Yesterday, I woke up at 5am, opened Facebook on my phone, and saw the news that an exceptionally lovely woman who volunteered with the youth group at the church I grew up in had passed away in the night. She was kind and joyful and too young to die, and while I’m now many years removed from that church, I found myself struck by a deep and complex grief.

Earlier in the week, I felt myself heading into a manic upswing. And mania doesn’t usually just go away because things get sad…it just finds different ways to process the negative emotions. Rather than the numb sorrow of depression, this sadness is sharp, acute, intense. Manic grief is, on its own, complex.

But added to that is the realization that there were a lot of adults in my formative years that I don’t necessarily agree with now that I’m an adult, and some of them probably wouldn’t want anything to do with me now (though the woman in question here would not fall into that latter category, so far as I know), but they kept me alive back then, when I was starting to wrestle with my own inner demons and darkness. It’s because of them that I could grow into the person I am today. Thinking about them is creating this weird mix of feelings of loss and nostalgia and gratitude and more loss.

I didn’t know this woman well, and aside from wishing each other happy birthday on Facebook, we hadn’t talked in years. Still, she left an impression that has stayed with me, and I can’t help but wish I could have said “thank you” one more time. If heaven exists, it is for people like her – if I can live my life with a fraction of the kindness and joy and grace that she did, I will have done well.

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