Monday, September 16, 2013

He lead me to the threshold of my own mind...

My friend Stuart died this weekend.  A disturbed person with a gun didn't murder him.  His own large, loving, human heart did.  It just turned on him.  It turned on us.  And it killed him swiftly and surely, and, like any killing, left the rest of us with millions of questions and wondering what in the hell we were going to do.

I loved Stuart.  He was first a teacher, then a mentor, and then a friend.  He wasn't my "BFF", though...not in that true definition.  And I wasn't his.  That spot goes to Carlos...his partner of over 35 years...his more than a BFF.
Carlos is on the left and Stuart is on the right.

So when I write about Stuart in this blog about how you're supposed to survive the loss of your BFF, I write for a few reasons.  I write because of that invisible reader whom today I imagine to be Carlos. And I write because Stuart made such an impact on my life when I lost my best friend.

I've not had a partner, a lover, a spouse for 35 years like Carlos did.  I cannot even come close to imagining how it must feel to lose not only your best friend, but half of your own body.  What I do know, though, is that when I lost Leslie, I struggled so very much because I had known her so long that I not only lost my friend, I lost part of my identity.  I had been friends with Leslie for 25 years....for so long that I do not remember deciding that I liked her.  I don't remember when I realized she liked me. It's almost as if our friendship wasn't even like if it wasn't decided "Let's be friends."

And what is odd is that it became part of who I was.  I was the girl who had the lifelong friends.  I knew other people.  I had other acquaintances.  But I never even really made a lot of other really good friends throughout my life.  And the few that I did make knew all about her and Brooke and Dama.  We were those Anne of Green Gables girls.  We had our Dianas.  Life would snake through all kinds of experiences, but we would always have each other as touch stones, and that's just how it would be.  And then she was gone.

I actually felt a lot of guilt sometimes because I missed that identity occasionally almost as much as I missed her.  I had no idea who I was supposed to be.  I've struggled with it every day since.  Sometimes when people think I am still struggling with my grief over losing my friend, I think I might actually be struggling more with figuring out how to be the new person with a different shaped heart.

And I can't help but ache for Carlos because I know that it must be the same for him.  He is grieving his beloved, and he is grieving the man he was when he was half of that pair.  And that is so incredibly hard.

I also can't help but marvel at the sad, chilling irony that I lost Stuart so suddenly.  The irony of it is something most people don't know.  I haven't told many people about this, because it was really personal, and because...well...because if I told it people would know that I didn't really write something that had my name on it.

After Leslie died, I wrote an email to people in her address book, letting them know what had happened to our dear mutual friend.  I split the people she wrote and called often into two groups: people I knew, at least on some level, and people I didn't know at all.  The group that I knew included some people I knew well, and some people that I barely knew, but knew well enough that they would know who I was and why it was me who was telling them this terrible news.  Stuart was in that group. And I put the other group off for a day or so because I just couldn't do it.  I couldn't figure out how to introduce myself AND tell them, "By the way, your friend was murdered."  It was too hard.

So probably an hour after he had gotten the news I heard from Stuart.  Because he was not a man of platitudes, he didn't say "if there is anything I can do..."  He said, "Give me a task....something you really don't want to do."  So I told him about the letter I couldn't write.  And he wrote it.  And I signed it.  It was amazing.  It was gentle, but to the point.  It didn't coddle and wasn't too familiar, but it wasn't harsh.  It was simply perfect.  It was the perfect way to say that the unexpected had happened to a person you loved.

And six and a half years later, the unexpected happened to him.  And I loved him.  And oh....oh how I wish he was here to break it to me that gently.

I will miss you, teacher, mentor, friend...

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