I did force myself out last night, despite my better judgment. My mother wanted to take Jeffrey out for a belated birthday dinner and we had agreed on last night as a good night so I hated to cancel. I did call her to let her know I wasn’t feeling well, could not eat much, if anything, and would need to head home immediately after dinner. Despite this, my mother still attempted to push me into ordering more food than I did, to taste some of her dinner and to coerce me into dessert. We also HAD to stop by her house on the way home to get Jeffrey’s gift and pick up some paperwork, neither of which she felt the need to bring with her despite knowing I did not feel well and wanted to go right home after dinner. It was very irritating and illustrates one of the many reasons why I dislike spending any time with my family. There is absolutely zero respect for anything we say or do. They completely ignore whatever we tell them and try to manipulate every single get together to suit their wants and needs no matter how inconvenient or uncomfortable it is for us. Sigh.
My mother also informed us an ex-friend had passed away yesterday. It was someone we were once very good friends with a long time ago who (along with his partner) very clearly and cruelly cut us from his/their life under no uncertain terms for a reason that belied all logic and common sense or rationality to me. They remained close with my Mother, as they live right around the corner from her. She never fully understood, respected or accepted that the friendship was over, nor that they are the ones who ended it. This was nearly 10 years ago and, since the time they ended our friendship, I have been subject to cat calls when we crossed paths in Provincetown or out at local bars and been insulted on line to mutual friends. I have tried to ignore this the entire time (because, really, what can you do?) but, of course, it has always bothered me that they couldn’t just leave me/us in peace. (This seems to be a pattern. People either really like me or really hate me with no in-between, and feel the need to harass me long after the friendship is over, even when they are the ones who end it. Go figure.) Eventually, we crossed their paths less and less and I have not seen either of them in a long time. I was aware that one of them was battling a life-threatening illness, per my Mom’s updates, but never reached out because we were no longer friends so I did not see any point in doing so. I had compassion for what he and his partner were going through and would never have wished this on either of them or anyone for that matter, but we were no longer friends and reaching out to them, in my opinion, would have been akin to walking into a hospital and randomly selecting a person in one of the rooms to express my concern and support for.
I learned from my Mom last week that he had, at best, weeks to live and, at worst, days. On Saturday, I did a search for them both on Facebook and found his partner had an “open” Facebook account that allowed for anyone to read his wall posts and send him messages. I struggled with whether I should send anything, then erred on the side of compassion and sent a small message to him saying that, despite what had gone on in the past between us, I was very sorry for what they were going through and had never wished them anything but happiness. I expressed my deepest sympathies and wished them strength to endure and peace. He responded with a simple “Thank you” and then proceeded to explain, in detail, all the suffering his partner had been through. I did not respond.
He died yesterday. I will not be getting involved any further than I already have. I won’t be attending the service, although I’m debating about whether to send a card. I do feel horrible for them that he has died and that his partner is alone, but only as a human being who feels sympathy for every loss another human being endures, not as a friend.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about this and how I feel about it all. I realize some people feel, as my mother does, that all ill will is washed away when someone is dying or dies, that broken relationships are or should be made whole and that forgiveness is not only expected, but required. I don’t harbor hate for either of them, nor do I feel any sense of happiness over this loss or their suffering. I am not that cruel. But I also feel no sense of obligation to behave as a friend or acquaintance might in this situation because we are no longer either. And that was their choice.
I believe that, if you choose to sever someone from your life and do so in a way that leaves no room for reconciliation and never make any attempt to so do so over the course of years, you have made the conscious choice to end a friendship and source of support from your life and getting sick or dying does not null and void that choice. For me, compassion does not erase all wounds or severed ties; it merely supersedes them for a limited duration out of the respect for another’s loss or pain.
When I am on my death bed, I do not want to see the faces of those who abandoned me, nor of those I have left behind. These are people I have either chosen to part ways with or have chosen to part ways with me and I think, at the very least, we should respect those choices until our dying day. I want to be surrounded by the people who stuck by my side and made it that far with me in life, the ones I truly feel I want to say good-bye to.
And if you think I’m wrong, and that death should allow you the right to erase all past words and actions and call upon people that you have discarded to make amends before you pass, perhaps you should give more thought to those people now, while you are still alive and well. Otherwise, if they’re not worth your efforts in the here and now while all is good, do not expect them to be there when all is not.
I’m just saying.