Wednesday, 15 February 2012
It seems to me that we are often presented with this idea of loss. We lose loved ones. Such is life, quite literally. But, is it worse to lose someone unexpectedly than it is to lose someone expectedly? What I mean is, is it more tragic and harder to grieve over the loss of someone who died in a car crash than it is to lose someone who struggled and fought with brain cancer?
I grew up just outside the city and when 9/11 happened, I remember truly believing my mother had cheated death. Sometimes, I still think it. She works in Manhattan and was supposed to be having lunch in one of the towers that day. I guess no one meets for lunch at 8:46 am. It is this feeling that my mother somehow cheated death that has led me to wonder how different my life would have been.
This leads me to a novel I read a couple of months ago called "American Widow" by Alissa Torres. The novel is something of a memoir-- an account of the true story of her husband who died in the North Tower on September 11, 2001. Reading it made me feel so completely differently about the experiences I had regarding the terrorist attacks that forever changed lower Manhattan and the world. I started to see it for what it was to so many thousands: a day of personal loss. A day these people can't ever get back. I'm no longer talking about the people who lost their lives, but rather the ones who lost their boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, and wives. I can't even say what I might do, or how I might react, in a situation like this. We become different people when we grieve and when we are angry.
If I remember correctly, Alissa Torres was upset with her husband that morning when he left for work. Even if she wasn't, perhaps there is still a message there: don't hold grudges. I'm guilty of not obeying such a law in relationships and friendships. The truth really is, no matter how cliche, we don't know when we'll see our loved ones next.
Or, in the case of "The Vow," a film currently in theaters, a woman suffers severe short-term memory loss and has no idea who her husband is. The same happened in reality to a man and a woman I wrote about a couple months ago. What would you do? Would you fight to win his/her heart back? Probably, but would it be so unbelievably heart-wrenching that you may sometimes tell yourself "I can't do this anymore"? Also, probably.
Yet, another part of me is reminded of an old friend of mine. About 5 years ago, she lost her father to skin cancer. She was only 17. He died during the summer and we were working together at a sleep away camp. I don't think I can forget what she said to me a few days after he died. She said, "it's like he died twice." She was referring to the fact that his doctors had given him an expiration date. He had lived past it, but his children and his wife had done all they could to cope with the fact that he would die by a certain date. They had been through their grieving process while he was alive. Then, as he pushed past the date his doctors set for him, his family began to gain hope. Then he actually died. I can't even begin to imagine what his wife went through.
While it is a bit gruesome to be thinking about death in these ways, isn't it true that most of us are wishing that when we lose the ones we love we will lose them to old age? Of course, we don't want to lose them at all, but we know that isn't a reality. The circle of life, unfortunately, involves death. But, it might be true that premature deaths are the ones that strike us most-- the ones that leave us stunned. The stage of denial might be made worse when it is unexpected.
What are your thoughts and experiences on losing your loved ones?