The Real Thing

Let’s talk about crisis.

I know, I know, not really the most appropriate of subjects for this most joyous (or so I’m told) of holiday seasons. But after all, it is the name of this sucker, and we’ve been steadfastly exploring the nuances of the New Crisis (ad nauseam, I’m sure some of you are saying) for some months now. More than seven to be exact. My, how times fly when you’re having fun.

But I digress.

No, today, let’s talk about real crisis. The kind most of us don’t know, thankfully. One I will never know, and that’s probably just as well, since judging how I’ve handled this one, a real one could leave me…hmm, let’s not go there.

About a week ago, a good friend got what must be the most awful, gut-wrenching, unfathomable thing a parent will ever hear:

“Your child is dead.”

In some ways, the death was not unexpected. In others, it was the total stunning shock you would imagine such stark news would be. And yesterday, in this most joyous of holiday seasons, I watched my friend bury that child, an only child.

I knew the child, though not well. Knew the pain and frustration my friend sometimes endured because of the kid’s choices, bad decision after bad decision, with some external curveballs thrown in along the way too. But nothing prepared me during the mass for the total look of grief and agony I saw on that parent’s face, springing forth from some black bottomless emotional chasm. A look I hope I will never see again. A look I will never forget.

The Fex was there, since this grieving parent was a mutual friend. She didn’t see me cry outside the church, as I saw in my mind’s eye that look over and over again. But I saw her tears, which I assume sprang from the same source. For the first time in months, we hugged. Silently. It may be the last one we share, I don’t know. But in that instant, it was the only thing we could do.

So there is no joy for my friend during this most joyous of holiday seasons. Perhaps not for quite some time. Life – or death, in this case – does not take a break this time of year, eh? And crisis is relative. My crises will pass with time. I will be all right, down the road. There is a hole now in my friend’s life, I assume, that nothing will ever truly fill.


~ by mburgan on December 23, 2010.

2 Responses to “The Real Thing”

  1. Hi Mike,
    So sorry about your friend’s child. My neighbor, a 16 year old girl, with the biggest heart and love of life, was stricken with brain cancer. She and I used to paint together since she couldn’t attend school anymore with her depressed immune system. She was joyous. She, too, was an only child and she died on 2/1/10. Her mom is coming over tomorrow and I think that the depth of the grief never ever ends for a parent. I hope your friends remain married and carry each other through the next phase. My friends told me that after the first month of pretty much non stop visitors and well wishers, the attention virtually stopped and they were alone with the silence. Just thought it was something that is good for you to know to help them (which is the best way to help ourselves, really), stay in touch and it’s okay to call them and ask them how they are. My friend says she couldn’t understand why no one talked about her child, as if when they brought her up, the parents would suddenly remember that she was gone. The despair is bone deep, soul deep.
    I hope your next year is better than the last and that you don’t listen to the doctor who told you to be alone. Take a hold of life, it’s just so damn short. You have so much to offer. Be kind to yourself.
    Merry Christmas to you.
    Your friend,

  2. Colleen,

    Sorry to hear about your friend and her loss, and thanks for the insights on the aftermath. I know this friend of mine is one who will always be in my life (especially given the role he plays for me during my current turmoil), but it’s good to know about acting normal, and not pretending as if he will ever forget.

    Thanks also, and more so, for your reading and leaving comments here at the Crisis. And for the kind, encouraging words, now and in the past. It has been the friends, close by and “virtual,” who have made the New Crisis bearable and given me hope for better times ahead. Happy holidays to you and your family.

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