Grief and Love; Love and Grief

I’ve been staring at this blank screen for weeks. I want to write. I want, no, I need to write in order to get this grief out of my head/heart and into something more manageable. The fact that I’ve had a worrisome PET, that my new meds are proving complicated to handle, and the fact that the world has gone crazy … these I can handle, sorta.

The awful and wildly overwhelming grief that I need to get out is because my dear friend, Emily Garnett, has died. She took her last breaths on March 29, 2020 and I’ve not been able to fully breathe since.

I “met” Emily online in 2018 and stalked her until she invited me to be on her podcast. I don’t fangirl very often but the outpouring of love and grief at her passing reminded me that she has a lot of fans. We had such fun, laughing and sharing stories. I have two boys and her son and my youngest are probably the same person in different bodies. We bonded about that and how much we have in common, not the least of which was that we’d both been to law school, survived, and went on to use our law degrees in ways that fed our souls.

That was the beginning of many many conversations, so many late at night when insomnia hit us both. We collaborated on projects and had our own snarky exchanges that just hit the spot. She was the first person I told about what was going on with me medically (outside of my family, of course) and we exchanged info on doctors and trials and studies and how to help various people get their needs met. We both love cats and memes that have the word “fuck” in them and our text exchanges were full of those. I keep coming across things that she would love and that’s just another reminder that she’s gone.

I’m an introvert, which basically means that I get energy by being by myself. My husband and I joke sometimes about how awful I am at small talk. Like really awful. I am at my best in deep conversations with a few people or a defined role in a larger group.

That was not Emily. I was not surprised at all when one of the people posting on her timeline about her death was someone she met while taking the bar exam in 2013. In contrast, I didn’t talk to anyone when I took the bar exam. I was also not surprised when so many mutual friends eulogized her and talked about how she was their best friend. Emily was a true extrovert and her energy is part of what drew others to her and the others around her energized her.

Emily was amazing at making each person she was with feel as though that person is the most important person in the world to her. Others have talked about how the entire atmosphere changed when she walked in the room. Others have talked about how her death is like a sudden lack of oxygen in the world.

These are all true.

The first time I met Emily in real life was October of 2019 in DC where we attended the Metavivor Stampede, the METup Die-in, and we both read in the play, IV our lives. I treasure those memories. I will always treasure those memories, especially because there was little sleep and lots and lots of work, work that was worth every trial. The voice of Beth Caldwell in the play will always contain echoes of Emily to me.

When I was pregnant, I kept coming across the line … “having a child means that a part of your heart will always be walking around in someone else’s body.” I’ve definitely found that to be true with both of my boys. And while friendship is very different from having a child, a piece of my heart will always be with Emily.

And that grief, I know, is the price of love.

I love Emily. Not in a romantic way, but in a deeply significant part of my heart and soul. I knew, as we all do in the metastatic community, that since we were both terminal, our relationship would be cut short by death; one of us would die. And I wonder if that makes relationships like these so much more intense, poignant, meaningful. Maybe that’s it. Whatever the explanation, what I know is that her death is hard and it’s overwhelming and it hurts in the deepest part of me.

I’m tempted, at times like this, to pull away from the metastatic community. I’m tempted, at times like this, to protect my heart from being broken over and over. I’m tempted, at times like this, to not connect with other terminal patients, to withdraw. It is in the midst of this overwhelming grief that I am tempted to escape from the possibility of being hurt.

And then I remember how Emily poured into me, how she was always ready with a joke or a meme or an “omg, me too!” comment that just made it all easier and lighter. How she had so many plans that she just couldn’t finish. Her passion for life and her husband and her son and her community.

And I can’t withdraw.

Emily showed all of us how to be all in. She modeled it in so many ways. Her legacy is an example to follow, to celebrate, to emulate.

I love you, Emily, always, and I will never forget what you taught me.

