At a Loss

There are times when being a writer completely sucks.

The father of a good friend of mine passed away this week.  It is the first family member my friend has lost to whom he was close.  His wife called to ask if I might help write the obituary because they were all at a loss for words.  I said I’d be happy to help.  Of course, I’m not. Not really.  I wrote my own father’s obituary.

It has been a painful week. My daughter and I raced to the hospital on Monday because she had received a call that one of her best friends was dying.  He had been put on life support the week before, but we were all very optimistic that he’d pull through.  He’d fought a valiant battle against leukemia before. Leukemia won this time.  We sat in a room with more than 70 other people who had come to say their good-byes and to support this young man’s family.  His name is Danny. He and my daughter had known each other since elementary school.  He was a good kid.  He would have been a good man, but he didn’t get that chance. I marvel that, for all of our amazing advances in science and technology, a young man like Danny can still die because his body turned against him and we have nothing more than poison and radiation to treat him.

I had the privilege of saying good-bye along with many others.  It was an amazingly generous thing for his family to offer to Danny’s friends at time when their pain had to have been unbearable.  It was clear, standing by his bedside, watching the machines that were keeping him alive as they whirred and clicked, that Danny had already gone home.  And my heart ached to see his father holding his hand, fully aware that miracles were beyond calling anymore.

In the small conference room where we were all gathered, young girls stood in small bunches, their arms wrapped around each other as tears streamed down their cheeks.  Danny’s girlfriend looked pale and lost and seemed much more a little girl than the young woman I know.  She leaned against her mother as great sighs caused her chest to rise and fall.

My own daughter talked with friends, wrapped her arms around Danny’s brother and cried on his shoulder. Her pain was palpable and it filled me with such anguish that I could not help but cry for her.  We all sat in hushed vigil, awaiting the inevitable.

When the family came into the room with the news of Danny’s passing, it felt as if the vacuum of space had forced the life out of all of us. We didn’t care that he hadn’t suffered.  We were not comforted in knowing that he survived less than a minute once the machines stopped living for him.  The loss of a good boy, a truly genuine young man, overpowered us and left us empty.

Last night I awoke at 4 in the morning to find my daughter still awake. We talked for more than an hour about the injustice of life, about the difference in grieving for a grandparent as compared to grieving for a friend. The only words I could offer her were platitudes at best.  “This part sucks,” I said.  “And even though it will be better, I can’t tell you when that will be because it will take time before it stops hurting so much that your ache all the time.”

The funeral is on Friday. I don’t know that I will have found anything better or more comforting to say by then.  Danny was a wonderful young man and he was loved very deeply by so very many people that there just are not words to represent what’s been taken.  I hope this week holds no more surprises. I can’t take too much more.


3 thoughts on “At a Loss

  1. Karen says:

    Kim, death and illness don’t know how to play favourites, do they? That’s certainly a tough week. We’ve had health issues too. We just found out today that our perfectly healthy 3-year-old has leaking heart valves and needs open heart surgery to repair them. As a parent, watching your kids hurting is worse than hurting yourself, be it physically or emotionally.

  2. Kim Justesen says:


    My thoughts and prayers are with you. There is no pain like that we feel for our children. We expect to endure our own suffering and loss, but having to watch our children experience compounds the discomfort. Much love to you and your family. Do keep me posted on your 3-year-old’s progress.


  3. drtombibey says:

    I have never gotten used to the pain, esp when it is a young person. Of course I did not know him, but my prayers are with you folks.

    Dr. B

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