A month ago, my dearest, my best friend Sammy passed away.
His passing brought a heavy guest into my life. I will not introduce you to this guest because you are all already familiar with him. He has visited you too every time you lost something you cared about.
This guest is grief. And I see him as a big, bad bully.
Starting from day one, my bully acts like a spoiled child. He demands my attention, my time, my energy.
My bully makes fun of my hobbies and dreams. He makes Disney movies seem stupid. He makes colors seem annoying. And he makes isolation comfortable.
I was trying to ignore my grief by running away from the memories I had. But my bully demanded attention, not for selfish reasons; he demanded it because those memories were not meant to be ignored.
It’s as if when we first meet someone, we enter into a silent agreement with them that whoever stays here has to tell the world about the person who left. We don’t speak of it, it’s there by default.
I was not meant to betray that agreement; honoring the memories we have with someone is what keeps them alive. It’s what keeps humans remembered and loved throughout the years. There is naturally a part for us to keep for ourselves. The other part, however, is not for us. It is for the world to see, for the world to know about this person who was here.
I will honor our agreement.
Sammy is one of those people you meet once in a lifetime. He had traveled to all sorts of different places; you’d think nothing would impress him anymore. But everything was an adventure for Sammy; going to a new mini market was an adventure for Sammy! Walking with him was an adventure on its own; if he passed by a tree he could tell you it’s common name, scientific name, what fruits it bore, its country of origin, and a bit more.
He took pictures of every flower, every tree, or old weird-looking building he encountered. He loved books, and I will not try to guess how many books he has read in total, but it seemed like he had knowledge to share about everything; from laws and wars and Shakespearean English to Science and Biochemistry and the proper way to cook fish.
He saw joy in helping anyone around him, from the smallest actions like almost carrying a kid he saw in the park struggling down the stairs in his roller blades, to those that needed lots of effort, like giving free English tutoring to all the kids in the village where he was staying, because he thought they weren’t getting enough. In both and all scenarios, the result was the same; he would offer his help happily, then his modesty would speak up and say “Nah, it was nothing.”
In his own beautiful way, Sammy is a contradiction. It’s funny how he could make you see how this world is everything and nothing at the same time, how he took nothing too seriously yet everything meant something special to him, how love and war fascinated him in the same measure. In this sense, he gave a new meaning to everything around me, he gave me a new set of eyes with which to see the world. Now I see it the way he saw it; beautiful and broken all at once
Because of my bully, you now know a tiny bit about Sammy.
I was still fighting with grief, trying to figure out what makes him so big and bad. What makes him a bully. And I realized that he forces us to face the unknown that we fear facing.
We as humans hate dealing with the unknown; it makes us feel powerless not knowing what to expect. And death, for us, is the ultimate unknown. We never REALLY know what death is like, so we assume the worst and turn our backs to it. And grief, being the bully that he is, grabs us by the shoulders and pins us in front of this ultimate unknown and it stands there yelling “deal with it!”
So I had to deal with it. I got to know death better, researching the physical and the metaphysical, the spiritual and the mental and all in between; and you know what? It doesn’t seem as scary, hollow, or dark as I thought it would be. It’s a beginning of something new. I read how blissful our loved ones can be when they cross over, and how blissful it would be when we meet them again. I read how shedding this body we inhabit, when the time comes, can be a huge relief. I read how our loved ones are still around us, just in different, more profound forms. I still don’t know for sure. But death does not seem as final as I thought it was.
Despite that, I was still fighting with my bully when I stumbled upon a quote that said “grief is love with no place to go”. Of course. This parent or this friend, this sibling or partner whom we have lost, we have loved them. And we think that just because they aren’t in front of us to receive that love then we should stop expressing it, we hold it in and it doesn’t go away. It just gets bigger and bigger and in the end it turns into rage and resentment, and it makes us miserable.
Well if that’s what grief really is, then the solution should be quite simple don’t you think?
We just have to find places for that love to go. Our loved ones shed their physical shell, and now they are down to their core essence, a spirit, an energy. The love we have for them is energy as well, and so it only makes sense that if we release that energy into the universe it will reach them wherever they might be. My bully just had to teach me how to express this energy in different ways than before.
We might not be able to give them flowers anymore, but we’ll plant flowers in their honor. It’s an act of love towards them as well as an act of love towards our surroundings. The good things we can do to that end, are endless. Now, instead of directing our feelings towards one person, we are directing them towards everything. This is how pain opens a door to beauty.
Till now, my bully offered me the gift of honoring my memories, the gift of being at peace with death, and the gift of seeking a life that will ensure we have lots of interesting stories to tell our loved ones when we meet them again.
All these gifts, and guess what? I still hate him. He’s still a big bad jerk. And he will probably remain a jerk for as long as he stays with me, and that is forever.
They never really go away, those heavy guests. Their visits become less frequent maybe, but they’re still there in the background, passing on their bittersweet gifts.
I hate him. I’m still at war with him, but I admit, in those rare glimpses where I can see the truth of the gifts he has given me, I understand how sometimes, only sometimes, our big bad bullies can be little misunderstood blessings.
Photo Credit : Sammy Darwish