I went to Nick's funeral today. It was tough. Tougher than I thought it would be.
Which made me realize one very important thing: I was more affected by his passing than I let myself think. Which, actually, is kind of what I did with Nick from the get-go. I talked myself down about how I felt about him at every step:
"No, I don't have a crush on the guy, I just admire his good character."
"No, I don't care that he never called back, I just wanted to know his answer to my question."
"No, I'm not dating the guy, we just like to go out to dinner together almost every night, and he pays."
"No, I'm not in love with the guy, I just have a really big crush on him."
"No, I'm not upset that he met someone else, I just don't like that he cancelled our plans."
"No, I'm not sad he's getting married, I'm just sad I didn't hear about it from him."
I was only fooling myself.
I think I did this because I was trying to protect myself from getting hurt. Which also explains why I never really flirted with him either. I was always worried about "ruining the relationship." Which is to say, I was sure he didn't feel the same way, and I didn't want to lose him completely when he found out how I felt. How naive I was! First of all, to think that a little thing like a crush would ruin our friendship; secondly, that I thought he didn't like me back - even just a little; and thirdly, that I thought he didn't already know how I felt.
The thing that hit me like a brick-in-the-head today at the funeral was how many regrets I have when it comes to Nick. Especially when it comes to never having told him how I felt. I know that nothing really would have come of it, because he was meant to be with the love of his life, Christy. But maybe I could have had some kind of closure with him by telling him and then finding out that he didn't feel the same way. Instead, I went away from that relationship feeling like I would never know if it would have worked out, or even how it would have felt to date him for real. I also regret - more than not telling him how I felt - not going to his wedding reception. He sent me an invite to it. He even called to make sure I knew he wanted me to come. And I still didn't go. Partly because I am anti-social and never go to wedding receptions if I can help it, and partly because it hurt me too much to think of watching him happy and in love with someone else. How selfish of me! He asked me to go, he thought of me as his friend, and I turned my back and effectually said, "No, I'm not your friend. I don't care about your happiness."
But you know, after all of that talk, I have to say that today was exactly what I needed to finally let go. I finally got the closure I never allowed myself 5 years ago. That's the beauty of funerals. That's why we have them: to give us the chance to take one last look at our loved ones and say goodbye. I'm so grateful for this. I'm so grateful I had the chance to see my friend for one last time, to see his beautiful family...
...and to say goodbye.