When my best friend unexpectedly passed away a few years ago, I was left reeling with shock. I was overcome with numbness and disbelief. I was still fast asleep on a Saturday morning when the call came through that she had passed away the previous night. Not only was I in complete bewilderment, but I was convinced that I was stuck right in the middle of a shattering and horrifying nightmare that I could not wake up from! I called every single person that knew her, and each response and every reaction was the same. Through curdling screams of terror and shattering cries, one by one they all confirmed that it was true; my best friend had suffered a massive and fatal heart attack; I just did not want to hear it and I refused to believe it.
How could I? She was only 46 years old! How did nobody see this coming? How did she not see this coming? Who suffers a massive and fatal heart attack at the age of 46? They all say that there were no symptoms or indications. How does a healthy, strong and fit 46-year-old woman suffer such an enormous heart attack without warning?
Over the next few days, I was in a complete daze. I simply could not fathom that she was gone. It was not possible. When the autopsy results came back, I was left with even more questions than answers. It was, in fact, a heart attack that took her so unexpectedly from us. A big one; one they could not have brought her back from. They had no answers as to what exactly caused her heart attack but cited an entire list of probabilities and assumptions. It could be sudden weight gain or sudden weight loss; it could be prolonged use of contraception, it could be protracted use of anti-depressants, it could be as simple as lifestyle, and so the list went on and on. I was frustrated! We had no definite answers; her daughter and son had no answers while her husband was left devastated by his loss. Seeing them in so much agony, crushed my already numb heart! I had to do something!
So, my journey began wherein I was determined to figure out all that had led up to these unfortunate events. I wanted to know how a young 46 year old mother of two suddenly suffers a fatal heart attack. There were really no indications at all that it was coming, nothing to warn any one person that she was about to die. I stared at the ceiling at night long after everyone else had gone to bed. I spent hours in front of my laptop and did my very best to research anything that could bring on such an enormous heart attack; anything that could actually point me in the right direction. I learnt about weight loss and weight gain. I read of contraception and its long-term side effects. I taught myself everything there was to know about antidepressants. She was never sick. Other than giving birth to her two children, she had never been admitted to hospital for any reason at all. She was energetic. She was young. She was healthy. There was nothing about her lifestyle that could indicate that this was about to happen to her. I was lost and desperate for answers. I was so sure that the moment I could figure it all out, we could fix what was wrong, and she would come back. I was so sure that if we could just get to the bottom of what really caused her death, we could go back and stop it from ever happening. From the bottom of my heart, I believed we could. I watched her husband and children grieve; I watched my children grieve and all I wanted was to tell them that it would be alright. I wanted to tell them that any day now, we would have figured it all out. We could and would fix it!
Eleven months after she had passed away, I woke up one morning overwhelmed by an intense sadness. A hurt that I felt deep into my soul. There was nothing to look for anymore; there was nothing to find. There were no more answers; nothing left to fix that would bring her back. There was nothing I could do. I kept thinking that too much time had passed, I took too long and I wasted too much time; she would never be coming back to us now. She was gone. She had been gone for almost a year. I had desperately clung to a magical way of thinking for eleven months while hoping and praying for her to come home to us. Someone I had spoken to about my “way of thinking” brought me a book called, “The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion”. When I read her book, I was flung into such an overwhelming kind of sadness, but I finally understood how it was that I thought I could bring her back. I realized for the very first time that she was gone…forever. Someone had given “my way of thinking” a name, and I was not alone or crazy. I was normal. I was grieving.
Five years later, I am left with a lifetime of memories of her; I am left with a thousand stories with her in it. I am left with days that were. I am left with smiles and laughter, but I am also left with a penetrating longing and sadness for her. I just always thought that there was time; that we had more time. But, I am also left with a profound yearning for “my year of magical thinking”. I miss it. I miss that I thought she could magically come back. I miss the numbness I felt as I frantically searched for clues and answers. I miss the idea that I would see her again. I miss how possible and magical it all seemed then, during “my year of magical thinking”.