A couple of years ago, I had a “funeral” for someone who was (is) still living. Okay, fine—it wasn’t really a funeral, per say, but more of a goodbye ceremony for someone who used to be a central figure in my life but now…isn’t.
To put into words how important this person was to me when I was younger would be pure foolishness at best, but still–I try. Whenever I felt myself twisting in the wind, this person anchored me. Whenever I felt like a discarded piece of garbage, this person helped me see that I was solid gold. And whenever there was joy to be had—in music and experience and adventure, this person was the one to invite me along for the ride in a really sweet vehicle.
To try to construct the reasons why our relationship is so different now would be as futile as trying to convey how important he was at one time (and, if I push aside the pain of my rejection, my spirit would tell you that he still is…of course he is). This is harder.
I don’t understand how love can go from completely unconditional to completely conditional, unless it was never pure and free in the first place. And if I ever were to hear that that last bit is actually true, my heart would surely stop beating.
There’s no one thing I can point to as the reason why this person is no longer in my life. The truth of the matter is that our relationship sprung a slow leak when I left for college 28 years ago, and it never, ever recovered. I know I have made missteps along the way—some of them were absolute doozies—but so has he. And we are both good people.
Can’t we still love one another? Can’t we see one another for who we truly are? Can’t we look past the ugly bits and see that while both of us have been hurt deeply, we can still love deeply because we are family?
I’ve tried to repair things. I’ve tried to reach out. I’ve tried to put the hurt behind me and start again. I’ve tried to lob my love over the top of a 50 foot wall. Over and over and over, I’ve tried. Nothing works. The messages are the same every time:
I’m not interested in knowing you anymore.
I’m not interested in your family.
I’m not interested in repairing anything.
I’m not interested in what you think or feel.
I’m not interested.
There comes a point in situations like these where you have to stop crying, blow your nose, wash your face, and just get on with it because there is absolutely no one in this world you can control but yourself.
There comes a point when you have to put up some protection around yourself so that you no longer feel like you are experiencing a person’s death over and over every time the hope you were raised to embrace falls flat on its face and then chides you for actually thinking it would be different this time.
There comes a point when you have to accept that you may never know the why or whether or not it has ever had anything to do with you at all.
There comes a point when you have to love yourself enough to say, “That’s enough now,” and put an end to your madness. You realize that happiness has to shine from inside of you and is not dependent on what anyone else says, does, or thinks outside of the sacred space that you occupy because you have the light of God in you, and you are worthy of love.
Finally, after all of this, there comes a point when you realize (with the help of a really kind therapist) that it’s okay to grieve the loss of the person who was so important to you at one time but is no longer present. It’s okay to say thank you—for the laughter. The music. The adventures. The support. The love. The gifts. The stability. The protection.
It’s okay to say goodbye. To forgive. To release the Spirit of What Once Was to the wind.
So that’s what I did. I picked out a beautiful, deep pink mini rose bush and planted it in my garden two summers ago.
It bloomed last summer.
It died this summer.
When I was showing some friends my garden, I mentioned it—how strange it was that that rosebush didn’t grow this year, and neither did the perennial blue flowers I planted in another spot to mark the ending of my enslavement to another unfortunate bit of my past.
My friend looked at me and said, with quiet resolve, “Maybe you are done with them, then. You don’t need them anymore.”
In the same flower bed, right next to my mother’s orange lilies (which are descended from her mother’s orange lilies), new flowers bloomed a few days ago that I didn’t plant. A stray seed from a bird? An old annual from the previous owner that has been dormant for three summers? Or some sort of message?
I don’t know. But I see symbolism in everything.