“You didn’t tell me!”
I was awakened at 6AM one March morning in 1994 with my friend Larry screaming this through the phone at me. “You didn’t tell me that Joey was killed last night.”
I hadn’t known.
After ending the call with Larry, I phoned my father and told him what had happened. “What are you going to do?” he asked. I replied that I planned to go to work and would make further plans as I had more information.
My father knew better.
The drive from his house to mine usually took a little more than an hour. 45 minutes after we hung up, he was at my house with breakfast. By then, the reality had hit me. I was sitting in a corner screaming the only word left in my vocabulary, “Nonononononononononono!”
My father stayed with me in the days and weeks that followed. In spite of the several very difficult events I’d gone through that year, burying my friend was (and remains) the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. We love our family partly because, well, we have to. But, we love our friends because we choose to. Losing them is losing the family we’ve made for ourselves. It rips us in several directions. But Daddy stayed with me. He held me like his baby I once was as I wept so many times. I felt his own tears hitting my hair at the graveside service. He gave me counsel when, after picking up the phone to call Joey yet again, I dropped both it and myself to the floor, wailing, “How long will I keep doing this?” My father said, “My father was my best friend and sometimes, even now, more than 20 years later, I think that if I could just talk to Daddy, everything would be alright.”
It wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I didn’t feel any better; but, he told me the truth. I still think of things I’d love to tell Joey.
Parents love their children differently than children love their parents. I’ve heard that all my life and know its truth in my own affections for my son and for my father. Tomorrow, my sister and I go with our daddy as he buries the woman he loves and with whom he had planned to spend the rest of his life. As mothers, I know that we would do anything to spare our own children this kind of anguish. As children, I know that both of us would far rather experience this torment for ourselves than to watch that dear man as he is shattered by this grief.
When it comes to those you love, it is agonizing to stand helplessly by, watching their suffering. It is decidedly easier to feel your own pain.