I have been very lucky. I haven’t lost any immediate family members within working memory, and have never had to say goodbye to a friend before their time. I have had very little experience with death. However, these past few months have changed that, and I am now acquainted with a type of loss that we do not normally discuss.
When I think of losing someone, I see the face of my sister; I get a startling agony at the very thought of losing her. But the reality is that the loss of close friends and family members is not the type that we will experience most frequently throughout the course of our lives. We are much more likely to lose someone that we used to know, or only met in passing. These losses are very different from the previously described, because the impact is not as immediately apparent.
This year I lost two people with whom I had not spoken for some time. My teacher, who had given me courage and guidance, and a friend who had shown me compassion, had already been absent from my life for a while. Nevertheless, their deaths made me feel an emptiness — like there was a hole in my heart that I didn’t know they had filled.
Knowing that I will never see them again, and knowing that they will no longer be able to share their presences with others as they had with me, filled me with a new kind of loss. It was not a sharp agony; instead it was a gentle emptiness that seeped into in my chest and flooded my mind with reminders of their voices and faces. The impact that they had on me is still alive in my memories.
Since this is all new for me, I catch myself saying that it is silly to miss someone who I haven’t thought about for months or even years; that I only care about them now because they are gone, and that it is selfish to involve myself in other people’s’ tragedies. But that’s simply not true, and I can’t treat myself this way. My feelings are valid and are important to acknowledge.
We don’t talk about these types of losses enough because they seem so insignificant compared to the big ones, but we should because they are relevant to everyone. When you lose someone who has influenced you, no matter how small of a way, you can really feel it. The feelings that result from losing someone from your past should not be discounted or brushed aside with the misconstrued perception of not having known them long enough.
When someone dies, all that is left of them is the impact they had on the world, much of which takes the form of scattered memories. Even if those memories are brief, they are still an important piece of the collection that should be both celebrated and mourned.