From the moment we are born, we are faced with loss. We grow from day to day, learning to make sense of the losses that we encounter, and we become strengthened or embittered as a result of how we engage our sorrow and grief. The way we respond to loss depends largely upon our view of ourselves, and on the quality and nature of the support we receive from others. I am in a position where I observe people in varying stages of bereavement or anticipatory grief every day that I go to work. Dying presents us with accelerated and unwelcome changes that we invest exhausting amounts of energy trying to deny or otherwise forestall. And yet, with each change that we experience in living, there is a mini-death and a mini-birth. The loss of a job presents us with the birth of new opportunities. High school graduation marks the death of care-free youth, and the birth of adult responsibilities. Marriage, as a covenant relationship, involves the death of singlehood, a forever change in the status of one’s soul before God, and the birth of a new family unit. We say ‘goodbye’ to one way of being even as we say ‘hello’ to another.
But we are creatures of memory, of habit, and we can no more easily turn off and on our fond attachments than we can remove gum from our hair. So loss of any sort tears a part of us, irrevocably wounding and scarring the deepest and most invisible parts of who we are- chiseling us the way a sculptor chips away at marble. The longing for things to “return to the way it was before” shows how fundamentally we enshrine the past of our mythical ‘good times’. I have seen death turn the most unpleasant of characters (whence still living) into eulogized, memorialized icons of virtue. Perhaps it is wishful thinking on the part of the survivors. But after all is said and done, after the well-wishers have left to carry on with their lives, the full impact of death’s iron door closing thuds with an empty and terminable silence. It is then that the unspoken, forbidden thoughts scream for expression, and the chaos of grief ravages on through the long dark night of the soul.
I have seen families blown apart when a particular member of the family passes on. It sometimes comes as a terrible surprise. The earnest death bed exhortations to ‘stick together’ are forgotten as one member systematically alienates all the others in an attempt to create a sole and exclusive tie with the departed. Who knows why such things happen- suffice it to say that it is a needless tragedy when it occurs. We are never meant to worship at the altar of the deceased- for our God is a God of the living. We may hold in sacred memory those whose love formed us (or whose lack of love wounded us), but we must never form a cage around those memories, or they will become prisons rather than pleasant sanctuaries. We learn throughout life, how to lose our life in order to gain it once again.

One thought on “Loss

  1. Josie – Nehamashira, How sorry I am to read of the loss of your mother — and how glad I am that Tan told me she’d run across you and your precious family. I also see that you remain a “trophy of God’s grace!” Wish we could share tea, or a glass of wine and catch up:-). love to Greg and the boys too. I’ve been thinking of taking a trip out your way:-)Stay blessed – Ellen

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