Tuesday, September 23, 2014

5 years on...

Anyone who says time heals all wounds is sadly mistaken. Likewise the kind-hearted folks who leave condolence notes that talk about "returning to life's routine" or are otherwise sprinkled with similarly cut-and-paste phrasing that I suppose looks good on a screen at the time but is ultimately meaningless and useless.

I lost my dad five years ago today. We got a late-night call that he had died suddenly at home. It wasn't a surprise, as he had been deteriorating for years, but the snap-your-fingers nature of his death made an already difficult thing that much more so.

Mind you, there can be no easy way to end a life, and every transition is marked by its own unique cruelties. But this one, with its absence of any kind of goodbye, seemed to have its own particular signature, its own way of reminding us that we're just sub-atomic pawns in a universe-scale game to which we've only been given knowledge of a tiny subset of the rulebook.

There are no rules to death just as there are no rules governing what you're supposed to do after someone close to you passes away. Wounds don't necessarily heal or otherwise disappear. Sure, the acuteness of it all fades with time. The numbing sense of loss that stops you from functioning in day-to-day life eventually subsides just enough so you can return to something approaching normalcy. You can work, you can parent your kids, you can head back to the beach and not feel guilty that you're able to enjoy the moment.

But to a certain degree it's always there. You had, and then you didn't, and that's a hard break point to forget. And life does indeed go on, and other stuff happens - people die, you get sick, your own circumstances may evolve. Yet you don't forget, you don't fully heal, and you never go back to what you once were. It hovers over you, sinks into your conscience, presents itself when you least expect it, during those quiet times when you're alone with your thoughts.

Which, on reflection, isn't necessarily as negative as it initially sounds. Because we'll all suffer loss in our respective lives, and we'll all have to figure out how to navigate the planet within the context of our unpredictably changed, always-healing-but-never-fully-healed, imperfect selves. In the process, we'll grow. We'll take the lessons learned from those we've lost and figure out a new path that makes sense to us. Our connections to others will evolve, as well, some for the better and some, well, not.

And that process, of evolving and travelling on without them in the tangible sense yet never having their memories, lessons and guidance more than a quick thought away, will never really be done or complete in any true sense. Life doesn't work that way, but this is as it always should have been.

Perhaps we have to experience the journey first-hand to appreciate why this is so.

6 comments:

Kalei's Best Friend said...

You are right- time does not heal all wounds... all it does is gives us time to get use to the loss as well as a way to try to understand... the losses I have had, I have learned a lot about myself as well as how the loss has taken effect on others.

Karen S. said...

I completely feel the loss and painful empty feelings that you have expressed here today. The depths of your thoughts and all of our loved ones lives within each of our losses, and the only words of wisdom? Or just a thought to ease ones woes. For me, at least, these anniversaries of loss and the especially upon their birthday we would have celebrated, those are the weakest moments that bring me to recall and live out not the loss but the gifts of memories they once etched within my heart to live on forever.

Michèle Dextras & Jean-Claude Barre said...

Life is always different after you lose a parent. I lost my mother last December. I can't go to her for comfort, advice or love anymore . But I can sit and remember get comfort from those memories, remember advice so fondly given and love her within your heart.

Michael Manning said...

Agreed, Carmi. I lost my Dad the week of Christmas and that was in 2000. People often mean well when they begin with that worn out line, "If there's anything I can do...". I prefer to say, "Tell me what you and your family need. If I can't deliver, I'll find help and get it done". That said, nothing fills the void. But you are in my thoughts and prayers today, my friend.

Jeremiah Andrews said...

I remember that day you buried your father. I was there at Paperman's with many people and your family, and as you got into the car I called your name from the door, and you came and gave me a hug. Remember all those people who came to see your father off. You, your family and He were blessed.

Jeremy

Thumper said...

People grieve at their own speed; people heal at their own speed. And often, when they think they've healed, a wisp of a memory comes back and drops them to their knees. You never know how and when or why you're going to "heal," and you never know when you're going to unheal. It's the truly sucky part of being alive...