One week ago I attended the funeral of a friend.
We heard the news of his passing the weekend before. It was sudden, shocking, and a million other similar adjectives I don’t have access to in this little vocabulary of mine.
He was a reader, a fan, and a friend. You may have even seen some of his comments on a few of my posts. The last email he sent me was in regards to my blog post, Hitting the Wall.
He said it was apt for him then. I didn’t realize he’d be gone just a few days later.
While I only knew him for about eight months, during that short time I was able to learn more than I’d learned in a lifetime about philosophy, leadership, business, and just life in general.
In my 37 years on this planet, I have experienced nearly every kind of loss possible. I’ve lost pets, friends, lovers, relatives, enemies, and mentors. I’ve even lost a few cars that died along the way (ironically, most recently on the way back from the funeral).
This path we walk throws all kinds of losses at us. Sometimes it seems like we can’t see the gains for all the losses. One of my favorite quotes on this topic comes from the movie Rounders.
Matt Damon’s character, Mike, said in regards to losing money playing poker, “I can’t for the life of me remember how I built up my bankroll through the years, but I can remember in intricate detail, all the big losses.”
Often, what we lose hurts us to the point where we feel like we can never recover. In Mike’s case, it was just over thirty grand.
When my friend Edward passed, I was initially numb to the whole thing, just like I always am when something like that happens. Eventually, though, the memories of our time together begin to start hitting.
Beyond that, the realization that we will never get to hang out again starts knocking on the door of my mind as well. It’s a tsunami of emotions.
I’m a little different that some people. When I lose a loved one, my brain takes me to every moment I spent with them over the last few months: the coffee shop visits, dinners, holidays, campfire conversations. And when I think about those things, my heart nearly bursts.
The tears flow freely. I choke and cough for air. And I let myself completely be overcome by the emotions of those little memories.
Sounds horrible doesn’t it? It is.
But I am only like that for about two days, maybe three. At that point, I have released everything, intensely experiencing the lowest low. It puts me in a place where there is nowhere to go but up.
And so I go up.
I apply this line of thought to almost every situation of loss possible. My car, for instance, broke down on the way back from my friend’s funeral and the damage was irreparable.
Perhaps a minor tragedy except that I don’t have the money for a new car. So, I let myself consider every possible bad thing that could happen as a result of that loss. And in doing so, I put myself at the bottom of the valley with nowhere to go but up.
As I climbed in my girlfriend’s car and left my vehicle behind for the tow truck, I had already begun to see the bright side of things. My car had had enough momentum to coast into the Tennessee welcome center just outside of my hometown. I had a ride home. And I didn’t have any pressing appointments to which I couldn’t get a ride for the next few weeks.
With the loss of my friend, the memories that caused so much pain during the first 48 hours began to turn into feelings of gratitude. I am glad that I knew him. He taught me so much, maybe even some things he didn’t realize.
For that, I am thankful.
There is one other thing I try to keep in mind when it comes to loss. While we walk this path, it can be sometimes difficult to remember that all things happen for a reason.
Sure, people say that kind of cliche crap all the time. But I believe it on a deeper level. Sometimes, the reason isn’t for your benefit. And that can be a hard pill to swallow since we humans are fairly ego-centric.
In the books I write, my characters are sometimes faced with a painful loss. Book and movie experts say that if characters are never challenged, the story would be boring.
Maybe that’s part of the reason life has it’s ups and downs. I’m not entirely sure. But I have to believe that things DO happen for a reason, and that on the other side of the pain, a better future awaits.
We may not always see it right away, but it’s there.
It’s like my mom always told me when I was discouraged, hurting, or troubled: “If you could see the end from the beginning, you wouldn’t change a thing.”
It can be difficult to believe that when you’re in your own private hell. But it’s true.
Know that. Focus on it. And push yourself through that dark valley.
Because the view from the mountain top is always worth it.
For my friend Edward, I’ll see you on the mountain someday.