It was a time I couldn’t cop out and covertly blame it on any onions. I refer here to the last time I allowed myself to loose it, I mean really loose it to the point where air only comes in gulps and the tears and nose run beyond what any one tissue in hand could ever contain.
How challenging the experience of feeling the rawness of human emotion and allowing it to surface unencumbered. For me the last event of this nature occurred standing at the after hours emergency Vet’s office in New York City. (-One of the reasons I know there is a God: in all the years I have lived in that city, there has only been one time I have not encountered heavy traffic on the Van Wick Expressway and it was the night my cat Luke was struggling for breath as we raced him to the vet).
The most interesting thing about this experience that I can share was that I was completely cool and calm inside myself right up until the point that I discovered that my cat Luke was going to be ok. It was only then that I finally just allowed myself to let go and observed my overwhelming grief at the thought of his loss through the eyes of the safety of the inexplicable joy that this little cat would be around to love in his current form for another day. Yes, with that level of joy automatically also comes the potential for that level of profound grief.
One who masterfully shared from his observation of joy and grief and loss was C.S. Lewis. I have always loved his book A Grief Observed. Such wisdom shared from a time of profound suffering. For those who do not know about his life, this is a British man writing about the death of his American wife from cancer* (…a couple that found each other through their writing and work, just like I found my N!) And from his work:
- “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”
- “Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything. But no, that is not quite accurate. There is one place where her absence comes locally home to me, and it is a place I can’t avoid. I mean my own body. It had such a different importance while it was the body of H.’s lover. Now it’s like an empty house.”
- “It was too perfect to last,’ so I am tempted to say of our marriage. But it can be meant in two ways. It may be grimly pessimistic – as if God no sooner saw two of His creatures happy than He stopped it (‘None of that here!’). As if He were like the Hostess at the sherry-party who separates two guests the moment they show signs of having got into a real conversation. But it could also mean ‘This had reached its proper perfection. This had become what it had in it to be. Therefore of course it would not be prolonged.’ As if God said, ‘Good; you have mastered that exercise. I am pleased with it. And now you are ready to go on to the next.”
- “For in grief nothing “stays put.” One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down it? How often — will it be for always? — how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, “I never realized my loss till this moment”? The same leg is cut off time after time. The death of a beloved is an amputation.”
- “What do people mean when they say, ‘I am not afraid of God because I know He is good’? Have they never even been to a dentist? It doesn’t really matter whether you grip the arms of the dentist’s chair or let your hands lie in your lap. The drill drills on.”
- “It is hard to have patience with people who say, ‘There is no death’ or ‘Death doesn’t matter.’ There is death. And whatever is matters. And whatever happens has consequences, and it and they are irrevocable and irreversible. You might as well say that birth doesn’t matter.”
- “Come, what do we gain by evasions? We are under the harrow and can’t escape. Reality, looked at steadily, is unbearable. And how or why did such a reality blossom (or fester) here and there into the terrible phenomenon called consciousness? Why did it produce things like us who can see it and, seeing it, recoil in loathing? Who (stranger still) want to see it and take pains to find it out, even when no need compels them and even though the sight of it makes an incurable ulcer in their hearts? People like H. herself, who would have truth at any price.”
Those of us who would have truth at any price, must have the courage to open ourselves up to the full feeling of all experience that comes upon our path. We do not get to just pick and choose what we will and will not look at and deal with for very long. Eventually, all comes a knocking on the spectrum when we are committed to conscious exploration. It is no wonder that so many of our human family members continually make the choice to stay asleep… for it initially, just plainly said, so hurts the heart when exploring in some corners of our humanity.
I feel such gratitude to those who have the courage to freely and openly share their experiences with loss and suffering on the continuum of human emotional expression. When we do, together, it helps us map a territory of shared humanity that is common to us all. You see, we all, every living thing on this planet, are currently in the process of dying. It is how we choose to live within this knowledge that makes all the difference.
More than likely there will come a day when this post will be reread at a time by either myself or my husband after one of us has made the transition on to what I refer to as “the next adventure”. As I sit and contemplate the time that I will not have physical access to my beloved husband and our cat Luke, again I do so with such gratitude to those who so selflessly turn and share what they have gleaned from already mapping that territory of loss in their lives. Blessing on your heads.
Big deep breath of appreciation. Just breathe. This love song is left here just for you:
* For those not familiar with the life of C.S. Lewis, the movie Shadowlands gives a nice peek.