How do you deal…

with Death? Does it make you uncomfortable? Does the sight of a body make you cringe? Is it a natural part of life to you? I’m curious, so I’m asking.

And how do you deal with that loss? Do you ignore it, pretend the person never existed, make a shrine? What do you do?

It’s that time of year, and as the world hushes and dies away into winter, it makes me think of loved ones that are beyond the pale. I’m big on remembrance. I must say that right up front. I have the ashes of a dear friend in an honoured spot in my house; I visit the cemeteries where loved ones and friends are as often as possible; one particularly special catfriend is in a monument in the backyard, and others share space in a lovely Egyptian urn. I often weep at the cemetery, even after years of distance. Cleaning up and putting flowers on the graves is therapeutic for me. I make sure that the arrangement is pleasing (are there enough flowers? Do I ever buy enough?) and it’s my conversation with that person. Uncles, aunts, grandparents, a brother, friends, they’re all in the cemetery.

I don’t know how you feel about the loss, but I know how I feel. It’s the same as the day I lost them. Mostly, I try not to bring those feelings to the surface unless I really need some catharsis. But they’re still there. And that’s the funny thing about loss, time and grief. Obviously, I can’t speak for anyone but me, but in my experience, what time and distance bring is to make the grief different. Not better, mind, but different. It’s different in that I don’t think of them every minute of every hour of every day. But when I do, the breath catches, the tears sting, and all those feelings come rushing up like a tidal wave. Like everyone, I remember the first day that I didn’t think of my brother for part of the day. The guilt was overwhelming. Was I forgetting him? What was next, to not remember his face, his voice, his laugh? But I do remember, all of it. I remember the hugs, the laughter, the silliness on Christmas morning. I remember the bad times, too, but, but…

Have you ever noticed that when you lose someone you love, that all of the bad stuff peels away into insubstantial wisps of nothing? All of that bad, the petty anger and annoyance are so very far away when that person dies. All that remains is that perfect pearl of the person, their essence, the good times and memories.

And I tuck that pearl away, close to my heart ’til the next time that I need to take it out and look at it. I look at my pearls often these days. The dead are very close at this time of the year, and if I close my eyes and stand very still, I can feel them nearby, hear their voices, the breeze of their touch. I miss them, every single one.

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