My Friend Darell
Sometimes, I wonder exactly how much pain one could handle before he/she shatters completely. More than twenty years ago, my husband Richard drowned while surfing in Hawaii. His unexpected death left me devastated and full of guilt. I was supposed to be with him during that vacation. Instead, I put my career as my priority. The incident left me so broken that I feared forming any type of an emotional relationship with another person. When one came along, I pushed away. Then I disappeared. His death also caused my OCD manifestations to surface and at times, I felt as if therapy will always be a major part of my life.
I questioned many times if I would ever recover. Despite the tremendous pain, I forced myself to be a functioning member of society. Surviving would not have been possible without my friends and families and my best friend of 42 years, Dr. Darell Larson.
Two months ago, however, I lost my best friend to prostate cancer. Once again, I was left with tremendous pain, anger, and pure vile thoughts. Darell battled cancer for 5 years. We were prepared that death was inevitable. Yet, the amount of pain that smashed my already scarred heart was unanticipated. I thought I was ready. I thought I was strong. But I broke…and still broken.
Darell and I sacrificed so many things to fight the disease. We donated nearly half of our livelihood to various research organizations. He gave up a medical career in New York to move to San Diego where I could be nearby. He ended a relationship with his girlfriend to spare her the pain of having to take care of him when he became bedbound. Darell knew it would hurt her so, but he was absolutely certain it would wound her more to watch him deteriorate.
Two years ago, Darell saved a young man from my sanity as I was continuing to heal from Richard’s death, fighting my OCD and panic attacks, and balancing my own life and the fact that sooner or later I would lose my best friend. Darell was sure a wounded young lover needed to find someone more stable and he deserved someone he did not have to rescue and care for. I endured this lover’s harsh words when I broke his heart, and I learned to accept the finality of his decisions to let me go. I compartmentalized my emotions yet again for the sake of another. Darell and I were selfish in a way, as we did not want to involve other people in our suffering.
Despite all the decisions we had to make, I am not bitter. We did what we felt we had to do at the time. But I am full of anger that in spite of the sacrifices, losing the possibility of new loves, the philanthropy, the devotion to each other - cancer still won.
But just as I did before, I pick up the pieces…. slowly. I try to reach out. I carry the burden of no longer having Darell around to keep me focused and grounded, and strong. There will be a day when all I would have of him are the bits and pieces of memories – 42 years of beautiful memories.
Today I cried uncontrollably in the bathroom at work. Then I dried the tears. I forced a smile. And tomorrow and the day after….for quite a while…I am sure I would do the same.