The mother of a long time friend (she and her husband are among the handful of couples from my former life who have remained loyal friends) died late last week as the result of a freak accident at her home. In going to the wake today, I found myself suddenly surrounded once more by people and scenes from the past. Both my friend and her mother's homes are in the neighborhood where I lived for 18 years during my married life in the closet. Moreover, the church where the wake/funeral was held is the Roman Catholic parish I attended for all those years as well as the church where my sister's funeral was held in April, 2001. As a result, I was surrounded by former neighbors who knew me from my civic league activities, neighborhood pool board membership and presidency, and charter member status of the church's Knights of Columbus Council. It felt most bizarre in many ways, not the least of which was seeing my friend's mother - who I had know fairly well - in her casket.
One thought that hit home was that life is so fleeting and that we truly do not know how many days or hours we have left. Any number of things can turn your life upside down or end it when least expected. It caused me to yet again vow to live my life so that I enjoy the present and do not put off life and love to the future. Living in the moment is all we really have for certain.
Secondly, I has hit by how important true friendships are as well as how rare they can be in life. Out of the entire crowd, my friend and her husband were the only ones who had proved themselves to be real, true friends. They love me gay or straight and I know they always will. The rest? Just acquaintances passing in the course of life and more concerned with what others think than standing up and making their own judgments and decisions. Are they bad people? I truly do not think so. Rather, they are what my therapist called the "sleep walkers" who go through the motions of life based on what they believe is expected of them. "Seeing better" now, I realize that I was one of those sleep walkers for many years.
The third thing that struck me was how little has changed in the rhythm of the old neighborhood community. Yes, children have gotten older and acquaintances are aging - in some cases not well at all so that I felt I looked pretty damn good even - but so many seem to be playing the same old game of worrying about appearances, keeping up with the Jones if you will, and not living authentically. Could I go back to that existence? Never. I'd soon die or kill myself. It's like a cotton candy world. Pretty and fluffy, but devoid of substance - something my youngest daughter had remarked on a month or two back. In many ways, I feel I have lived more in the last 6 years than in many times that number of years previously. Yes, the last six years have been tumultuous at times and I have lost much financially. But in recompense, I have found my soul and the ability to be comfortable in my own skin. All in all, a pretty good trade off.