There’s an infinite number of feelings, and only a finite number of words, so it’s no wonder that at both the very best and the worst of times we often find ourselves speechless. That no matter how eloquent, nothing ever seems adequate. Being a part of a loss is very much like that. You are at the mercy of whichever emotional state takes a hold of you, whether it is sadness, anger, or guilt. Maybe you’re so full of emotions it feels as though you have been taken by the throat and you can’t even breathe for fear of it shifting. Or maybe it’s that indescribable feeling of emptiness, a blank and muffled state of nothing.
The worst comes after. It’s the nagging feeling that lingers, ever reaching, ever present. For me, it’s walking past the office and knowing you wouldn’t be there. The office is a black hole, pulling my eyes, willing myself to hope that I’ll see light; what I know is only wishful thinking. Even if someone is in there it feels wrong because it’s not you. So wrong, like a parody of a real show, but knowing it’s not any longer. The worst is seeing those who were closest struggle to even stand up, weighted down by the feeling of pure helplessness. These can’t be the people I know and love, those who spryly jump up in an instant with a smile, a laugh, a hug. These are shells, hollowed by the pain carving out from within. But then I look in the mirror and see my own eyes and realize no one is safe. We all look the same. Fed, yet emaciated, showered, yet disheveled, here, but so far away.
We’re afraid to meet each other’s eyes now. A group, once knit close enough to be considered family seems a million miles away as they sit next to you. Fractured. Those who speak about it sound garbled, elsewhere. How can they ever capture enough of what made you who you were? Who you were to all of us. Every one of us has goodness in us, but so few, so very few are goodness in whole. How does one talk about the light you radiated when ours feel so dim? It’s like trying to explain colors to one who has never seen. You can tell them how yellow is like getting a hug while a breeze nips playfully at your hair, it’s playful and light and warm, or how blue is the feeling of floating in a pool or river, cool and calm, but it’s not the same as the real thing. Neither are these words for you.
I’ve never seen grace in such a true way, so clearly displayed as you battling for your life, for continued life with your family and those who love you so very deeply. Your attitude always positive, your words upbeat, usually punctuated with your traditional “it’s all good dude.” We all became Bob Marley fans from you, deep within the hope that “every little thing is gonna be alright.”
As social workers we’re used to the ability to fix things. Solve problems, and even sometimes, we can do the impossible. But we couldn’t this time. We couldn’t even promise to try because it was so far out of our realm to even hope. I can promise you this though. If it was a matter of loving, and a sheer force willing you well again, you would still be here today. Your body whole, your mind sharp, smile radiating, and your heart as warm as the sun. If it was up to us, you would have won. But we were outmatched, and you did your best. And your fight gave us the most precious gift of more time with you. I will always be sorry that we didn’t get more, but I count myself lucky to have known you and that you considered me a friend. So this song it for you, as the only thing I can give. That and the knowledge that you showed us how to make this world a better place, simply by being like you. So here’s my change, right here, right now; a promise to live and love and be just a little more like you. Because that will change the world, just as you changed us.
Love you always,
bob marley by