March 12, 2012


There is a vacuum left when someone dies. I was thinking about this when Whitney Houston died. We really notice it with celebrities because it's all over the news and, suddenly, that famous anchor or actor or musician is no longer part of our extended lives. It's so noticeable because we are used to having them there. And of course even you and I leave a vacuum around our more sheltered lives that is just as palpable to those who love us. Celebrities have it at both levels. I miss my mommy but so does half the world.

How to we fill that gap? The news media handles the celebrities for us by overloading the airwaves with remembarances and trivia, while we process our personal vacuums with memories, funerals, wakes, celebrations of life and in the private moments behind our own veil of tears. It's the circle of life and something we all experience to various degrees.

This activity can continue for some time, commensurate with the importance of the person to us, how wound into our lives they are at the time of their death, how dependant we are upon them ... many factors. It will take as long as it does and will vary for each of us. For some, it will be a milestone event which will pass through time. For others, it will be unbearable, unmeasureable and will last seemingly forever. And there are all the in-betweens.

But life must go on for those who are still here. We have real lives to live, roles to play, things to do. We are put here to live, after all, and we can't stop living because someone we love has ended their time with us. But we can't forget either. We just have to find a way to coexist with the memories and with the might-have-beens. As hard as it is, we have to move forward. That doesn't mean moving on, because that implies a kind of brushing aside, but simply moving.

I think about this a lot because, while I am on the verge of new adventure, Dianne, my daughter, my family will all have to move forward without me and I feel so damn guilty sometimes. I know it's not my fault - it's the cancer - but I can't help it. I'm trying to do what little I can to help, such as leave-behind videos, encouraging advice, but it won't be enough to stave off the darkness when it comes. They will all have to define their new relationship with me and my memory. Thankfully, the world and the Universe provides. Life can be rich and we have the power and the ability to choose how we want to take advantage of the diversity it offers. We can choose the roles we play, including changes to who we are and how we are. Perhaps it gives us an opportunity to review our own mortality and to make changes we should have made a long time ago. I know of many people who have turned the loss of a close loved one - a spouse or a child - into a life of volunteer work, helping others through similar loss. It's not for everyone, but it shows you that you can do things that help you while helping others. Or maybe it's just a chance to slow down and enjoy life. But, then again, it might actually be necessary to become more active rather than less in order to fill the days, in order to not let the sense of loss overcome you.

Life is about change. We start off as children and live such different experiences through all the years of childhood, through adolescence and young adulthood, through our thirties and middle ages and into our "golden years" (if we're lucky) and each phase offers such a wonderful richness of experience. And death is just part of all that. Another change that will happen to us all. So we need to recognize it as just another part of life and accept it when it comes prematurely to someone we love. It's easy to say. I know it's not easy to do.

Personal Update

Side effects. That's what is occupying me these days. The steroids that I'm taking to help with pain control (which are working, thankfully) have turned my mouth raw, my skin ultra-sensitive and are interfering with my sleep. So we're trying to find some balance in all of this. I hope there is one. Nothing is simple.

1 comment:

Lori Hope said...

Thank you for another thought-provoking post. I particularly appreciate the distinction you made re: moving forward vs moving on, because of the implication of the latter of "brushing aside."

I couldn't imagine being able to live on this plane without my dad, but I did and do live on. I miss him terribly, achingly at times, AND in an inexplicable way, we are together more now than we were when he was alive. That doesn't make me miss him less, but it comforts me, again in a way that's inexplicable.

I hate that you're going through this and love that you're opening your experience to us. I spoke at the Tucson Festival of Books yesterday and talked about your blog. I hope some people avail themselves of your gift.

With love,