Occasionally I came across people who’d had the experience of losing someone whose death made them think, I cannot continue to live. I recognized these people: their postures, where they rested their eyes as they spoke, the expressions they let onto their faces and the ones they kept off. These people consoled me beyond measure. I felt profoundly connected to them, as if we were a tribe.
It’s surprising how relatively few of them there were. People don’t die anymore, not the way they used to. Children survive childhood; women, the labors of birth; men, their work. We survive influenza and infection, cancer and heart attacks. We keep living on and on: 80, 90, 103. We live younger, too; frightfully premature babies are cloistered and coddled and shepherded through. My mother lived to the age of forty-five and never lost anyone who was truly beloved to her. Of course, she knew many people who died, but none who made her wake to the thought: I cannot continue to live.
And there is a difference. Dying is not your girlfriend moving to Ohio. Grief is not the day after your neighbor’s funeral, when you felt extremely blue. It is impolite to make this distinction. We act as if all losses are equal. It is un-American to behave otherwise: we live in a democracy of sorrow. Every emotion felt is validated and judged to be as true as any other.
But what does this do to us: this refusal to quantify love, loss, grief? Jewish tradition states that one is considered a mourner when one of eight people dies: father, mother, sister, brother, husband, wife, son, or daughter. This definition doesn’t fulfill the needs of today’s diverse and far-flung affections; indeed, it probably never did. It leaves out the step-relations, the long-term lovers, the chosen family of a tight circle of friends; and it includes the blood relations we perhaps never honestly loved. But its intentions are true. And, undeniably, for most of us that list of eight does come awfully close. We love and care for oodles of people, but only a few of them, if they died, would make us believe we could not continue to live. Imagine if there were a boat upon which you could put only four people, and everyone else known and beloved to you would then cease to exist. Who would you put on that boat? It would be painful, but how quickly you would decide: You and you and you and you, get in. The rest of you, goodbye.
For years, I was haunted by the idea of this imaginary boat of life; by the desire to exchange my mother’s fate for one of the many living people I knew. I would be sitting across the table from a dear friend. I loved her, him, each one of these people. Some I said I loved like family. But I would look at them and think, Why couldn’t it have been you who died instead? You, goodbye.
WE LIKE TO say how things are, perhaps because we hope that’s how they might...– The Sun Magazine | The Love Of My Life
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To experience sexual joy, it seemed, would have been to negate that reality.– The Sun Magazine | The Love Of My Life
A poem by Gary Barwin
From Natalee Caple: Gary Barwin aka Moribund Facekvetch sent this to me after our exchange. xo TIME MACHINE (after lines by natalee caple) dear friends I have invented a time machine I will save your loved ones after you tell me where to be and what to do I wear a cape a long red one I walk up to them rest my future hands on their foreheads and make them better look how they remember you they...
A Small Good Thing by Raymond Carver →
youmightfindyourself: “My son’s dead,” she said with a cold, even finality. “He was hit by a car Monday morning. We’ve been waiting with him until he died. But, of course, you couldn’t be expected to know that, could you? Bakers can’t know everything-can they, Mr. Baker? But he’s dead. He’s dead, you bastard!” Just as suddenly as it had welled in her, the anger dwindled, gave way to something...
The Biological Response to Psychic Trauma →
bookmarking for later reading
soundpony: Please could everyone stop telling him to Rest In Peace! His is not gone! He is not resting! Don’t say goodbye! He is still here! He must be! He is definitely not resting. He is here often. I will never stop talking to or thinking about or being with or loving him. I hate RIP too. “Love to you and everyone who loves you” is so much better. LTYAEWLY. Write that down,...
all the best to each of you and to everyone who loves you– soundpony
Meric Long and Logan Kroeber entered Great American Music Hall on a very somber...– Noise Pop 2012 | Article | Tiny Mix Tapes | Page 1
Dear Chris I wrote you some poems →
All that we are not stares back at what we are.– W.H. Auden