Life isn’t fair, but kindness is

Sometimes life is just awful. You stub your toe, you fail that class, get dumped, lose a job, lots of things. Little things, in the grand scheme. Sometimes it’s big things: pain, sickness, death, and amazing people suffering for no apparent reason. It’s not fair in the slightest.

And platitudes don’t really help when you need them to. They might eventually, but not when you’re there, in the thick of it, grieving, trying to understand what went wrong, how can you ever be happy again? If this is you going through this, you already know what you need. Silence, video games, work to distract you, hugs, anything in your arsenal of coping skills that you know can get you through the day.

But what if it’s for a friend? For those closest to you, you might already know what they need. But you might not, and it’s ok to ask. “Is there something I can do to help you through this?” It’s ok if the answer is “just let me be alone.” You can do that, you can give them what they need.

They might want hugs, or to talk things through, or to talk about absolutely anything BUT “the thing,” or someone to just sit with them silently while they cry. They may not even know what they need and that’s ok. They don’t need to know. Just let them know you’re there, and act like it’s any normal day. Sometimes that’s really all someone wants.

But what do you do when you feel helpless in the shadow of grief and pain, at your wit’s end searching for something, anything, tangible that you can do. Make something, give it to someone that is expecting nothing. Pay for someone’s cup of coffee. Buy a sandwich for someone that’s hungry. Because everyone has tough times. Maybe you’ll be that bright light a random stranger didn’t even know existed anymore. And that’s a great thing, especially when life sucks.

Life isn’t fair, but kindness is

Vivid dreams and goodbyes

A very good friend of mine lost  his battle with brain cancer recently, and I’ve been kind of torn up about it. I haven’t had much experience with people being taken from this earth way too early, and it has been a difficult adjustment. I knew it was coming, but you can never really be prepared for something like that. You always think you’ll see them one last time up to the very end. I am glad that I told him I loved him every time I saw him in the last 6 months, and he said it back, so I feel at peace with how we left it. But still, it’s awful. It makes you rage at how cancer can pass up a million assholes but attack one of the greats.

I think I’ve had a lot of stress lately because of it, which I’m sure contributed to the four day sinus headache I had this week, finally culminating in a migraine last night. I went to bed early and ended up having some of the most vivid dreams I’ve had in a very long time. Now, I’ve always been a vivid dreamer. My dreams are like short movies where I can see vibrant colors, feel many different emotions, and recognize textures by touch. They have plots and even have fully fleshed-out characters sometimes. Those dreams stick with me, and there are some nightmares that I remember every detail of even though it’s been at least a decade since I experienced it.

Well last night one dream in particular really hit me. I came into work and saw a coworker helping the newly deceased Mel bringing furniture into his lab space. I walk over and offer to help, and excited to see Mel again, I go over to him to give him a big hug. He jumps back, hands pulled back and says “oh no, I’m dead, don’t touch me. Trust me, you’ll think it’s weird.” I stopped in my tracks for a few moments before grabbing an end of a table to help him move it. More and more people showed up, some I recognized, some I didn’t. They were all a bit emotional, but all helped him consolidate his things. I came to realize we were helping him bring all his stuff together so that his family could come and bring them all home the next day.

It was so nice to see him again, and he was his old self. He had energy, smiled easily, and was joking with everyone while packing up the pieces of his life. At one point I was looking down and organizing something when I heard him say “Ok it’s time for me to go now.” When I looked up, Mel was quickly becoming whiter and whiter, and ice was forming on his body. I reached out to him and touched the tip of his fingers, which were now blue, cold and damp. The next thing I knew, he was just gone and I started bawling uncontrollably. My coworker and friend (he was her mentor) broke down and I hugged her for long minutes while everyone tried to process that he was really gone now.  I’m crying a bit now just writing about it.

I think I needed this dream. Yes it was hard to experience, but I felt like it gave me some closure, because it allowed me to go back to a time when the tumor in his brain hadn’t yet erased us all from his memory. Do I think this was Mel coming back to say goodbye? I don’t know. I’m sure it was my brain working through the stages of grief, but it’s a nice thought that he would say goodbye.

His memorial service is tomorrow.

Vivid dreams and goodbyes