At the conclusion of the METup Die in, October 2019
Tired and worn out from the festivities and about to head home, October 2019.
At the conclusion of the METup Die in with Laura, our editor at advancedbreastcancer.net, where we both write for the metastatic community, October, 2019.
The original cast of IV Our Lives, October 2019

52 thoughts on “Grief and Love; Love and Grief

  1. Sigh.
    Cry.
    She was and is something else indeed. Sorely missed and by your outpouring of love she will remain still in the hearts of those of us still alive

    And you bring up this point – how we all know we are going to die and the choice we make to get closer -a phone call, meetup face to face – is such a great risk. A risk we can’t deny ourselves the reward of…it’s a great risk with a greater reward. No risk no rewards.
    Keep risking and loving and we keep gaining more from one another near and far…we are so profoundly small a group ever changing but I notice the longevity keeps rising by months and by years. When I first was diagnosed in 2015 the lives lost seemed so continuous I didn’t know how I’d keep up with my survivors guilt much less my pain and mourning. But I stay, all in as you say, all in,

    Liked by 5 people

  2. I’m glad I actually went on fb this morning and saw your post to see your beautiful words and let people know just a little bit about what sounds to be such a beautiful person. People like this will always be kept alive by beautiful words such as yours and by the accompanying thoughts that I’m sure are always there by many. I love you my friend and I’m thankful for everything that you’ve taught me personally. You have also changed my life so the fact that Emily changed yours just goes to show how special she is. Her heart and soul will always live on in people like you. I am still truly sorry for your loss and the loss of so many in your community. ❤️❤️😘😘

    Liked by 3 people

      1. There are a very few souls that cross our paths which define our ideals and give us hope or a better direction of life ahead of us. I am interested in listening to your and her podcasts, if any available online. Thanks… stay blessed and strong ❤❤❤

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Agreed. Just as well that you stalked her, she was a blessing as I am sure, you were to her.
      Ps, i stalked Sheila and fifteen years later, she is my best friend. Her praying power and positivity is a beacon to many.
      I wish you strength in the times ahead. 🤗

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a beautiful love letter about your dear friend Emily. I have been worried about you and knew her loss was huge for you. I remember listening to the podcast when she interviewed you . The way you connected w each other seemed special.
    I’m so sorry for your loss. This disease robs us of so much.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi Abigail,

    I didn’t know Emily well, but from my limited interaction with her online, I could tell she was a beautiful person. I’m so honored she wrote a piece for my blog. Thank you so much for this lovely tribute to an amazing woman. She will be dearly missed by many, including me. I’m sorry your heart aches so much. I’m so glad you two had such a special friendship. #WeWillNotForget xx

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Abigail–

    “No Half Measure” came to mind when I read this heart-wrenching piece about your relationship with this very special woman. Despite how hard you find it, especially now, there’s no way you could pull away from what you’re doing because you and Emily shared the same passion for life, people, the community you love and help and nurture, and humanity more broadly.

    Just as you loved and learned from Emily, so, too do we love and learn from you. I am deeply sorry for this grievous loss and glad to have learned a bit about Emily from your tribute.

    Annie

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’m so sorry Abigail. Praying for air when the grief is suffocating and for the sweetness of your friendship with Emily to flood your heart often and long.
    🙏❤️

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Thank you for sharing. I so feel your words even though I never got to meet Emily IRL. In 20+ years of BC advocacy I’ve wanted to retreat into a safe place where I stop having my heart ripped apart again and again. I’ve been blessed to have 4 dear IBC friends whose passing left me gutted. Our relationships were like sisters, each with a unique personality so unlike my own. Yet we connected on such a deeper level than most others. The most recent was Anya, whose poetry peppers the drama IV, Our Lives. In spite of the pain, I’ll endure for the gift of the shared love.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I hear you. I was never privileged to meet Anya but her poetry resonates with me in such a deep level that sometimes I feel as though I do know her. The shared experience makes connections on a much deeper level. Thank you for reading and commenting!! ❤️

      Like

  8. My deepest condolences Abigail. Such friendships are usually entwined by souls, I too know this feeling, I have been there. It is hard but take your time and figure out where you need to be. With the added task of us living with the Coronavirus it physically limits where we go and who we meet. However, Emily will live on forever in whatever you see, do or hear, this is how this once joyful friendship moves on. I know this, I feel this and hopefully you will too. Love and hugs for you Abigail xxx

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I’m so sorry for your loss, Abigail! Friendships like those don’t happen every day. Know that Emily is looking down and smiling on you. Her spirit lives on! Sending loving thoughts and prayers your way! xoxo

    Liked by 2 people

  10. You have experienced a deep loss, unfortunately one that we all deal with at some point in our community of cancer survivors. It’s clear that you’re trying to grow from this loss. Hang in there.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s