A survivor e-friend of mine died recently. She had been very, very sick for a long time, but she kept going and she kept going until I thought she might be immortal. She just plain refused to give up and I just plain refused to believe she ever would give up.
In the end, it wasn’t her that gave up, it was her body that gave in. She lay down and her friends came and sat with her and sang her favorite songs and surrounded her with love. And then she slipped away, peacefully. It sounded like a really beautiful death, and I would like to die in a similar way.
I gave something of myself to her after she died. I wrote a letter to her and another to a little that I had been close to. The letters were burned and their ashes buried outdoors in a favorite spot of hers. But I have nothing of hers except for memory of what she was like and verbatim memories of some of our e-mails. (I just now realized I have saved all of her e-mails and also the ones I sent her. So I do have a lot of her!)
I was really surprised at how deep my grief was when I learned she had passed away. I was far more attached than I realized. I cried steadily for several days, and now I am in the crying on-and-off stage. (I am crying now.) The child part of me keeps protesting – “I didn’t want her to die! It’s not fair!” And the adult part simply says, “I miss her.”
Usually when a survivor dies I am very angry, not at the person, but at the cult. So many of our illnesses are caused, directly or indirectly, by the torture we underwent in our childhoods. She was no different from the rest of us in that she was tortured mercilessly. But she happened to die of illnesses that could not be laid at the abusers’ feet. It’s often hard for me to remember that there are plenty of bad things in the world outside the cult and that genetics, infections, auto accidents, all sorts of things, can harm us and they have no connection to the cult.
Of course the cult claimed that they had caused all the awful things in the world and we believed them. Worse yet, they often said we had caused them because we were so evil. The guilt lingered long after we were old enough to realize that the accusation was ridiculous. I have no idea why they felt they had to puff themselves up so much – weren’t they powerful enough and evil enough as it was? I guess they were greedy and wanted all the evil in the whole wide world.
When a survivor dies, I grieve for the survivor community’s loss as well as my own personal loss. We each have a unique voice; there is nobody who can speak for us, speak like us, possess the same wisdom and compassion and beauty. There is a hole in the community that cannot be filled.
One death stir up feelings about other deaths, of course. I’m thinking of Lynn Moss-Sharman and Lynn Wosnak and Vern and Maggie and Julie and Karen Wiltshire and a man whose name I have forgotten who worked for the SPCA and investigated RA cases at the same time and Wendy and Dee and my brother. I think of those I knew who have died but I haven’t learned of their deaths. And then I think of those of us who are limping along and those that are fighting intense emotional and physical pain. I feel filled with sadness.