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The conclusion of a three-part series by Maureen Shockey on being a young person suddenly confronted with the responsibilities of death. To catch up, read part one here and part two here.


In the thick of all of this, I began to notice an unsettling and analogous pattern of isolation developing in my own life. Friends kept away. Family became frustrated with me. With the exceptions of my partner, a handful of friends, and maybe three family members, things had suddenly become very quiet on the Western front.

I realized that I, the grieving, had become nearly as isolated and disquieting as the dying.

Tumbleweed rolling

Now, I understand that people have limits, and that death is a terrifying, looming spectre over the lives of most people. I don’t much relish losing people either. But I argue that a balance should be struck between one’s own fears of mortality and one’s giving of succor to another in need.

By the same token, the grieving should make an effort to not exceed the limits of those who stick around to offer support. Sadness can be overwhelming in large doses, and I realized because my outlets were so few, I was overloading them. Even my partner, who is exceptionally understanding and responsible, began to reflect my stress in his own life after months of my confiding in him.

I realized that if I were to keep my precious few supporters, I had to find a way of sublimating the sadness, the isolation, and frustrations of my life into another outlet, so that the burden shouldered by others wouldn’t be quite so heavy.

Thankfully, I’m an artist. And catharsis can be beautiful.

Maureen Shockey

I poured my feelings into pen and paper and felt a bit better. I read, took walks, and even took pictures of my action figures to make me laugh, and felt better still. Things weren’t rosy by any stretch of the imagination, but keeping busy and keeping my woes bite-sized for the stalwart few around me certainly made things less bleak.

Lesson learned: you can bitch as much as you like to an action figure and they won’t mind. Haven’t heard any complaints from the books or trees either. And the people that stick around when you’re not at your best — it’s a real litmus test of character. They’re the ones you make the effort to keep around so you can return the favor someday.

Now, about that visit.

Grima was getting sicker and sicker, and I made up my mind, by hook or by crook, that I would visit him before time ran out for us. Thing is, it’s hard to book a flight across time zones when you’re unemployed.


I created a Facebook event offering tarot readings (a longtime hobby of mine) for a range of prices — and holy crap! People really came through. My idea to visit had been shot down by my family as foolish or frivolous with my non-income, and although I had set my mind on it, I doubted that I’d make enough for anything resembling an airplane ticket, let alone food and cab fare. Color me shocked when friends told friends, shared my event if they couldn’t help out, or even donated without my providing a service. By the time I finished my roughly eight billion readings, I had enough to comfortably cover my travel expenses. But then, came the big freak-out.

I HATE traveling alone. Even to familiar place. I was going to a strange town all the way across the country, and I have the directional capacity of a grapefruit.


Telly Monster

After much anxiety and behaving a whole lot like Telly monster for a week, I finally made it, in one piece. I’ve never seen someone so happy to see me! Grima and I got off to a comically rough start, with take-out places closing early, Internet dying, and fickle plumbing, but it was all worth it.

For four days, we talked and talked and laughed, and cried. It’s truly amazing how much time you lose being far away. I got to finally see all of Grima’s beautiful clothes and dolls that he made, and when he was feeling poorly, I made myself useful and ran errands or helped his caretaker, who, I have to mention, is one of the most incredibly compassionate people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

It was really scary at first, not knowing if something would “go wrong” while I was there (and we had a few close calls!), but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Grima and I still stay in touch. We will for as long as we can. Sometimes it’s a long time between conversations, but every hello brings a smile to my face. I make sure to drop a line every day, just so he knows he’s thought of.

As for me, I’ve learned that everything is much more ephemeral than I could have ever imagined. Relish the time you have with the people you care about, and get your own affairs together. You never know when you’ll need it.

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