, we had been separated for a couple years but remained close friends. He was 22.

    He remains to the this, the kindest soul I know. When we disagree he would never raise his voice. When we hugged and kissed, it was entirely genuine without egotism or pride. I still remember he would stay up some nights to tell me of his school work and major in Chemistry. Chemistry wasn’t my forte and honestly most of it flew over my head. He looked, smiled, and didn’t give up. He never would.

    Shortly after his death, Georgia Tech posthumously awarded his Masters Degree. Today, he’s resting peacefully in Newport News, VA. I tried so hard to find a way to come to terms with his death but the only thing that brings me comfort is to know that I need to preserve his memory by treating others how he treated me. Through me, he will always be able to give to others.

    Your story reminded me of him, my best friend, and the most gentle soul I know.


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