So I'm 41, as has already been mentioned, and it seems like by now I'd have had enough life experience with love and loss to not be as affected/effected (can someone please for once and for all teach me how to do that properly!) by it. Unfortunately it seems to be one of those things that doesn't go away with age and experience. In fact, I'm fairly certain that it gets worse.
When you're a kid, you are born with a family and you soon start making friends, and you just kind of assume that things will stay just as they are forever. That your mom and dad will always be there, that your next door neighbor will be your best friend for life, that your grandparents will always be around, etc... Then you get a little older, and your grandparents start dying of horrible illnesses, or you move across town and you lose touch with your best friend, or your mom dies suddenly and there's nothing you can do to stop it. Or, as in my case, all of the above. (On a happy side note, SOMETIMES, 25 years later you find your old bff on facebook and get reaquainted, and that's nice!) But it's a sad, sad fact of life that you don't get to "keep" people, no matter how much you love them, for various and assorted reasons, and you must always be prepared for the fact that someone you care about and is central to your universe today might disappear completely from your life tomorrow, leaving a big, gaping hole in your world.
There's all different kinds of leaving, and they all suck. There's the death one, which of course is indescribably horrible, and I used to think it was the worst way to lose a person from your life, but I've discovered that is wrong.
The WORST way, from my own experience, anyhow, is when you lose someone because they turn their back on our beliefs. When someone you love is out there, living and breathing, but they can't be a part of your life anymore, THAT is the worst. I have googled my own relatives to find out what they're up to. I've made packets of pictures that I want to send, and then not sent them. I've written letters I never mailed. I've sat with my mouse hovering over the "buy now" button on websites where a loved one's art was on sale, but didn't push it. Just the unbearable longing to have a connection with someone who has broken that connection through their own choices. Man, that's miserable.
Even when you lose someone for a GOOD reason, it still hurts. If, say, your brother or a very good friend of yours goes to serve at Bethel. You know, on one hand, that it's a good thing, even maybe a great thing. But selfishly, it's still a loss. When a Simon & Garfunkel song comes on the radio and you're being Garfunkel but you have no one to be Simon, it still stinks, no matter WHY they're not there. And when something is funny at the meeting and you instinctively look around to make a face at the person you always used to make faces with, but they aren't there, it's a bad feeling, no matter the reason. You're SUPPOSED to be all encouraging and supportive and say "What you're doing is great!" and "Keep it up!" When what you really want to say is "I WANT MY PERSON BACK, DADGUMMIT!"
And so, although some of the people I'm thinking of will never read this at all, I just want to say a little something to each of the people I'm thinking of that I miss and have a hole in my life about right now, and if they happen to read it, they will know exactly who they are.
I miss braiding your insanely beautiful hair in teensy little braids to make yiggy-yoggies.
I miss calling you Tiny Squatchie and hearing your squeaky little voice.
I miss you mooning me and watching you eat a case of clementines all at once.
I miss watching your nostrils flare and you barely bump your teeth up and down on food you can't stand.
I miss being out in service with you and trying not to scream when the mouse was running around your bible study's living room.
They have that stupid phrase, I don't know who made it up, "It's better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all." I think it's better to have loved and kept! Somebody ought to put that on a bumper sticker!