Tonight the mother of one of my oldest and dearest friends (E.) died after a long illness. She died at home and, as much as it is possible, on her own terms. She’s someone that I’ll always remember with a smile on her face, dancing at E’s wedding. She loved and was loved well. It feels incredibly unfair that she’s gone. She didn’t make it to 70 and that is some bullshit.
I’m not quite sure how to best be a good friend to E. right now. She lives far away and there isn’t a memorial scheduled yet. I feel like I’m in new territory here — I don’t think I’ve had a friend lose a parent before. Grandparents, sure. But not parents. It makes me feel an uncomfortable sense that I’m entering a new phase of life. In the last roughly two decades, the milestones in my friend’s lives have largely been weddings and babies. Those are easy milestones. Happy milestones. Sure, they can be expensive (I’m not sure I’d ever want to calculate how much money I’ve spent on bridesmaid dresses, travel costs, gifts, etc) but they are largely joyful.
But now I’m almost 40 and I don’t have any friend’s planning weddings anytime soon. I do, however, have a few planning for divorces in the next year, including some people I remember dancing with at their weddings. I know a few folks having babies, but they are mostly younger coworkers. My friends have mostly moved past the baby phase. A few of them are creeping into having teenagers. Several of them have parents who are ill are declining. These are much less joyful milestones and I need to figure out what friendship looks like in this phase of life. Everyone seems busier now, my friends live all over the country, we’re all crawling with kids and it makes dropping everything to be there — physically there — harder than it used to be.
Sometimes I feel like I’m the exact same person I was when E. and I met when we were both 21 and starting our grown-up lives together. Mostly I’m glad I’m not still 21. I’m happier, more content, less dramatic then I was back then. I like being a mom. I like being financially stable. I wouldn’t go back to being in my 20’s if I had the chance. I’m just not sure what I think almost 40 is supposed to feel like. Mostly I wish that it didn’t seem like there was some really hard stuff waiting ahead for people I love.