It’s been about a month and a half now since my friend lost her year and a half fight with cancer — losing her hurt a great deal and was pretty difficult to grapple with. We’d worked together for 13 years and stored up a great many memories over the years and I feel my life was richer for it.
The grief doesn’t hurt as much these days as it did at the onset, and I don’t find myself in either a state of numbness or deep, deep sadness. There’s a little bit there still, but not as pronounced as it once had been — kind of like how one’s prints in wet sand slowly melt away into intangible impressions left behind.
I see constant reminders of her — her name is still in my shared calendars list at work, her name still comes up as a suggested recipient in emails, and often I’ll see messages she’s sent as I go back looking for something that someone had sent me in my archives. I also think about her now and then — the things she would say, her mannerisms, her big smile, the smell of her essential oils, her eyes heavied by the nonsense she had to deal with at work, but her optimistic posture and the way she carried herself in our presence.
My last conversation with her was at the Hi-Lo Diner, she told us that she was picking up the tab because she was getting some sort of sum of money from social security or something, and that she was planning on picking up a new recliner, too. I thought it was a little odd to be blowing money on new furniture, but I think she probably never got around to that.
She talked a lot about the therapy options she was exploring, hoping for some experimental options to go through but still weak from the last failed clinical trial she underwent. Battling between optimism and the hopelessness of failed treatments, she was resigning to the remainder of her days being filled with treatments to help her feel more comfortable and to take the edge off the pain.
She really appreciated the chicken wild rice soup that I brought her and Eddie — they loved that and I promised more. I tried texting numerous times in the weeks that would follow, trying to find a time to bring more soup by, but they went unanswered.
I miss her.
Despite the grief, I’ve been getting by. I’ve kept myself occupied, almost too busy and preoccupied to stop and wax nostalgia. I’ve had to brew up a lot of beer for our annual Oktoberfest celebration coming up in a month or so from now, I’ve been making this diet change, prepping for and hosting National Night Out in our neighborhood, and getting a lot of other things done around the house.
I still wish I could steal a few more moments with her, even if to talk about nothing at all — about some new beer that we’ve tried, or the latest management antics at work, or to tell her about the commemorative beers that I have made in honor of her and her late husband. One is a ginger-peach ale that was originally intended to be a sour beer but the kettle souring process never took, so we’ll just call it a regular ale. The other is a Scottish 60, which is the lightest of Scottish ales and comes in at 3.2% ABV and is the most flavorful 3.2 beer I’ve had in my life. I think Eddie would have been proud. I really had hoped her and Eddie would have been able to make it to Oktoberfest this year. Just one last time.
She would have loved those beers.
I don’t believe in the afterlife. At all. I don’t believe in a heaven or a hell, and that when you die, that’s it. The only thing that lives on is in the memories of those that continue to carry on in the wake of those that pass. I would love to take comfort in the idea that my friend and her husband are “looking down on me” with smiles on their faces, but honestly there is no sound logic in that thinking and is wishful at best. But I do know, that if she were here still, she’d be pretty happy with all that I’ve done since her passing, that she’d be honored by the commemorative beers, and would want to continue to live on in my memories and be cherished there for as long as I have breath.
There’s a phrase that the Orthodox Christians say that I like, but with one essential modification. They say, may their memory be eternal. I do like it, but nothing is eternal save for death itself. So instead, I like to say, long may their memory live on. That just feels a little more satisfying, more realistic, and less rooted in a fairytale-like hope.
Eileen and Eddie, long may you live on in our memories. I miss you both.
Photo by Zack Minor / Unsplash