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Monday, March 23, 2015

To be; or not.


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?  

16 comments:

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Rosaria .. I have lost close ones suddenly and also close ones in the general course of things ... but nothing like as bad as many have had to deal with ... so sad, but it happens - it seems to be part of the panoply of life ... we do live though, and continue to do so ... it must be a struggle, especially in the beginning. Animals too are so special and help fill the void, or create their own ...

I hope Newkie lives on for a while yet .. a good life ahead .. with thoughts - Hilary

L. D. said...

Having lost my first wife when I was thirty, I heard all of the different comforting things. The loss is an emptiness that doesn't go away. I remember telling people a few years later after she died, that I just became numb to the emotion, but I didn't forget. I did get on with life and I am happy but that hole, that experience, will always be there. I think society has spent so much time to smooth out death's end that people say things like robots to get them off of the hook of saying something meaningful.

Tom Sightings said...

Thoughtful, heartfelt post. I don't know that we are all better off even with our losses -- but sometimes I do wonder how strange it is just to be alive at all.

Rian said...

Rosaria, we all struggle with those questions. Not that that fact is helpful, just true. And I think we all find our own way of coping. What may be effective for me may not work at all for you.

As far as "the better place" is concerned, I do believe that my loved ones are still with me "right here" but not in physical form. I *feel* their love and closeness. Now you may say it's all in my mind. If so, I don't care. I still feel it... and it's very comforting.

And this is not to say that I don't still feel the loss of their physical presence because of course I still do.

Lydia said...

How it warmed me to see this cozy picture of dear Newkie. I am so glad you still have him.

What a brilliant post, Rosaria. You ask questions for which I have no answers. Since losing my beloved 13-year-old Standard Poodle last December I have mourned deeply, nightly. I know there will never be another friend like Bonbon, but I miss having a dog so much. My life, however, has changed (my returning to work the biggest change) and now is not the time. Still.....I find myself looking at pictures of adoptable dogs, then content myself with another night cuddling with my precious cats.

I will be thinking of your questions a lot this week, as the topic for consideration at my meditation Sangha that meets on Thursday nights is, this week, "Letting Go."

Z said...

No one has said that to me, thank goodness, since my husband died last August. People can be so insensitive, though meaning well. I have no sense at all of Russell's presence, I've lost him entirely, yet I cope calmly, day to day. I think your loss is worse than mine and I'm so sorry. I don't know how we manage, but I think we are braver than we expected to have to be.

Linda Myers said...

Tough questions. I'm grateful to have a spiritual community that sympathizes and supports without giving any platitudes. That just makes it harder.

I have no idea what happens after. I do know there's something, though. Maybe my experiences have just been in my own mind, but that's good enough for me.

I do have a lingering sense of disbelieve when someone is here, then not here. Like they're still around someplace, hiding.

yaya said...

There's no answers or standard phrases that fit grief. Everyone's life and beliefs shape how they handle loss...loss that comes to all of us in human or pet form sometime in our life. My sister's son died at age 18. I watched her grieve and how she handled life after his death. She moved forward because she had to. What she doesn't see is the soft cloak of sadness she wears. Even if you didn't know her you would notice that something was different about her the minute you'd meet her. Better place or different place, My hope is one day all of us being in the same place. Hugs Rosaria.

Retired English Teacher said...

Your questions are very legitimate. They are the ones we all struggle with at one time or another. Your honesty is rare.

We can never replace the one we lost. Never. The thought astounds me. I do think people think that at times, or perhaps they hope that they can.

It is too long to recount here, but interestingly, I, one with very strong convictions about my belief in God and in the heaven, had a crisis of faith just before my daughter died. Incredibly, the worst of it was the very night she died. Finally, at 2:00 that morning, I came to a peaceful resolving of my crisis in faith and went to bed more peaceful than I'd been in months. The next morning I learned of her death. I was deeply, so deeply shaken, but my faith was not. My faith has remained steadfast since that time.

At an earlier time in my life, during an earlier crisis when I questioned what I really believed, I told no one so no one could influence me. I simply read the Bible and studied for answers to my questions. That is how I came to faith.

You are in my prayers.

Rubye Jack said...

We live with our losses because we have no choice but to do so. I think of "life goes on" as a sort of resignation because since there is nothing we can do to replace a loved one we simply survive our loss by living on, and so - life goes on.

Our society in it's refusal to accept death has never learned to talk very well about it. We live and we die and if our children die without having their own children then our individualness or being is not passed on and so our essence does not continue to evolve.

I suppose the Christians have an easier time of it but I really cannot relate to their beliefs and so can only accept that I do not know and I do not understand life and death and all I know is I live on regardless. This is really not sad. It just is.

A Cuban In London said...

The questions you are asking are very hard to answer and I wish I could offer a nugget of wisdom to you. I can't. Beautiful post but very painful, too.

Greetings from London.

Velva said...

There is no replacement for the people most important to us…There are no words to make things better…Time simply helps us accept not replace.

Your post as always, was real and thought provoking.

Velva

Grandmother (Mary) said...

I sometimes have the sense of being the walking dead after losing a loved one. Here, then not here is so impossibly big and awful to experience. Your questions are the struggles of us all to lose, to comprehend, to go on...

the walking man said...

I for one am a failure at platitudes, tired of hearing them as well. People utter such things because they have no other words. Or the words they want to speak sound "not right." so they stick with the tried instead of the real.

No parent should ever have to feel the void left at the loss of a child regardless of the circumstances. there is never a full "closure" on that episode of a persons life until they too are are gone.

Be at peace Rosaria, once you have it firmly in your grasp. until then grieve.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Loss is impossible to escape. We are never prepared and we never find it ends only gets supressed. And we wonder about our own purpose for being. We have the ability to laugh and experience joys at different intelectual levels. Perhaps our longing for joy gives us hope that we may feel it again. Though we share a system of similar senses we each have a unique spot for referrencing our experiences.

rosaria williams said...

Thanks, everyone.