Wednesday, October 17, 2007

RS: Death Be Proud

I met someone the other day, unexpected and lovely. I'm not sure what the friendship equivalent of love at first sight is. Perhaps it is reconnecting with someone from a former life. But the joy, the instantaneous joy, of encountering someone who seems to get you instantly and with whom you have an immediate comfort feels like an incredible gift.

We spoke of death, and it was one of the most rewarding conversations of recent memory. I understand from friends who have gone to support groups for cancer or other conditions that there is great comfort in the ease, the effortlessness, of a common vocabulary, a shared experience. Similar, I suppose, to what I went through when I came out and began to have gay friends. We shared an experience that bonded us, usually only temporarily. Once past that, I discovered that my new community was filled with a lot of freaks and assholes and others with whom I had nothing else in common.

I had that thrill of shared experience too when I went home a couple of years ago for my 20 year high school reunion. High school had been fairly traumatic for me and simultaneously wonderful. I was active—student body president, valedictorian, president of the honor society, basketball homecoming king candidate. All signs that I was liked. I had lots of friends. But I couldn't feel it because I was scared all the time. But going back, there was none of that fear, none of that self-imposed exile, just a joyous celebration with people with whom I shared something, something I didn't share with anyone else in my life. I had the time of my life.

As I spoke with my new instant friend (all natural, not from concentrate), he spoke about his lover who had died several years ago. Died in his arms. And he spoke of the gift of that. I was recently in the room with my grandmother, with whom I shared a very close and treasured bond, when she breathed her last breath. It was one of the most disturbing and chilling experiences. I actually felt the life leave the room and an emptiness chilled the air for a second and was gone. It was a special gift for me too.

I talk a lot about my grandmother and my sister who died—actually next month will be the 20th anniversary of her death—because I want the people I love now to know them in some small way. And for them to live on. I don't know that everyone understands that. But this guy stood with me at the edge of memory and marveled with me in the view. And let me treasure his memory with him.

And we were both reminded that life is a treasure.

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