Some friends come into our lives for a relatively brief amount of time; others for decades. Some friends represent a specific time in our lives; others remind us of who we were way back when.
But the one thing all of my friends who have died have in common is that they all left too soon.
I remember Carol’s wake. A talented actress, she died after a long battle with breast cancer, and her death was neither peaceful nor a relief. She had deliberately cut herself off from most of her friends: wouldn’t see them in person, barely talked to any of us on the phone. Her fierce independence wound up making us all mad.
We sat in the back of the funeral parlor, a group of her friends. At that moment we may have been the angriest people in the city of Chicago: angry that the cancer won, angry that she was gone too soon, but perhaps most angry that she wouldn’t let us help her.
It sounds selfish, and I guess it is. I felt pretty selfish when Delle was dying. She was my friend and I loved her and needed her and I was pretty angry that she would soon be gone. I never told her I was angry, and did my best to not show it. But that anger was not unique to me. The theme of many conversations with other friends of hers was “it’s not fair”.
So today, as I think of all my friends who didn’t live to be as old as I am, that anger has calmed. Now it’s more sadness for the trips we never took, the plays we never saw, the jokes we never shared.
And as always, it’s gratitude that they were part of my life, and had a hand in making me who I am today.