Petey Vance is a writer at BHSEC in Cleveland.


Have you ever had the feeling of your heart and body collapsing due to terrible news that you received? That’s exactly how I felt last May when I lost my closest friend whom I grew up with. May 4, 2019, was one of the hardest times of my life. My friend Darien Richardson sadly passed away due to stage four colon cancer. Darien grew up with me. We played sports together, and we hung out all the time. When I first heard the news about his diagnosis I was three hours away from where he lived; my family and I were on vacation. We drove home the next day to visit him. Luckily at that time he was still healthy. Many months went by, and the month of March was the hardest month. The doctors gave him three days to live. Hearing that news, I immediately went to the hospital to visit him. Later that week, the hope of survival began to show. He was feeling a lot better; he was up and walking and talking again. He was so happy. However in April the pain and sadness began again. He was put on a new medicine trial, which wasn’t as effective as the doctors had hoped it would be. He began to lose weight and the ability to walk or talk. He wasn’t the same boy I grew up with. Then on May 4th at 1:23 p.m. I received the call that he had sadly passed away. Hearing that news I was hurt with all amounts of pain, but as life went on, no one understood the process of self-healing. In life, pain and sadness gets the most attention, however the process of healing deserves to be noticed as well.

The sadness in life gets the most attention. The pain I felt during Darien’s illness and passing was intolerable. I felt lost and filled with anger. I felt that way because it isn’t fair to lose someone who you care so much for, especially your friend growing up. When he passed, a part of myself died.  Everyone noticed my pain. They saw me cry. It was really hard to hope, because I felt like I was surrounded by darkness. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh experiences the pain of losing a friend too. Gilgamesh witnesses his friend, Enkidu, passing away. Gilgamesh’s experience mirrors mine: “The darkness became thick around him, for there was no light, he could see nothing ahead and nothing behind him.” Gilgamesh, like me, lost his best pal; he was in pain for a very long time. While he was in the tunnel of darkness, I was trapped inside my emotions with no way out. A lot of people notice the physical features, such as sadness and pain, because our emotions are very easy to see. When I try to think of the good times I had with Darien, they all turn to sadness. Many people saw my tears. They asked if I was ok. I didn’t know what to say, all I wanted to do was cry and let the pain take over.  Gilgamesh goes on a journey after Enkidu’s passing in honor of his friend to try to discover immortality so no one must endure the pain of losing someone again: “I must ask him,” Utnapishtim, an immortal man, “how he managed to overcome death” (175). And yet Gilgamesh learns that one cannot overcome death. I relate Gilgamesh’s discovery to my pain because it will always be there just like the death will always be here. There is no way of getting rid of pain. The only thing that we can do to honor those we love is to live.

The process of healing is a journey. Many people will support those with sadness, however, they forget the process of healing. The process of healing is where our souls take over. When I first heard the news about Darien, I automatically thought that I would never be the same, and I won’t be. But my soul is healing the broken parts of my heart and mind. Everyday is a better day, the process of hope is also very powerful, a person can hope for so much, and when we do hope, the soul finally lets us take back over. A normal person reacts on emotion, like sadness, but only the people who believe that they can heal are the ones who become the souls.  Thomas Moore writes, “Dropping the salvational fantasy fees us up to the possibility of self-knowledge and self-acceptance, which are the very foundation of soul” (xvii). Moore’s idea relates to the point that “healing” is the key to succeeding over any amount of pain. The process of healing has helped me improve my pain. Everyday I feel like I have improved since May. The pain will never go away. But our souls start the process of hope and healing so that we can live with the sadness and healing combined. We thus live with greater emotional range and wisdom. Moore writes, “Somehow we have to understand that we cannot solve our ’emotional’ problems until we grasp this mystery that honoring the divine and the departed is part of the basic care that as human beings we have to bring to life” (xvii). We cannot completely solve our pain and sadness, but we can recover in honor of our loved ones.  

To conclude, many people in this world put their focus on the wrong things. Many people are quick to help a face full of tears. But when they see someone climbing up the mountain of healing, they pay no attention. Recovery is the medium between sadness and happiness. Healing is the process of feeling both sadness and happiness at once, of working toward the better, yet growing and learning from the sad. My life has been very crazy in the past few months. I still cry. But I realize that as long as I understand my own recovery, then it doesn’t matter when other people see my face filled with tears. A lot of people ignore the word recovery because they think of it as a sophisticated word; a lot of people run from their very own problems. They’re scared of walking down the wrong path. When it comes to healing many people think that others around them automatically believe that everyone sees their pain. However, no one really notices your process of healing besides yourself. Pain and sadness play one of the biggest roles in our lives. They are stronger than happiness, at least sometimes. But sadness is important because it is the key to recovery and living fully in honor of those we have loved and therefore will never ultimately lose. I do the hard work of healing to honor Darien, to celebrate his life, and to cherish his influence on mine.