I lost a friend this week. Today was her funeral, or rather, celebration of life.
Donned in the only black clothing in my suitcase, I reflect on how I will miss her presence. I was not there, though. At the funeral. Instead, I am writing from a plane headed back to Tennessee after saying goodbye (for now) to my love in Texas. As usual, I was dreading saying goodbye to him, even for such a short time (our last goodbye from the Houston airport was for 6 months) and I was complaining that as many times as I've had to bid farewell to people I love, it never, ever gets easier. Not in the slightest. I was also frustrated (and complaining) about not being able to get an earlier flight to make it home in time for the celebration of life.
It wasn't until I was sitting and waiting for my flight, mentally complaining to myself, that I realized that saying goodbye is a privilege. I've been fortunate enough in my life that in time, almost all of my goodbyes have been followed by hellos. Yet I still dread them. Every time I have moved abroad, I told people I wouldn't leave without saying goodbye, but I'm a huge liar in this department. So I snuck away like the evasive goodbye-hater I am. When I say goodbye to someone, I think about all the things I will miss about them while we're apart. It makes my heart hurt, so I selfishly avoid it. It sounds trivial perhaps, but this has been a big shift in perspective for me, to look at this parting ritual as a privilege and not an unpleasant but required social custom. I wanted to be there today, at her funeral, to pay my respects. I wanted to be there, to mourn with others who are grieving the same loss. I wanted to be there to show support to her family and her loved ones, my presence a meager attempt to show them how many people loved this wonderful girl. Most importantly though, or perhaps tied with the last desire, I wanted a chance to say goodbye. I haven't been home or to work since it happened, and it almost doesn't feel real. I wanted to be by her, though her body may be only a vacant vessel now, to mourn the hole she will leave in innumerable hearts and the empty space that we will all feel at work. I'm looking out the window of the plane right now, gazing across the dark profile of clouds, admiring the most striking and boldly-pigmented sunset I have ever laid eyes on. It's so fitting it almost seems corny. I wanted to be there today to say goodbye to the smiling girl in the funky necklaces. However, goodbyes never seem to cooperate with me, so this seems as good a place as any to say goodbye, miles closer to where heaven is said to be, surrounded by a radiant sky and beautiful, dark silhouettes.