Yesterday, I learned that one of my mentors from undergrad had passed away. He was the conductor of the orchestra, in which I played viola, the person who taught me how to be a professional musician. As a friend who was also influenced by this mentor put it, he “made me feel like not just a student, but an artist.”
I don’t think there are words to say how sad this news makes me. But at least there are points of comfort. Facebook is swamped by pictures of former students with our beloved mentor. Memories, so many memories are being shared. Banji and I have been reminiscing with each other. I’m hoping there will be some kind of memorial service where we’ll be able to pay our respects. I doubt all the former students who come will fit on the stage at once. A great person. A great, full life. So many people changed for the better because they knew him. Not really much to mourn, but we’ll do some of that too, because it’s human nature.
I’m angry because now that’s 2 people who were important to me, dying in the same year. Dying less than 5 months apart, actually. And quite suddenly, from my perspective. At the same time as I’m struggling with other difficult shit. WTF, Universe?!
Sometimes I wonder if I’m cursed. Or if I’m being punished for something. What could I have done to deserve experiencing so much loss, so many deaths, over the course of my short life? Eleven deaths in less than thirty years, and that’s only counting the ones that were particularly significant to me (not loved ones of loved ones).
Most of why I’m angry is because I’m scared. Who else will die? Might the mentors from high school whom I often think I should contact, but then forget about, have already died? What about my other mentors from undergrad? The people I love, any one of them could die at any time. Which brings pain, sadness, mourning, people coming together and bringing with them all their complex, conflicting emotions. Having to deal with my own intense, complex, conflicting emotions. The risk of going on autopilot again and not being able to interact genuinely with my loved ones, they way I want to. Knowing I’ll never get to talk to the deceased person again, tell them how much they mean to me, or even say goodbye.
And the guilt. How can I live my life, make my decisions about what to do, whom to spend time with, if I’m so afraid that the person will die?
I don’t remember the last time I saw my uncle alive. I think it was Christmas. I don’t particularly remember our interaction. I was happy to see him, of course. But I just kind of took it for granted that he was there, and always would be. And now he’s gone.
I do remember the last time I saw my mentor. He was high on the energy of having just finished conducting a concert, which I had enjoyed as a member of the audience. He seemed incredibly happy to see me. It’s a fond memory, but a guilt-ridden one, too. I had asked him about coming back to play with the orchestra as an alum – a proposition he really seemed to like – then never followed up.
Any possibility of apologizing for that, any chance of making up for it, any chance of playing in an orchestra he’s conducting ever again … all of it, gone. I had my reasons for making the choice I did, at the time when I made it. But I regret not contacting him again, never going to see him again, and I’m sad and angry that now there’s nothing I can do … except attend the memorial service, if it happens. I haven’t heard of there being any plans for one yet.
In the meantime, I don’t know what I want to do. I feel a drive to pick up my viola again, to play it more, maybe even find an orchestra to join, so I can play on in his memory. I want to improvise or possibly even compose something in honor of him. I want to dive headlong into my dream of composing music professionally – which beings with composing music, period. And I want to shut it all out by playing The Sims 3 or Oblivion or watching Star Trek: Voyager – anything to take my mind off of things, keep me from feeling all this pain.
The images of knives cutting into me are coming back again, and my sleep cycle has been shattered. I’m too tired, too close to tears, to fight it. Time just keeps passing, I’m doing nothing with my life, and people keep dying. How long until I just fade away?
I’m so sorry for your loss. And I’m sorry that you’ve had to lose so many people in your short life. That would be hard for anyone. It’s not fair.
But I don’t think you’re cursed, or being punished. Sometimes things that are completely unfair, that are horrible and sad, just *happen* to good people, people who don’t deserve it. You have never done anything to deserve this. You are a *good person*.
You’re right that humans are only mortal, and that anyone could die at any time, but you’re also right that thinking about this all the time is not a very good way to live. I understand the impulse, with the experiences you’ve had. It’s a natural reaction to having experienced so many loved ones die. I know this will be hard, and you may not be able to do it now (because you’re still mourning; which is for the record, to be expected and ok, so take all the time you need), but it might be helpful in the future to think about the time that you *do* have with these people. Think about all your happy memories with them, and how fortunate you are to have had these people in your life, even though they weren’t in your life forever. After all, quality is more important than quantity.
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