I lost my friend Michael two years ago this week. Of course, I wasn't the only one. We all lost someone when Michael died. Even those of you who didn't know him. The world grows a little dimmer whenever anyone decides to take their own life. It all seems a little more hopeless. And those of us left behind ache for more time with them.
Whip-smart and thoughtful and funny and sarcastic as hell, Michael figures so prominently in many of my best memories about college. When I returned to Grinnell earlier this year, there wasn't a place I could go on campus where I didn't recall a story about this amazing man. And I know I am one person of many. My college friends talk about him to me often. Not stories of college shenanigans, but stories of deep emotional connection. Of Michael being kind and compassionate and thoughtful and so understanding.
I have blogged before about the guilt I feel for not staying connected with him beyond Facebook messages and social media. The shame at not knowing how much he was hurting. The worry that this is how people slip away from us. That we see a status update from them and think that means they're okay. These feelings haven't gone away in the past two years.
I don't like walking around in a world where Michael doesn't exist. I feel like that about so many people who I've lost. I told a friend the other day that sometimes I feel surrounded by ghosts. Memories of people who I want to call back to me. At the end of his life, Maurice Sendak said, "I have nothing now but praise for my life. I'm not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can't stop them. They leave me and I love them more." That is how I feel about my ghosts. I want more time with them. I want them not to have left me. It's a tremendously selfish thing to say, but I'm saying it anyway. I want them back.
I wanted to write this post because I have so many people who are struggling in their life right now. So many people who are hurting for one reason or another. Who feel hopeless or isolated or filled with sorrow. And I want you all to know what it feels like to me on the other side. That I wish I could build all of you nests and take care of you and make things better. I wish I was more. I wish I could keep you all here forever with me. Remind you that you are loved and the world is better with you in it.