Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Of Loss and Empathy

I went to a memorial service today. I went to the memorial service of a young woman I never met. I cried. I got up from my seat and hid myself around the corner in the hall because I didn’t want to be seen crying at the memorial service of a woman I didn’t know personally. Of course I was crying more out of empathy for the living, for the people who had prematurely lost someone so dear. But still I hid myself, feeling shame at crying because I, with my happy healthy child and my happy healthy partner, had no right to identify with people who just lost their loved one. Then feeling shame at my shame, shame at not being brave enough to be real and honest and just cry.

My co-worker lost her 26 year old daughter in a horse riding accident last week. Her child. Her only child. A young and healthy woman, newly engaged, optimistic for her future. I cannot begin to imagine what my co-worker has been going through this past week. So I cried for her.

After the memorial, we went to my co-workers home for a Celebration of Life. I was sitting there with a bunch of women from my office that I don’t see very often trying to make small talk and all I wanted to do was run home and hold my child. My only child.

I don’t know what I would do if I lost my child, whether it was from illness or accident, war or act of nature. He is my world. He is my life. He is my breath, my heartbeat, it is his lifeforce that keeps the blood circulating in my body. I have an extremely selfish confession. One of the reasons I want to have a second child is because I do not trust myself to cope in any manner, shape or form if I lost my only child. As a self preservation measure, I must have another child. Without my child’s lifeforce I would cease to exist.

The death of my co-worker’s daughter is not the only reason death has been on my mind lately. My father’s health is failing. Well, it’s been failing for a number of years, but now it seems to be really failing. There has been more than one occasion when I thought to myself at the end of a weekend visit, “This may be the last time I see my father alive” but then he would somehow manage to pull through it and recover.

I was searching for a poem by Dylan Thomas for another post I am working on (that also happens to feature my father prominently) and rediscovered this gem that I hadn’t read or thought of for years. It seems appropriate to print it now.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas

If there’s one thing that can be said about my father, it’s that he is a fighter and a survivor. (Ok fine, that’s two things.) I want him to keep fighting. I want him to keep surviving. I want him to watch his grandchild grow up. I want my son to know him not for the things he bought and left for him, but for the person my father is. I want my son to know his grandfather’s story, as told to him directly with his own words. I want my son to know his grandfather’s love of family, tradition, and nature.

Everyone dies. I know this. I accept this. But I am not ready for it to happen to the people near me quite yet. (Is anyone ever ready for it?) I want my father to live and I want my son to live. I’m quite sure my co-worker wants her daughter to live too. So I cried. And when I got home this afternoon I held my child a little longer. I held him in my arms and in my heart, until he demanded to be released so he could return to the important toddler business of crayons and stickers.

1 comment:

  1. Shana - I get it. No one is ever prepared for the bond between mother & child!

    I have another blog that I was following that I have not listed on my own blog because it seems somehow inappropriate... but a friend of mine shared with me the story of someone close to her who lost a baby. The delivery was fine but the baby got sick before being released from the hospital. It lived for 3 weeks and then died. It is a heart-wrenching story. I cried reading it and yet I couldn't stop following their blog. It has helped to put a lot in perspective. Whenever my kids are driving me crazy, I think of that woman and am reminded again how blessed I am. Here is their story if you wish to read about it: http://blehrfamily.blogspot.com/

    Take care my dear friend and know that you are an exceptional mother with a compassionate heart.


    I am really sorry to hear about your dad's health, by the way. I hope that he has many years left in him.