I did not explain, as is traditional, all the many joys that my then-fiance, now-wife had brought into my life. I instead spoke of the moments between. My theme was that the big momentous "kodak" happy moments in life are not the "real" moments in life. Instead, the parts that really matter are the moments in between.
Tonight I learned that my LJ friend burninggirl just lost her significant other, who passed away of a heart attack on a day just after Christmas in his very early 20s.
Words cannot describe how this news in a weblog from thousands of miles away in Australia pounds into me like some emotional hammer. But words are my only medium, so I write this post. If I were given to a greater degree of self-pity than I am, I would lament that I can focus on my own reaction at all in the face of such loss. But I feel impelled to write nonetheless.
The passage of the last few years seems to me to bring the transitory nature of life to me so much more than I can ever recall before these times. In July, one of the fellows who is the closest I came to having a mentor in the law passed away after a long battle with personal demons. In January, I waited outside an operating room while my mother had surgery in light of advanced cancer. Indeed, this time last year I waited to find out the prognosis as to another relative's milder cancer.
I know it is in part a function of age, but I seem to sense the passing of time and life so much more strongly than I
did as a younger man. There's a funereal hush, sometimes, of anticipation of loss. In much the way, I knew when I turned on my car radio on the morning of September 11, 2001, I knew instantly from the hushed tones of the announcers that something had gone frigteningly awry, before I even heard the facts of the tragedy. I see the time slip by, and begin to expect the unexpected. Because, you see, what I do not expect is what actually happens--growth and maturation and transition and loss.
I think sometimes that I overlook the precious nature of the little moments in which life is truly lived. I read over burninggirl's journal, and I see so much life and hope. Now she must deal with loss, and rediscover hope again only after grief has intervened. In no way can I know the bounds of her loss, and I do not wish to try to "acquire" her loss into my weblog. I just wish the very best for her in this difficult time.
Is there any incantation or chant for such times? I do not believe so. I believe in the rituals and the proprieties and the existence of Spirit and spirit. But these times go beyond belief, beyond ritual, and beyond the easy formulae. I do not see any way to say or do some "clever" thing and make this real and palpable loss less somehow. All one can do is say "I am here. I feel this pain. I am sorry for your far greater pain". It is not "enough". It is all I have and can do. I become weary sometimes of the glib catch phrases such as "grief counselors" and "coping with loss". The actual loss--the moment in which one is bereft--that is an individual experience, something one must go through and pass over to the other side, the post-loss side, where life awaits. One can find comfort in the love of family and friends, but ultimately, one must experience the grief.
The experience is so individual. Twenty five thousand people die in an Iranian earthquake, and I am saddened, but unscarred. One young man dies in another hemisphere whom I never met, and I feel his loss so keenly, though I never knew him. He was a character in a weblog I read. But I learn, as time goes on, that these weblogs have real people who write them. Sometimes these people go through hurt and pain. It would be so much easier if it were all a novel.
It would be so easy to say something trite about appreciating the moments one has with one's loved ones. I'm bored of the pat phrases, though. None of this living is easy, and this is the hardest part. All the "treasure what you have" stuff is just so much fodder for times without loss. When loss occurs, the only thing to do is to recognize that an abrupt and sad moment has arisen, and think about (and in my case, pray about) the deep loss involved.
I believe that life goes on. People play their parts, do their tasks, and savor their moments. But tonight I feel sympathy for my friend burninggirl, and I wish that these moments in her life had not needed to be so difficult just now. But as with any weblog writer/reader, all I can really wish is my best thoughts, and my deepest sympathy. Those are the moments I experience--moments so important, moments in between my own life's passings and transitions, but moments no less real. I am so deeply sorry for her loss.