When I was sixteen, my best friend was killed in a car accident. My boyfriend was driving the car.
They were going to the movies on a summer afternoon two weeks after their high school graduation.
I felt that my life was smashed head on in that one moment, just like their car had been smashed by a tractor trailer when a slippery road in a summer rain threw them into the oncoming lane of a highway.
My friend Curtis was thrown from the car and died immediately. My boyfriend had a hip injury and recovered fully.
I think of Curtis every single day. He was a tall, bubbly guy who loved to talk and laugh, and he moved through life with great passion.
This happened in 1979. Nearly 30 years later, I still think of him almost every day. I wonder, “What if…” What if Curt hadn’t died? Would we have ended up together?
Through great suffering, I came to terms with the fact that I loved them both. Scott, my boyfriend, and Curtis. If I were a bit closer to my feelings at the time, I would have understood that I really loved Curtis.
But that was gone in an instant.
I am now 46- nearly three times my age as when the accident happened. The only thing I’ve learned about grief in the ensuing years is that it never completely goes away. Also, that other events adhere in my mind and heart to the events of June 11, 1979.
Other bits of grief from the ensuing years coalesce in my soul – my mother’s paralyzing illness, September 11th, giving up on an engagement, the pain of being emotionally distanced from my nieces and nephews, loss of jobs, danger near my home, nearly dying from pneumonia. These things coalesce naturally within as the years go by.
Buddhists refer to the continuous flow of birth and death as “samsara”.
I realized that life is never perfect in any one moment in time. Never when someone dies. How many people have said, “If I had only told him that I loved him that last morning”? We feel guilt. Always the guilt of not having done enough or said enough or given enough.
In any one day, there is never perfection. Not the day of a wedding, or of a birth, or a graduation, or a death. Nothing is ever perfect.
Death. Taxes. And Loss. Three things that never change. And it’s OK. Better to accept that they’re coming than to be surprised.