People always say, “just take it one day at a time.”
There are tons of songs about this adage too. Taking it a day at a time. I’d never given it much thought, until I found myself in ground-breaking, earth shattering pain I couldn’t even begin to comprehend. I lost a very dear friend to cancer 13 months ago, who was re-diagnosed with spinal cancer after only 3 months of remission. Mind you, he put up a good fight, a good 5 years.
We had chemistry in high school, but he said he was too shy to ask me out then and he didn’t know I actually liked him too. With time, we drifted, until I saw a Facebook post on his birthday in 2011. That was the first time he spent his birthday in hospital. You couldn’t see he was ill unless you knew him well. That was when we reconnected. We talked every single day. Even my Mother knew about him. Smiso. At first, I believe I thought my feelings were out of pity. Being diagnosed at the age of 19, a brain tumor that almost killed him. It was sad. But time proved that it wasn’t pity. Or they had grown beyond pity. But I loved him. And then I found out that he had gone through the same uncertainty, of whether what he was feeling was real or just attachment, given our relationship.
He came home for a week in 2014. We went out three times. Just us. It was fun. We talked about everything else but cancer. The third time we met, two days before he had to leave again to continue his treatment, we had a picnic of sorts. Cheap and impromptu. We lay on the grass at the park like children, and talked. And talked. He told me that day. That he loved me. I seemed to have forgotten to breath when I heard him say that because he also had to tell me to breath a few seconds later. It was a beautiful moment in time.
That was the first time I had felt loved, needed. I knew he loved me, without a shadow of a doubt. And I loved him, truly. He went down as the first boy I loved. But does that count as my first love? Hmm…
Anyhow, after he died, I obviously broke down. I felt myself break. I was alone, in a foreign country, mourning for my friend, my love. Normal was painful. Normal was shattered. I had to adjust to this new normal. It was horrible. And the friends back home that knew about him reached out to send their condolences; none of which could comfort me in any way. And that was when I was told to take it a day at at time.
I wanted to scream! I mean, what does that even mean?? A day at a time?!
My mother was with me though, I spoke to her daily for about a month after. She took time from work and went to the memorial and his funeral. She came back and told me all about it. She let me cry for a long time. And as my cries died down, she said softly, “I saw for myself exactly why you were in love with him… He was very easy on the eyes too!”
That successfully lifted my spirits for a few days. Someone, my mother, understood just why I was so broken by the loss. He wasn’t just my friend, nor was he my lover. But he was my love.
Then she told me I should take it a day at a time. I made it a point to find my own meaning to those words. And after a few weeks, I had found my own definition of those words, almost as if to replace the meaning I didn’t know.
To me, taking it a day at a time means literally taking it a day at a time. I rationed my tears. I’d cry and then, tell myself I should save some tears for tomorrow. I would almost count the hours, until midnight, and then cry if I felt I needed to. I found that by doing that, I cried less. And then after a long time, I stopped counting the hours until the next day. I had insomnia for a long time after his death, but I slowly cried myself to sleep less. Also in an endeavor to look more human when I went for lectures at the university; puffy eyes are not a look I can pull gracefully!
Slowly, I smiled as I cried. Because although I don’t believe in people who pass away being in Heaven, as per the Bible, I understood he had rested from his fight. He had indeed fought a good fight, didn’t allow the dearth in his body kill his spirit. He still smiled, and laughed, send me random videos of moments in his day and I’d do the same. We cared, we loved and we understood, that although the cancer would surely be the death of him, each day was another day to be glad for.
He took it one day at a time. He was happy to be alive. I was happy he was alive. We were happy, taking it a day at a time; because the day was good, because the day was bad, because the day was good enough. We took it one day at a time, until there were no days…