Coping With A Dying Friend

Dadland Maye

Dadland Maye

His eyes notice me even as they stay somewhere far most times. His smile remembers me once in a while when it isn’t replaced with a portrait of no sorrow nor joy, or anger: a face I’m unfamiliar with—a face wrestling with a haunting I cannot decipher. It isn’t the face of the best friend—no, not lover—I have known for years. Is he really going to die?

I fought that thought/confrontation before, skillfully. But everyone in battle tires soon. Yet as he moves further away from me, I feel that the part of my life, which he had so long excited, motivated, healed, saved, is mourning. And tears aren’t dripping on my dry skin given that they are afraid to come, afraid of being prophetic and affirmative.

There is mourning. It feels heavy. It drags inside me. Hidden by politeness, this mourning dangles around with me. Masked with a smile, this mourning drapes me about in public. Mourning—which I feel guilty to own but lack the strength to disown; because, have I lost hope in his ability to rebound?—is weakening my feet when I sit inside my house.

In my rented space of colors and light, all I want to do is sleep and when awake, eat. When I eat I acquire the need to sleep, to be absent for hours, from hours of the present.

So lately, I have been running around trying to be there for my best friend (currently I have two of them) who the doctors say have less than seven months to live. He appointed me the health care proxy and the power of attorney, responsibilities I take seriously. He has loss mental acuity even though he is aware of much that is happening around. His speech is mostly “Yes” and “No” answers, not the long complex thoughts that would have fought me two months ago.

So lately, I’ve lost the desire to write and think about complex social issues. My vulnerability has forced me to question the purpose of life: Is there any sense in being ambitious when we are all going to die? Should I just drop out of school, find a man who can give me good sex, run away with him to a small abandoned island like some crazy girl in one of those movies, and live beside the sea in a hunt, sweat in cuddles beneath coconut trees, hunt sea crabs, lobsters, and fish with sharp sticks, season them on stone fires, swallow them from calabash bowls, giggle, and sperm shoot until my day comes? For, is all the toiling to be “somebody” in life worth it when we are all going to die when we least expect?

But lately, too, I’ve been trying hard to resurrect my joy, continuing to attend events, socializing with folks, clubbing, shopping, trying hard to remind myself that this phase of life will pass and I will survive trying. But my efforts to restore myself have worn me out. They make me feel like I’m trying too hard to court joy to remain motivated.

To still feel useful to myself and appear of substance to others, I decided to go slow at everything I do. I think slower. I speak slower when I remember to. I don’t write unless I must take notes in class. I don’t read articles beyond the headlines. I don’t exercise too much. So doing, I conserve my energy and prevent additional self-fragmentation.

Even now as I write, I feel the writing lacks confidence: It isn’t assured of how it speaks. It doubts whether it is cohesive or impressive or motivational or a killer of enthusiasms. And a part of the writing just doesn’t care about what it accomplishes. Yet I feel to allow this writing to birth itself. Even crippled births have a utility in life.

I’m sad. I know it. I’m depressed too. I can feel it. Yet this sadness and depression are things a large part of me wants to endure without intervention from the professionals, the therapists, and the life coaches. These things are teaching me how others feel when confronted with loss.

In the past when people said they lost someone, I use to cheer them up as best as I could. But I had no idea how painful it was. And so believe me when I say I want to endure this moment until this moment becomes an experience, a testimony. In the last few days, though, I’ve gotten more energy, I started juicing fruits and vegetables, and I ordered a treadmill, which should arrive within two weeks.

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