Newkie, a fourteen year old tabby came to live with us after our son died. Brian had raised her as a newborn, someone to fill the void his childhood cat Sam left behind with her departing. He seemed to need his animals around, replacing his Wooly dog-half sheepdog, half Malamud, with a golden lab the minute he signed and collected the keys to his new house in Long Beach. Neither animal really replaced the one that was gone before.
We say things we heard said, words like "replacing" and "enhancing" to remind each other that we, though not replacing anyone or anything we know of, we are all coming into someone's life in a string of events that could very well have been losses of epic proportions, never replaceable.
Most of us tend to device certain narratives to make sense of the chaos around us. "Life goes on" is one of them. But does life go on? Or do we mean, life ceases, and in order to take our next breadth and keep looking forward, we can't dwell on life ceasing; we can't dwell on the pain that surrounds us without going mad, without abandoning hope.
"He's now in a better place" is often said of someone who died. Really? And how do we know that? What place? Where? I wished so much to have had that belief when I sat at my son's funeral. No. No place existed for me at that time, and since, and I still hold on that we tell each other things like this only to calm our nerves, to be able to accept the unacceptable. How could we be one minute, and the next minute be gone?
But what do we do if we can't replace those things, those people who are our circle of friends, our support and love and companionship? How do we live with such losses? How?
Once we accept the narrative of replacement, once we tell ourselves that we are better off even with our losses staring us in the face, are we sane in constructing such fantasies? Or, are we ok since the fantasy is shared by the rest of congregants? How could we all be wrong?