January is a weird month.
On the one hand, I find myself filled with optimism – it’s a new year, I can start some new projects, maybe set up a calendar to keep my self organized. I’m hopeful that this year will be a good one – that I will learn more, accomplish more and be happier.
Along with moving forward I find myself looking back. While I have friends to celebrate with in January I also mourn the loss of others. This week, especially, has been one of reflection and remembrance.
Two of my close friends celebrate birthdays this month. One lives near me and we’ve been friends for several years now. We’ve talked until I’ve thought there would be nothing left to say. But there always is. Our families are close and we do a lot together. Or we used to. As our sons grow up we don’t rely on each other as much for the day to day and we don’t talk as much as we once did. I do still consider her one of my closest friends and I love the joy her friendship has brought me.
The other friend has been part of my life for about twenty-three years. We’ve been roommates and long distance friends, both. It’s probably been almost twenty years since we’ve lived in the same state but every time we talk it’s as if we’re sitting on the couch in our second apartment laughing hysterically and talking over each other because we can’t get the stories out fast enough. We have grown up together and her friendship, just knowing that she’s out there if I need her, is one of the most important friendships I have. Anyone that can make me laugh the way she does, often in thirty seconds flat, well, she’s a keeper.
As grateful as I am for these friendships and for celebrating another birthday with my friends, my thoughts this week have largely been occupied by those friends who’ve passed in recent Januarys. Along with sadness, I have to admit a bit of confusion and anger. I may not have a right to the anger but I can’t help it. Two passed at their own hands and one of a terrible illness and the losses all make me a little angry.
All are gone too soon. All were young, enthusiastic, engaging, funny. I wouldn’t presume to know the situations surrounding the suicides. One was a childhood friend and former co-worker I hadn’t been in touch with for a while and the other was a co-worker whose friendship ran hot and cold. Yet despite the lack of recent closeness to either of them, I still think about them and miss them, I think about their families and the friends who still mourn.
My anger towards them or about them or about their deaths isn’t a blaming type of anger, I don’t think. It’s an anger of not knowing and not understanding. I like to know “the why.” Why things happen and what people are thinking. There’s also the question that constantly runs through my mind: “if you knew the impact of your death, would you have gone through with it anyway?”
I had distance from both and I still feel a great loss. I cannot imagine the impact on those close to them.
Believe me, I understand there are a multitude of issues that could be responsible, depression and mental illness among them. I’m not discounting the challenges these illnesses present or that people can be “not in their right mind” when they make the decision to end their life.
But when I know of one friend’s struggle to live and know another has given up, it’s hard for me to not feel some anger at the one giving up.
I had a friend with cystic fibrosis and he did everything within his power to live but lost his battle anyway. He fought his illness, he followed his dreams aggressively, he was joyful in his life, he wanted to be alive and he would have done anything to still be here.
It doesn’t seem fair.
I know life’s not fair.
Ultimately, the end result for each of them was the same. Despite the fact that one went kicking and screaming and another went willingly; each is gone, each is missed and each made an impact on me.
I’m unable to make sense of their deaths, despite the time spent thinking. There will never be definitive answers and I will never be settled or completely accepting.
This keeps my brain very busy – examining, searching, remembering.
It’s a weird month.