Tonight I went to Sheri's wake. For the first time, as I gazed at her body in the casket, I had to remind myself that it was real. I was looking at Tricia's mom's body. In a casket. As I type the words I still can't believe it's true.
Sheri battled cancer for over two years. Her death was expected, but still a surprise when it actually happened. She was 61 when she died. Tricia and I are both 31.
I think that my reaction to Sheri's death, this whole week of tears and emotion culminating in tonight's utter disbelief at what I was seeing, is fear at its most basic form. I didn't see Sheri in the casket; I saw my mom. When I talked to Tricia, hugged her, watched her cry, I was watching myself. Losing my mom is something that I simply cannot imagine. But, neither could Tricia, and tomorrow she will bury hers. I hadn't seen or talked to Sheri for several years...at least three...and as horrible as it is to say this, it is not Sheri I am mourning as much as I am mourning the loss of a mother. I feel very bad that Sheri is gone, but what makes my heart break is to know that Tricia's mother is dead. Does that make sense?
Reconnecting with Tricia is meaningful for another reason as well. In college, she and her best friend Nicki tried very hard to be friends with me...very hard. I tried just as hard to believe that they didn't want to be friends. I pushed them both away, assuming that there wasn't room for me in their friendship. We were in such different places in maturity...I had a lot to learn before I became an adult. Tricia had it pretty well in hand by the time we met. I spent most of college in tears over one thing or another. I don't remember ever seeing Tricia cry, which is part of the reason tonight will stay with me forever.
I wonder sometimes if I think too much about death. But, tonight was my third wake in this calendar year. The year is barely half over. I think, I need to go back and count, that Sheri's was my 25th wake/funeral. How can I not think about death and dying when not a single year has gone by in my adult life that I haven't lost someone? When Tricia and I met thirteen years ago, I had never been to a funeral. I have been to so many since my first.
I need to process this, and it's going to take longer than usual for me to do that. But, I am relieved that I am feeling this, that Sheri's death has actually hurt me, because for a long time with students dying and having to go to their wakes/funerals, I felt like it was becoming routine. I didn't feel what I knew I should be feeling at the loss of a human life. Sheri's death has brought that back to me, and, as shitty as I feel, at least I know that I haven't become insensitive to death and loss.