Creative Non Fiction

A Reason to Mourn

I’m a little late to the party on this one, but Go Dog Go Cafe’s Tuesday prompt seemed too on point for a big part of my “theme” this week to pass up.

Why do you think we feel so bad when we lose someone? Can you truly “lose” someone?

This question evokes a couple of big emotional responses from me. The first is annoyance. After all, it seems like a silly question; perhaps one posed without careful thought. Why do you think we feel so bad when we lose someone? What kind of question is that? Death is finality, it is silencing. I have watched it claim those I love before their time and railed against whatever heavens or fates might exist for doing so. Of course I feel bad. To not mourn those lost would be cruel.

Then I thought about it some more, especially with the second question in tow: Can you truly “lose” someone? It was then I better understood what was being asked, even if it seemed initially so carelessly written. And it is here that that second response comes into play: longing.

You see, I lost someone very dear to me nigh on ten years ago now (it’s strange to think it was so long ago…the same age we met, in fact). There is not a day that passes that I do not think of her, that I do not remember her in some way at some time if only for the briefest of moments. I have never forgotten her and I hope I never do. Those memories are double-edged, of course, as they bring some sense of comfort most days and unbearable pain others. But no matter what emotions they might bring, those memories are important. They are a part of who I am.

Thence to the question: Can you truly “lose” someone? The simplest answer is no, you cannot. So long as the memories remain, that someone is never really lost. She will live forever within the confines of my mind until we either meet again or until I fall into that endless slumber. Even then, she nor I are lost; we are still together ad eternum.

The more complicated answer is still no, but for reasons that are more tender to uncover. From the moment she was first diagnosed with cancer, I understood an inexorable truth about myself: part of me was tied up in her, tied up in who she was an what she meant to me. Back then, the person I was was fragile and bitter with little enough matter to fill my own void let alone share with another. But with her there was no question. Gladly I gave that piece of myself away, knowing she would keep it safe. And when she died, she took it with her. It belonged to her, after all.

Then the question becomes not losing “someone” but losing “oneself.” And I did lose myself, all of myself, for a time. It took effort and not a good deal of youthful angst to bring myself back out of that pit so that I can be where I am today. But no matter how far I have come back, that part of me is still missing. I like to think that it is in a place free of pain, wherever she might be. And while it is “lost” to me, it is not lost forever. I know, even now, that she will keep it safe.

What is “lost” to me is the ability to hear her voice again. I can play the tapes back in my mind and find some semblance of solace there, but it will never be the same as hearing her speak; as feeling her hand in mine; as knowing she is beside me. Those things are lost. I hold on to what is not.

So when the question arises “Why do we mourn the dead?” I cannot help but sigh and shake and my head, as if at some child’s youthful innocence. There are some who have never had to answer this question, truly, for themselves, and for that they should be grateful. Facing the death of someone you love is perhaps the single most difficult thing I have personally faced in my life, and I know that it will happen more times than my heart can handle in the years to come.

I learned young what it means to mourn and that is not the kind of lesson I would wish on anyone. But in some ways, it is my belief that such a lesson has made me more aware of myself, of the world around me, and of who I am as an individual, for better or worse.

I mourn the passing of those moments I will never get to see just as I mourn the part of myself that has passed on with them. I mourn for what was truly lost and hold on to what I can salvage with desperate grace. To me, they live on within the twisting labyrinth of my thoughts; but they are not truly here to play out their own story. They have gone away, taking the broken pieces of me with them. And for that I mourn.

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