Monday, September 15, 2008

Defined by loss...


A Chinese nobleman asked a philosopher to grant his family a blessing after the recent birth of his first grandson. The scholar thought for a moment and then replied, "Grandfather dies, father dies, son dies."  The nobleman was horrified but the philosopher said, "What other way would you have it?"

Since 1994, I have felt that, in some sense, I am defined by those I've lost.  Each loss is woven into the pattern of my life, and my path has been carved by those magnificently painful losses. Often, losses are interminable: their beginnings meld into endings and endings into beginnings. It is like the gossamer veil that exists between life and death- the demarcation between the world of breath and the world of breathless is indistinguishable.

The disambiguation of death is integral to the living; in order to wholly understand living we must first accept dying. This is such a such a foreign concept to a death-denying, immortality- seeking, Western culture.  Yet, how does one accept so much pain and anguish? How do we face the irreversible, irreconcilable absence of the flesh of our flesh?  Honestly, I am uncertain. There are some sufferings that elude sense or reason.

Perhaps, this is why the death of a child is the least explored human struggle across cultures. There are no pat answers when a child dies- in any language or discipline. And scientists, clinicians, teachers, and helpers - even ordinary humans- love the idea that answers offer closure. But there are no good-enough reasons, and there is no closure, and there is no magic following the mayhem. There is just grief and the human struggle to survive and discover meaning in death's wake. 

I wish that all parents could have had the benefit of the sage's blessing:  grandfather, father, son...in that order. The process of defining life and loss following the death of a child is one that no parent should suffer; tragically, so many do.


8 comments:

A.M. Gwynn said...

Yes, the least explored. And the most feared by those who have not experienced it.

One day I would like to tell you a story about a short time before Dallas died.
About someone else who had lost a child, someone I didn't know, but I had come in contact with only by a little obituary taped to a cubicle wall. I have often thought about it. Wondered even if it was premonition.

Your entries are illuminating. As always.

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Angie- I would love to hear the story one day. I wish it could be over a cup of dandelion tea.

I will light Dallas' candle next week and hold you both in my heart...

Sissy said...

I always come to your blog when I feel that familiar ache for Anna. weirdly, many times reading your posts keeps me from sinking deep into misery and hours long cry-fest. nothing makes me not sad but the sad I feel at those times isn't a totally hopeless sad like it becomes sometimes. thanks

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

((((Sissy)))))
Thank you for visiting. I am just so sorry.

Travelwahine said...

Dr. Joanne, your post was enlightening as always.

That is truly a blessing, I've never really thought about it. But, to have death fall in that order is the way it should be. Unfortuanately, not all of us are so lucky.

I feel myself looking into the eyes of my living child and asking God to please leave him here. Shortly, after my son was born still I'd wake up and check on my 6 year old son. I would go into his room to feel his pulse, his heartbeating. And when I do feel his pulse, it's an overwhelming joy.

stat763 said...

Thank you for this post. It is always comforting to read your post.

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Thank you Travel and Stat-- I truly wish, with all my heart, no man or woman, no mother or father, had to feel this pain.

Karin said...

Yes. In that order. I wish it could be so for all parents. What a wise and pure blessing.

Becoming...

""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""
The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul


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