Death is never an easy thing.
2012 was a year full of loss. My grandmother passed away in May. It was a very difficult time for me and for my family, but it was not completely unexpected. She hadn’t been ill, but she hadn’t been well, either.
The tears flowed freely, but the overwhelming emotion was relief that she would not have any more pain. When I said goodbye to her, it was with a heart full of love and a celebration of her amazing and beautiful life.
In November, I lost three more people unexpectedly. These people weren’t close, but their passing affected me greatly.
The first was Chris. I met Chris in Miami during a GALA convention. GALA is an international organization of gay and lesbian choruses. Every four years, there is a conference where choruses from all over the world come together to perform and to share. It was an amazing experience in and of itself, but meeting Chris was definitely a highlight.
Chris was this crazy, funny guy who took my group into his own without a thought. My ex and I became his “sisters” and his friends were new members of our extended family. His laugh was infectious. His smile, impossible to ignore.
After the conference, Chris and I stayed in touch and his friendship was one of the rocks that helped to anchor me when Steve and I split. Even as he told me the things I didn’t necessarily want to hear, he made me laugh.
When I found out that Chris had been in the hospital for double pneumonia and hadn’t been able to fight it, my heart broke. How could this light of humor and unconditional love have been snuffed so easily? How could he be gone? In reading the comments that friends left about his passing, I realized that Chris had impacted every life he touched in some way. Most said they would remember his smile and his laugh over anything else.
The second was Gerald. Gerry was the husband of Todd, a fellow Heartland Men’s Chorus member. When Gerry and Todd found one another they found a love that was inspirational. Over the four short years they had together, I saw a change in Todd that was incredible. He smiled more. He laughed more. He told people, especially Gerry, how much they meant to him. But the most impactful thing that came out of this was that their love filled a room and touched every single person with its warmth. It wasn’t just something they said to each other. It was something seen and felt.
When Gerry unexpectedly had a massive stroke, Todd was lucky that all family members allowed him to make all decisions. He was in the hospital with his beloved when the doctors told him that Gerry’s brain was swelling and that he wouldn’t have much time. He was there when Gerry took his final breath.
I was grief stricken for Todd. I was shattered by the quick and unexpected death. Mostly though, I was angry. How could this perfect love be cut short? Why had this good person, this amazing light of pure love and giving, been snuffed?
The third was Tracie, a woman I had gone to school with back in Texas. I hadn’t talked to (or, if I’m honest, really thought about) Tracie since graduation, but she was someone I had known for most of my life. She went missing during the first week of December and was found dead a week later.
Her passing, compounded with all the other things that had happened, affected me greatly.
I wept. For a while, I felt empty, simply going through the day without any passion. If the deaths of these people whom I barely knew were affecting me this much, how were they affecting those who were close to them? How could they go on?
On Facebook, I read people’s reactions. I read Todd’s thoughts and feelings about keeping Gerry alive in his heart and his mind. I read Tracie’s family and friends sharing memories of her. I read abut Chris’s impact on the chorus and the people he loved so much.
And something clicked.
In my own way I can keep them alive as well. I can do things in my life to honor each of them.
For Chris, I vow to smile and to laugh. I vow to find humor even when the world seems dark. I will smile at people and maybe brighten their day.
For Gerry, I vow to love unconditionally, without fear or regret. I vow to share my love and my heart with those around me. And if I am ever lucky enough to find the kind of love that Todd and Gerry shared, I vow to never let a day go by without telling him how much he means to me.
For Tracie, I vow to not let people out of my life without letting them know the impact they have had. And while I know that we cannot stay in contact with every single person we meet and that circumstances out of our control sometimes dictate how our lives are lived, I vow to never simply let go without putting some effort into it, no matter what it is.
Finally, for my grandma, I vow to live. I don’t mean to simply continue drawing breath, but truly, fully live.
I have never been one for New Year resolutions but this is different.
I want to affect a change in the world around me. I want people to remember my smile, my love, my impact, and my joy in life.
Loss affects us all in different ways, but it definitely changes us. In the musical Wicked, two friends talk about the affect the other has had on each of their lives. Like them, I don’t know if I’ve been changed for the better, but because I knew these people, these wonderfully beautiful people, I have been changed for good.