(The title of this blog entry is from a Neil Young song. It says so much in just a few words. Our hearts wouldn’t break if we didn’t love so deeply.)
If I were asked to describe my relationship with Brittney, I would have to say there are too many words and not enough all at the same time.
Of course, everyone’s relationship with Brittney was unique. While she had many familiar quirks, to spend any amount of time with her was intense and personal. Her sister explained it best when she said it was easy to feel that Brittney, “was mine.”
I had very few “casual” times with Brittney. We had our fun (I can still hear her laugh), but most of our interactions were a raw, powerful outpouring of our struggle with the human condition. It was because of these interactions we either became closer, or at times became weary of each other because we knew too much.
Through this process of grieving and attempting to understand, I have come to believe that Brittney was so connected and so acutely aware of spiritual matters that it became difficult for her to pretend. It was also this connected awareness that led her to help others. She knew she had a gift, a knack and a purpose.
My casual interactions with Brittney involved music, food, laughter and art. Our more in depth interactions included music, food, laughter and art. Our conversations ranged from silly to spiritual, ethical to political, and intellectual to deeply personal. We provided shelter and comfort to each other, resting in the knowledge that we were not alone in this crazy confusion of life.
Brittney challenged me constantly. If I asked her a question, I rarely got a straight answer. Sometimes, in fact, her responses felt like puzzles I had to put together or take apart. Maybe she would give me everything BUT the answer so I would have to arrive at my own conclusion.
My biggest regret? The last time she tried to get a hold of me, I didn’t call her back. She didn’t want to force herself on me and perhaps she thought she had become a burden. The truth? Our relationship was so intense and involved, it was difficult to find time to continue our self-analysis. Admitting that is embarrassing and sad. I didn’t have enough time or energy for more than a casual relationship? What a poor excuse – and yet, I don’t know if I could have done it any different.
Brittney introduced me to a variety of new experiences and was my biggest champion for spiritual growth. She took me to pow wows, art shows, medicine men and healers. We went for drives and listened to endless music. After one drive in particular, she dedicated the song “Perfect Day” by Lou Reed to our experience.
She loved Elvis, which I always found odd. She never liked to be mainstream about anything, yet . . . Elvis? (I secretly thought it had something to do with the fact that her brother had Elvis hair.) While she did enjoy some of Elvis’ mainstream music (we would sing Suspicious Minds to each other) she explained to me that she loved his gospel music and she enjoyed reading about his various spiritual experiences while taking mood altering chemicals.
Her preference in entertainment would be a foreign film titled, “Dreams,” or a movie about a spiritual quest such as, “Into the Wild.” However, I remember once we sat and watched “Old School Sesame Street” episodes and, “Facts of Life.” She loved nostalgia and found humor in the way society used to instruct it’s younger generation. We shared a love of The Muppets and “Rainbow Connection” became our anthem.
Brittney got up late and stayed up late. I remember countless nights thinking to myself, “We can only visit until 11:00 and then I have to go to bed.” I would usually end up putting my head on my pillow at 2:00 a.m. and waking up for work the next morning.
I can’t even remember all the places we helped her move in and out of. In fact, I wish I could remember more, because as we packed, she explained the meaning of each item. Everything had meaning to Brittney. If it didn’t have meaning, she didn’t keep it. Perhaps this is why she loved to give gifts. It was her mission to find something meaningful to the person receiving it. And not only physical items. Sometimes she would simply see something that reminded her of someone and she would share that moment with them the next time she saw them.
Brittney wrestled with herself a lot, but didn’t want anyone to know except a select group of people. She used to look at me with amazement, wonder and skepticism. She didn’t understand how or why I would want to put my issues out in the open to become “public property.” She read my blog and would email her responses. I wrote a blog entry about taking grief personally and how it can feel lonely grieving for someone. Brittney responded with an in-depth, heartfelt and comforting piece. I have felt so blessed to have those words from her – to comfort myself after her passing, but also to comfort the many, many people who loved and continue to love her. (P.S. Brittney, this is a good example of why I put my issues out there for everyone to see. We wouldn’t have your insightful words if I hadn’t shared my struggle with you.)
I believe there isn’t any aspect of my life that Brittney didn’t touch in some way. This makes it difficult and easier all at the same time. So many things remind me of her and I am sad that I can’t share them with her again. At the same time, I am happy to have so many reminders of her full and lively spirit.
This is becoming lengthy, but I’m afraid to end it. It has been such a relief to finally write about my friend. It almost felt like she was here with me, offering her resounding, “Ha!”, making snide comments, contradicting some things, giving me as someone described it, “The North Eye.”
I do know this, Brittney believed in an afterlife. She believed all the experiences we had with one another became part of us. If anyone were able to express her presence, it would be Brittney. Some people might not believe in that, but she did.
It is becoming easier to accept that she is at peace. While I think any of us would fight tooth and nail to keep her alive and with us, she accomplished more than most, despite her struggles and young age. I would like to say her work was done, but I have a sneaky feeling she will continue her work . . . just in a different capacity.
(When I began writing this, it was dark and cloudy. When I finished, the sun broke through the clouds.)