“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” – Norman Cousins
Is this a new beginning
or is it in fact an end?
Is the mirror flat
or is my reflection theirs?
The last fallen drop
of the springtime rain.
The fading memory
like a river drifting away…
Photo credit thesurvivalplaceblog.com
This time of year always presents a bittersweet challenge for me. With September quickly approaching, so does my late dad’s birthday as well as his passing. Every year my heart sinks a little deeper and is revisited with the grief I felt when I heard the news. My dad had a larger than life personality, yet, was very modest and humble in his wishes and doing anything for himself. He was the definition of a “giver”, he loved to give to others without limits. However, one of his dreams was to have a “huge” celebration for his 70th birthday at the local pub with the whole village coming and, of course, with a large “polka” band playing! Everybody was supposed to dance, laugh and have the time of their lives. Unfortunately, that big celebration never happened, instead, he was celebrated by a huge crowd at his funeral.
A couple of days ago I met with a fellow writer. Both of us being introverts, we chose an intimate café with not much noise to disturb our conversation and enjoyment of our meal. She’s quite an accomplished writer, screenwriter, and teacher, with a piercing look during conversations. For a while I felt quite uncomfortable speaking while eating and keeping the same direct eye contact but, as time went on, my discomfort lessened. We used to hang out together as a foursome; her husband, my husband and a big round table between us, which made it easier to take breaks and turns during a conversation. A sip of wine here, a bite of food there, and eye contact bouncing around the table.
My friend and I had a lot to talk about. Both introspective and deep thinkers, we discussed all sorts of issues, including the loud world, the meaning of silence, the love of our pets, marketing of our work and the ridiculousness of the self-doubt about one’s writing.
One of the subjects we discussed to a great extent was the death of a family member or loved one, and the guilt one carries on if there are unresolved issues lingering. How do we reconcile those if the other is gone? How do we reason when the other doesn’t have a voice to reason with us? Is it all wishful thinking in retrospect, or would we truly speak with the deceased the way we now think we would?
What would we say if we had that one, precious, last hour to clear things up and get closer to understanding one another? Would we truly address all the problems and unresolved issues with love and compassion, or would we dwell on who was right and who hurt whom?
I suggested that perhaps some bridges are meant to be burned and not visited again. But what if some were supposed to be kept in such a condition for us to be able to cross them and connect whenever the time is right. But when is that?
My friend is writing a memoir about the turbulent relationship she and her sister shared. Although her sister passed away a long while ago, the hurt, anger, and guilt still inflict deep pain in her heart and to this day she’s still not ready to forgive and forget. I expressed the sorrow of my dad’s passing and the circumstances that prevented us from saying our final good-byes and, as a result, the guilt and regret interfering with my inner happiness to this day. She suggested for me to write letters to my father as if he were alive. But I’m not quite sure I’d be braver now than I was then, although one knows much more now than he/she did “back then”. Perhaps that’s the wisdom of hindsight. Would I finally send the one letter I wrote years ago that never made it to my father’s hands? Would I express myself or would history repeat itself and I would let the opportunity slip away? The thought makes me pause and wonder how deeply entangled our relationships truly are in our hearts and minds, and the consequences we face when leaving things unsaid.
Are things really over when they’re over? Are people truly gone when they die or, do their souls take on a residence in our hearts perhaps even more deeply than ever before? Urging us to explore the depth of our being; the good, the bad, the scary, and take the leap in whatever the endeavor dear to our heart.
We lamented about how much pressure we put on ourselves but then laughed it off with the realization that every act of art is part joy and passion, part hard work, but mostly it is the quiet bleeding of our heart.
And so, we continue on writing, and dreaming, and crying, and questing for the meaning of a loss and reconciliation. And we continue to discuss our lives, our loved ones, present and gone, at small cafés where we can hear each other’s words, explore each other’s vulnerabilities, feel each other’s pain, connect with the regret of unresolved issues, and with heavy hearts we continue to go on.
By Sharka Waite