On friendship and sorrow and anger and high fives

Almost 1 month ago one of our very best friends passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. We followed the ambulance down the road at 2:30 in the morning feeling like this could not really be happening.

Lisa passed away that night, and our closest friend – Someone we consider a brother, was suddenly a widow.

Writing usually helps me – Sometimes almost as much as running – I  have done neither of these much of over the past 3 years. Perhaps they go together.

I sat down to try to write about my feelings on what happened a number of times. To come to terms with how Sheila lost her best friend, Michael lost the love of his life, and I was in a world of shock over it all. I couldn’t find any words. Reading back over this thing,  it still really is just a jumble of words doing no one any great service, even me, but I feel a need to share it anyway.

I emailed Lisa  last week as if she would respond – I actually replied to an email she sent me that had the subject line of: “Feelings and shit.”

If that wasn’t our relationship right there…..

I used to joke and call Lisa “bestie” because we had so much in common. Chrons/Colitis, incredible driving skills (lol), the way we reacted to the world around us, the frustrations and the things we found funny.  But also because of how we were different… All of those differences oddly enough I  had in common with Michael – My love of people and groups, not wanting to cook but loving the food she made (we named burrito night “Bestotle” because hers were better than Chipotle), and really surrounding ourselves with people instead of staying home and relaxing.

I felt a bit lost, we spent multiple days every week together before this happened. Sometimes the 4 of us would just sit and watch TV and pet the dogs as they wandered around. Every Tuesday night we went to eat at WindJammers. Every doctor appointment, surgery, bad day, or celebration for the past few years has been broken down and talked about together.Lisa called me when she was laying on the road with a broken ankle, and she called me when she was in need of a trip to the ER. The trust she put in me in those moments was proof of how close the four of us had become, she could have called anyone.

Now I had to consider that while I still have my best friend and my wife, Michael doesn’t have his wife, Sheila doesn’t have her best friend. How is the world fair? What can I do to make it so those feelings don’t drive me to anger?

My mind, as it can do from time to time wandered and I found some comfort in the sorrow, knowing that we have a community of people who stepped up to be there for each other in the worst possible time.

To not bother with the false facades of being “encouraging” or “praying” but just to simply sit and be and let be. Sometimes I am so involved in chatting and communicating and sharing stories/memories, and sometimes I just sit there and take it all in.

I look around as people filled roles that I never knew were needed and did so without a thought of anything in return. Then, with the saddest of good feelings, I felt comfort that if something were to happen to me, Sheila would be taken care of in the same way.

If I am being totally honest, I think I already knew that. I am saddened through the way in which the world is showing it to me. We would all trade the knowledge of how great the community around us if it could bring Lisa back. In a minute, without thought.

Then I get angry – At all the trivial things others are getting upset about. I got even more angry at the trivial things I get upset about.

Facebook is a cesspool of trivial complains, mine included. Odd that I am about to share this there…..

Does any of that stuff really matter?

The sale item wasn’t on sale? The snow was too heavy? Someone parked in the wrong spot? A movie left Netflix? A sports team did not win a game? A shift at work changed? Your tax dollars went up 4 bucks?

It matters?

Really?

This weekend we helped Michael start the emotional process of going through Lisa’s belongings and deciding what things he would like to hang on to, and what could be used to help someone else out. Sheila told me this was the hardest thing for her since the funeral.

Cleaning out your best friends Kitchen. Thinking about all of the text messages over the years asking about recipes (Lisa always had the answer). Or looking a dish that you remember Lisa serving something that was so delicious you could taste it still.

My friend Faith, who lost her husband a few years  back told Michael that joy and sorrow will live together now and that’s ok.

Sneakers, coats, books. Things. It was amazing how they brought both joy and sorrow this past weekend. The decisions to keep and move on from things wasn’t easy, but it brought us a number of laughs in certain moments and memories came back – Joy lives with sorrow, and that certainly is ok.

I really haven’t been about “things” for a while now – Maybe 10 years – I have wanted to experience life. To live it. This event makes that feeling even more of a thing for me.

I want to be surrounded by people who love life. Who love each other. I want to experience the joys in the future with the memory of Lisa with us in the best possible way. I don’t want to sit with people who gossip (I don’t want to be the one who does the gossiping). I want to be around people who laugh, and giggle, and look for the best ways to help each other.  I continually want to find a way to improve who we are for each other. If I spend 5 minutes with you, I want those 5 minutes to be spent enjoying it rather than thinking that 5 minutes wasn’t enough, or thinking that someone else got more time.

I want to be in the moment, not knowing how many of them we really still have.

Saturday is the Winter Trail Festival. My favorite Race Director high-five of all time is from that race. Someone captured it in the most perfect frame. I don’t even know who. It has been saved on my phone for years now.

The race is my favorite one to put on. Lisa ran this as her very first trail race. In the snow, up and down hills, and finishing with a huge smile heading in for her high five.

I remember it so clearly, Valone screaming “THAT’S  MY WIFE, THAT’S MY  WIFE – YEEEEAAAAAHHHH”.

He was so proud in that moment. So happy to have Lisa participating in something he loves so much. I saw them coming around that field and could feel the energy they had for each other.

Saturday will be tough – We have renamed the race after Lisa and will run it from here on in her memory – But the sorrow can live with the Joy – I wanted to change the finish line high fives to a finish line hug – but ya know what? Lisa would have hated that idea.

She literally would not have wanted me to hug her in that moment.

So you get a high five. Just like she would have wanted, and we will find joy in that moment!

 

 

4 thoughts on “On friendship and sorrow and anger and high fives

  1. Karen Lattierre

    That was beautifully written. Anyone who has experienced a devastating loss of loved one can empathize. I think about Michael often as i am going through the Christmas things i do and think about how difficult it all must be for him. Life does go on though like you said sorrow lives with joy. You don’t get over it, you get on with it.

    Like

  2. Patricia Colton

    Wow! I didn’t really know Lisa personally. Reading all the comments and all the great posts makes me really wish I did know her. I missed out. I am very happy though knowing that such an amazing women was loved and appreciated. I hope to be able to participate in #Trailsroc events and get to know the amazing people who are part of the trail running community again soon. I want to be apart of something much greater than myself and show my son how awesome it is to have great relationships with people and the community and how beneficial it is to the human spirit. I hate how people including myself get wrapped up in the stupid little things in life that truly don’t matter. I want to separate myself from that and become a better person. Thank you for being vulnerable and opening up about your relationships.

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  3. Julie Wilkens

    Eric,

    Finding out about Lisa floored me, in its untimeliness and unfairness.

    The same week that Lisa passed away, I was at a hospital down in Birmingham, AL, trying to figure out what was going on with my father, who had lost a ton of mobility and cognitive ability in a very short time.

    We found out on Friday that he has CJD, which, is incurable and awful. But he’s 78. He’s led a pretty great life.

    But your words will help us, too.

    Thanks.

    Like

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