For weeks I sat contemplating where he might have gone. Though I had a pretty good idea, at least intuitively, that he’d left his body. It could be quite possible he appeared as a rodent rustling around in my old journals the night before. Though he loved and respected all God’s creatures, I can hardly fathom he’d choose his first appearance to me as a rat. Even more unlikely that he’d spend his free time in the after-life, perusing my journals. Albeit there was never any evidence of mice droppings.
No one knew or even understood what I was experiencing as loss and what that loss meant to me. There I was, showing up at dinner with blood shot eyes, a distant gaze and splotchy face while not even one person close to me had the slightest inkling of my soul’s inner state. I think for the most part, this is the experience of life, despite all the lovely dialogue on the importance of “community,” ultimately, we must bear our cross alone. Loneliness isn’t a team sport and we’re all kind of fixated on our own misfortune, so much so that expecting empathy seems at best to others as an uncomely narcissistic trait.
I was on the verge of a breakdown and everyone who “loved” me went about business as usual, silently demanding of me that nothing distract from my relationship to them as daughter, wife, employee and mother, or so I assumed by their on-time inquiries and matter of fact observances:
“What are we having for dinner?”
“I have no socks.”
By the way, let me assert that being ignored is one of the grandest gifts life affords. Not being seen, gives us an indulgent space of privacy, in which we can ruminate alone—with no external judgment, no expectation of an explanation, and no need to powder our beet red nose when we leave our bedroom after hours of pillow weeping.
On quick calls with my relatives, I tried to explain the loss in succinct terms and rushed symbolism that fell rather flatly. My being on the verge of tears would likely get cut short by my sister ordering her latte on the other end of the line or by my brother barking orders to his kids.
“Yes. No. Wait. Is grande the biggest size?”
“Can I call you back? I’m sorry. I’ve got to get this.”
“Sure. Yeah. No problem. Talk to you later. Love you.”
I hung up and howled a lonely prayer to the distant God of my universe, pretty sure he was laughing rather comically at my blubbering request for some sort of confirmation that death isn’t the end. I saw God in my mind’s eye, twirling his mustache with a sinister grin.
“Look at her now. Who does she love now? Coming back to me now, I see.”
I’m not sure why. But it felt good, to wallow in the raw realization that we’re all one unexpected diagnosis or silly breath away from kicking the bucket. Why, in God’s name, do we take this life so seriously? Why do we insist on making a philosophical discourse of how we spent our day, how we’ll spend our year, and what awaits us in the end?
“I just need a sign, God.” “O.k.? A sign that I’m not more insane than I was prepared to
That there’s some sort of order, a semblance of meaning in life.”
For a long while, I believed that finally being loved was enough. And I’m not talking about the pitiful “love is a choice” kind of altar love— “Yes. I do. Because I don’t know any better and probably never will.”
I’m talking about the kind of love that we either secretly desire or openly loathe for a lifetime. If two people can reasonably tolerate each other until one or the other dies, I’m an advocate for love as a disciplined choice. But since it’s been confirmed to me personally that the waking up Sleeping Beauty kind of “love” exists—I can’t really go around denying its power. It would be cruel of me to scoff at fairy tales every chance I get, knowing deep down that I once was blind, but now I’m seen.
Sure, I don’t want my children wasting a lifetime waiting around to find a soulmate. But at the other extreme, I know that misery loves company. There are plenty of walking dead out there who’ve set their bar at finding someone to die with, not for. Admittedly, I don’t know what the happy medium is. But certainly, at the least, I want my children to know that it’s possible to be understood, feel heard, and to never experience deep aching loneliness again.