Sunday, July 8, 2012

Good Grief

Difficult to let someone die. As if there is anything that can be done about the realistic inevitability of it in the first place. Difficult to let go. Difficult to know the end of the show is upon us. Difficult to say goodbye. Grief does not wrap me as much as it leaks from me, in bits and pieces of hurt that invades my everyday moments. I am one moment in happiness and then some door inside me opens and I realize the sadness behind my smile, the sadness within my being. What is now is because of what is not. And though what is now has its own goodness of place and time and purpose and intention, it does not completely allow me not to feel the indelible sadness of missing you.

So much death. Simon still waits his turn. Just a month ago, and a few days, he bid his final goodbye. Australia and Canada are more than continents apart, they are compass points that stretch two friends away from each other as far as the globe will allow. Yet unlike John Donne's poem about the same image, in which the metaphysical conceit of love grows higher and closer as the compass points approach each other, what is there now that shall bring such an one as Simon, Tony, or my dearest friend, Nancy, Mike, Rob, and their families closer to me? They are the fixed points as ever further I course away in this journey of days and months that shall inevitably turn into years. And of the very many names I could add to this roster, where shall I end? Throughout one's life there is a loving but a having to let go.

Grief is good. It lets me know that I love. Were I to be calloused sufficiently to have no feelings then I might not extend love in the first place. But the caution is that grief not be construed as too painful not to love again. Many a teenager makes that mistake. I know I still feel that way about my Dalmatian. His life was so wound up in mine, and his dying was so eventful to me that I cannot bring myself to have another dog. The sad story has all those teenage implications of a Romeo and Juliet, dying for the sake of love, sure that there be no other to fill the ache of being bereft. Such a monogamy makes of man a martyr to love; having once loved that deeply there is none other to whom one can give oneself so completely. Yet friendship does not have it so. At least, not in my experience. An ongoing number of friends have received my love, and though a multitude of deaths, both real as well as figurative have attended the passage of people passing through my life, not one of them have so hurt as to have me withholding from feeling and giving love in friendship yet again. Friendship does not betray. Friendship is not jealous. We are no longer teenagers with a best friend who will not allow the phone calls or the letters or the swapping of time and story with another. And when time and circumstance takes away such a friend from us, we grieve, we keep in touch, but we also make new friends.

Yet some grief in me grows greater as I see my twilight advancing, albeit from a very distant horizon. It is the grief of regret for the time I took immaturely, selfishly, carelessly, even heedlessly away from those I have loved. Forgiveness of the self allows for the same toward others. Compassion is the understanding that we do what we do out of our inability actually to have done otherwise. And grief, such as it is, is the awareness that we have loved. It is a good thing, this grief. It is like medicine that hurts to make whole.

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