One of the many hard things about grieving is that you have to say a lot of goodbyes. It’s not just the big one of letting go of the lost loved one (llo); it’s also the little byes like having to let go of the fantasy of having some special object to hold onto that connects you to the deceased. I am coping with this micro-loss right now. You see, my good friend died of colon cancer and she had a lot of stuff. Not any old stuff, but fine quality pieces she accumulated through years of hard work at jobs she sometimes hated. She had also acquired some beautiful clothes from her father’s sister that she wore with pride and a sense of being embraced by her favorite aunt. This foxy woman had vintage dresses and classic slacks, eclectic earrings and pots that made your food succulent even if you weren’t a good cook. She had miles and miles of books and most importantly, a book of photos she had composed of the two of us hugging and smiling and dancing. Just the two of us. I always felt so proud, so cherished each time I opened that book and glimpsed snips of our long friendship right there before my eyes. The first picture in the little book is us in her kitchen, glowing, in an extravagant embrace. I am sporting a sassy short haircut, she is glistening, her long hair fresh-pressed, colored ginger. We are 20 and we know we will live forever. There is a cake behind us (red velvet) that I’m sure I made and that I’m sure we devoured soon after the camera’s flash faded and died. Then one fine summer day, she passed away. (Whap. Thunk. Sound of curtain closing) and all I wanted was for her to come back to me. Since I couldn’t have that, I was willing to settle for the book. So I went to her split level condo to find it one year later but I didn’t see it. (Whap. Thunk. Soft sound of my tears trickling). It felt like she died a second time, like our thirty-year friendship had been nothing but a dreamy mirage flashed in front of me to keep me breathing. In my mind I was a maniac standing in the middle of rush hour traffic yelling “I had this friend. She loved me. She made a book of us, all our pictures. She sure did. See!” but only dust is in my hands. Now I am hurting, the wound of losing her reopened. Damn. If only I could have that photo album I’d have her back or at least I’d have proof that I have loved and known what it’s like to be adored, captured in color, smiling forever. So I guess what is left is me and my memories and the lessons she taught me all intangible I must, in the days to come, figure out how to be with my friend in a new way without photos to mark the spot where we once were. I suspect that most of us who grieve must do so without the aid of stuff we can hold in our hands. We just have to tuck our tails and walk as if our llo’s are still there, even without evidence. It’s so hard. This altered living. Like show and tell with nothing to show. Smoking mirrors. The love we swear we shared feeling like nothing but illusion, nothing at all.