I just found out that one of my longstanding clients died today. I am left with sadness and a curious sensation that I do not have the standard outlets of grief. Having clients, I suppose is similar to having colleagues. Our relationships are based on the work that we do. We forge friendships which have a particular container.
Given that my work has mostly been one on one with people, the friendships that I have with my clients are intimate and they stand alone. In this moment as I am thinking about this person who was so dear to me for many years, I have no one to cry with, no one to remember her with, no one to talk about just how special I felt to have her in my life. It strikes me as rather strange. But perhaps this is just how death is. The emptiness that is there when a person is no longer with us is universal, only the particulars vary.
In my case, today, I have this space that I’ve created here on the internet. And I am grateful for it. To have a little place to carve out some time for grieving, is important in this world of ours that tries so desperately to ignore sadness and grief. As this friend of mine has been facing today for the past few months (she was diagnosed with cancer and knew that her days were most likely few), I too have been considering these moments that I am now living. I interpret them with my own ideas of death and of spirit and sometimes I just wonder how all those ideas measure up to the reality of it all.
That’s another funny thing about the sort of intimacy with strangers that typifies the Pilates instructor’s relationship to her (or his) clients: while there is a closeness, there is also a clear boundary. That makes it easy for me to hold a space in my heart for this friend to just be what she needs to be and die how she needs to die. I have no demands of her, I have no expectations other than for her to be herself in life and in death. Which also makes the grief itself feel rather vacuous.
All I know is that she is gone and I cannot believe it. I cannot imagine that my son will not see her again. Her’s was one of the first names that he said, he was always so happy to see her, and she him. And while I made sure to write her a letter, so that I would not think of words unsaid and so that she would know of my love for her as she faced a great challenge, I am left with a small regret. She wanted to give my son a little present, something from her purse that he and she would look at every time she was in the studio. And when she offered, I said no, not yet. Surely we will see you again.
Saying goodbye is strangely indefinite. Even in the most definite of cases. As in all aspects of life all we can do is our best and trust our hearts to do the rest.