Monday, November 04, 2013

en deuil

My e-friend Malcolm Pollack just lost his dad. Feel free to visit Malcolm's blog to voice your condolences.

All of us, eventually, have to face the world without our parents. I heard my goddaughter, one time, talk about how she refused to imagine such a world. I had mixed feelings upon hearing this: part of me resented her casual glibness, given the death I had experienced only three years before; part of me pitied her for not understanding that death is as grindingly inevitable as the unstoppable forward motion of time; part of me was sympathetic with her unvoiced desire to see her parents live forever. That was once my desire, too.

But parents don't live forever: nothing in this world is forever. Growing up means realizing and coming to terms with this brute ontological fact.

Malcolm has been through this once before; his touching tribute to his mother can be found here. I don't want to insult him by claiming to know how he feels, but I remember how I felt when Mom died: it was as if a piece of me had been ripped away. I went home from Walter Reed Medical Center that bleak January morning, trudged downstairs, and went to sleep for the better part of a day. When I awoke, there in the silence, alone with my thoughts and my breathing, the first question to form in my mind was Why am I alive? The world had ended.

But just as death is inevitable, life is, too. My heart refused to stop beating; my brain refused to stop working. My mother had died—not me. She had been carried away by the currents of reality, but I still stood at the shore. That had to mean something.

In one of my most beloved novels, a character says, "It is the duty of the living to make meaningful the sacrifices of the dead." My heart beats; my mind works; I strive, now, to live a worthy life for Mom's sake. I wish for Malcolm the same strength: the strength that comes from healing, the strength to face the future with his parents' loving memory as his guide. Not that he needs such a wish, of course: he's a strong man, and principled—a father in his own right, and a husband with everything to live for. But continuance is hard to remember when a loved one has left us and we feel we've reached the end of our own existence.

For that reason, I offer to Malcolm my simple wish, my humble hope.

Condolences, friend.



Malcolm Pollack said...

What a beautiful post.

Thank you so much, my friend.

Bratfink said...

I came here to tell you that is a beautiful post, but I see someone else beat me to it.

Honest! I was going to say that!

The Maximum Leader said...

Sadly, you cannot teach emotional understanding of death. Goodness knows I've tried to relate some of my own experience with death to your lovely goddaughter; but I know she will not get it. Unfortunately, she will learn, as we all learn, when one of her closer relatives dies.

Kevin Kim said...

True enough, Mike. Sometimes wisdom can come only from experience.