78 Notes to Self: A Tarot Journal

We are all wanderers on this earth. Our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Death Waits

It was a gorgeous spring Sunday that felt very much like summer. While I was relaxing at home, the phone rang with an unfamiliar number on the caller ID. I let the voicemail receive it and heard, "Ginny, it's Caitlin...you need to call me, it's about Mom." Her mother was in poor health and I assumed she was probably in the hospital and she was calling me because I live in the same town. I'm close by, accessible, and can more easily offer assistance when needed. I was not prepared to hear her say, "Mom passed away this morning."


And the Tower crashed and burned and I fell from the windows.

"Yes, Ginny, yes...she did."

The third sword pierced my heart and in that instant my heart bled tears of overwhelming grief and a cry of agony escaped my lips as if that sword was an actual steel blade invading my chest cavity.

Jonna was my friend. For thirty years we shared our lives, from the halls of the high school we attended together, through boyfriends and lovers, marriages (my two, her one), our children's births (my four, her two), moving houses, through her mother's serious illness, her father's death, my divorces, our friendship remained.

Our relationship embodied the 2 of cups, the 3 of cups, the 5 of swords, the 5 of wands, the 6 of cups, the Sun, the Moon, the Wheel, the Fool. She was the Queen of Cups and I the Queen of Swords. We sometimes clashed and I'd get pointy and she would cry and pout. Yes, she drank too much, too. Her favorite tarot card from all my decks was always, without fail, the Ace of Cups. She wore her emotions on her sleeve, her face, her whole self was one big emotion. Her laughter was hearty and contagious, her tears deep with sorrow. When she felt something, it was big. My mother had a phrase for people like her. She'd say, "They're just too too!" The woman was intense. My airy Libra self needs people like her. I do seem to gravitate towards watery folks. They keep me in touch with my own emotions even if I do tend to wonder what all their fuss is about.

In the last week since she died, I have experienced a wide range of emotions and thoughts that, were I to align them to tarot cards, not one of them would align with Death. Our friendship hasn't ended. It still lives on as long as I live to love her. It has changed, yes. I won't be able to call her with some silly bit of daily, mundane news or frustration. I won't hear her voice on the other end of the phone anymore. I won't be wrapped up in her deep, soothing hug. I won't share another toast, a cigarette, a moment when we look at each other and just know what the other is thinking. I hope to see her again, but until then, this part of our relationship is different. But it isn't over. I still remember. I still love.

This is why, I think, the Death card doesn't often show up to herald physical death. Maybe the Tower. Maybe the Wheel. Maybe even the 6 of Swords. But not Death. Because although her physical life has ended, the reading would have been mine, not hers. What I am experiencing is a kind of ending, yes, but more a change, a hurt, a loss, sadness, a rush of memories, a need to connect with old friends, a grief. There are many other cards that better describe what I am feeling and doing and Death isn't one of them. Five of Cups is a big one. I am for sure feeling a whole lot of regret and deep, painful sadness.

I don't know how to do this, to lose my best friend. We had a rather rocky relationship and had grown a bit distant these last two years. That was my doing. As her health declined, those that loved her tried persistently to help her to help herself. She was still drinking, still addicted to prescription pain meds. Depressed, she spent most of her days in bed. She laughed less and cried more and when she would call I wouldn't pick up the phone until she left a voicemail so I could see if she was sober or not. She had verbally attacked me last year for not calling her when I had actually left several voicemails on her phone. Afterwards, she didn't remember yelling at me. It had begun to feel crazymaking. I knew she was losing some of her self. I couldn't bear it. Then other times she would call, sober, and we'd talk as if nothing was different. She would remember things. We would get all caught up on each others' lives and then get silly and stupid and laugh just like we always do. The last time I saw her I helped her do her nails, gave her a pedicure, and helped her choose her outfit for her daughter's rehearsal dinner. I guess it was my own denial that wouldn't allow me to really take in the seriousness of her condition. I remember her daughter holding her mother's face in her hands and saying, "Mom, look at me. I need you to BE HERE with me tomorrow. (Her wedding day) If you can't be with me I don't want you there at all. I'm not trying to be ignorant. I'm not trying to be mean. I NEED YOU. BE WITH ME. BE HERE." Caitlin looked at me and I could see the desperate worry in her eyes. I understood, but I knew Jonna. She was a fighter, a survivor. She could drink any drunk under the table and still dance on top of it. She had tried to overdose on her pain meds before and couldn't. I said, "Don't worry, Caitlin. She will be fine."

And she was. She attended her daughter's dinner and wedding. She stayed sober. Her husband lost his job and with it went the health insurance. She couldn't get her pain meds, so her addiction was broken. I talked with her last Friday night. We were supposed to get together the next day. I said, "I sure wish you were here so we could have a drink." I knew she was an alcoholic, but I also knew she wouldn't stop drinking, so if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. She said, "I don't really do that so much anymore."
"Really?" I asked, incredulous.
"Yeah, well...it causes...problems." I knew instantly she meant problems with her husband.
"Yeah, I bet it does!" I said.
"I still do, every now and then, but not so much."
"Well good. I can't wait to see you tomorrow."
"Ok hon, I'll call you when we're on our way, so you'll know when to be there."
"Perfect," I said, "We'll catch up then."
"Ok, I love you, hon."
"I love you, too. Bye."

I do. I love her still. So it is not Death. It is not over. Maybe I'll see the Death card before I go, but for now, he will have to wait until our friendship ends. If I have anything to say about it, he's going to wait a good long time. I think the Death card doesn't show up for us when we might expect it to because if there is still one person carrying on, the relationship is not dead. If we had ended our friendship, yes, Death comes in. Now, I still believe Death does and can mean literal, physical death, and I think it does show up in some readings to mean just that. But see, that's obvious. We wonder more why it didn't show, why we didn't get the obscene and blatant warning. Besides the fact that even a tarot warning would not have sounded as loud as her declining physical, mental and emotional state anyway, the experience of her death has been anything and everything but an ending. Or maybe I'm still in denial. It doesn't really feel like denial. I know she's gone, I accept it. I am grateful she is now no longer in pain, she is at peace, she is with her beloved grandmom and dad. I will miss her and yet I accept that she is gone from me now. It's just that it doesn't feel like it's over...because I remember my friend's love for me and know that part, the important part, lives on.