Sunday, May 11, 2008

Losses, Life's Many Losses

Now that we are parting
rain has returned

I want to be nothing
only the fragrance of some scattered
rose and pass like smoke

now that we are parting

the music will fall and settle
in the pages of your books
and wait to be opened

now that we are parting

my eyes follow invisible
birds across the ceiling

hands become wind

and earth turns faster
than a night ago

I leave a white cloud
in your hands

now that we are parting

I will dress in rain and
watch the warmth behind
some distant window slowly
take on your name

-Lidija Šimkutė

I found an old stack of letters a few months ago from my first love. There were about 60 letters from him- the envelopes had browned, dried like flowers left in the sun. The creases were perforations now, and thinning paper is hard to fold for the hundredth time.

It was 1984. And he loved me so. I, in return, loved him beyond my wildest imagining. We were to spend our lives together. Through a series of tragic interferences and events, he returned to his homeland, across creeks, dams, rivers, and oceans, and into another time zone. He may as well have left earth's atmosphere for an unsophisticated 18 year old girl in love. Still, I waited. My heart overflowed with hurt as I replayed his promise to return, spoken hurriedly as he boarded the flight that would carry him out of my life and into the dictatorial grip of culture and tradition.

It would be more than two years before I would see him again. To say that my heart was broken would be an understatement. He was married, and the sliding door that would be mine was decided, not by me and not by him. 

This was my very first experience with loss and resultant grief. It was grief from which I would never fully recover. Though I would go on with my life, choosing new relationships along the path, no one could replace this man with whom I'd fallen hopelessly in love years- even decades- earlier. The effects of this relationship's ending would endure far beyond the weeks, months, and years to follow. The effects would shadow me throughout my adult life.

And so this is loss. It takes many forms. Sure, losing a relationship is vastly different from losing a child to death. Yet, there still is a very real grief process that accompanies all losses. People are not replaceable with another. This is why it is important to mourn the uniqueness of the person and the relationship that is changed or lost. Within me, there will always be an 18 year old girl who lost the most precious thing in the world to her. And I will always miss him, and what we could have had together.

And within me, there will always be the mother who lost her most precious child- the fourth one- the irreplaceable, unique little girl who I will always miss, and what we should have had together.  The shadows of my grief stick like paste; and though I tried to hide from them, they only changed form with the casting of light. And so this is loss.

Indeed, the window on my horizon has taken on many names of those parted. Josephine and John, Joseph, Elisabeth, Cheyenne. And I am dressed in rain.

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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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