grieving a lost friend Dr. RBF

A Last Goodbye: Grieving Those Who’ve Shaped Us

This one is personal. Someone I loved died.

I knew he was sick; I knew it was “bad.” When I got the news that he was gone, all the air whooshed out of the room and I cried out loud, startling my children who rushed to me, wondering what was wrong.

It’s hard to explain how this person they have never met, never even heard of, helped their mother become the person she is today.

We met at university, many lifetimes ago. I was an undergraduate, he was doing graduate work. We joined the same fledgling a capella group. We spent countless hours together: rehearsals, shows, meals, hanging out listening to and talking about music, discussing politics, and more. We grew to know each other’s families.

After we finished our studies, we both moved to NYC and lived in the same neighborhood. In a funny twist, he was roommates with my cousin, although I didn’t know that until after the fact. I spent time with both of them, separately. When we eventually made the connection, it was hilarious to the three of us, all involved in this joke in which we were all the punchline.

From there we went abroad, both landing eventually in Israel. It’s hard to put into words the level of intensity that moving to a new country, where neither of you has family, brings to a friendship. We were a support for one another; spending holidays, weekends, and our free time together.

I’ve been flooded with memories. Time together in various cities, struggling with finals, trying to make that harmony work, recording a CD together, bike rides, bus rides, parties, vetting each other’s dates, celebrating new jobs, dancing at his wedding.

I think about how brave we were, young and idealistic. We were marching out into the world, trying to make it a better place, trying to make it our own. We’ve each reached a place we’d imagined. We got married, made families, and created careers we feel passionate about.

And now he’s gone from this physical world, and I can’t tell him one more time how much I loved him.

As I stood washing the dishes tonight, my kids squabbling in the background, I recognized how lucky I am to be here today. I’m sure he would have loved to have been doing the same thing, albeit with a better soundtrack.

Life is fragile; the reminders are painful.

I was last going to see him when I was visiting Israel in 2016. On the day we were supposed to get together, my husband came down with the flu. I called my friend, exhausted and apologetic. I’m sorry, I said, I can’t see you because my husband is sick, and I don’t want to make you sick, and then we were leaving.

We chatted for a few moments on the phone, but our kids called us away. I’ll see you next time, we casually agreed.

It’s hard to explain the oceans of grief I feel for someone who I knew once-upon-a-time, but whose life touched mine in so many ways.

I’m so sorry that I didn’t get to say goodbye to you. You were a gem, and I hope wherever you are you are grooving to the music.


oceans of grief Dr. RBF