Because Blogger's "Adult warning" often goes into a perpetual loop (isn't working properly), I will be making all new posts at my WordPress blog. You can follow it even if you do not have a WordPress Account. There're also my Twitter and my Tumblr blog, my Facebook and my Google+ page and my group.
(Update: Blogger hasn't fixed its problem with the "adult warning". Will go back to posting at my WordPress blog)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Reflections on grief and loss

On Tuesday my father-in-law died. I'd known him since 1976, when I started going out with my lady, and he's been a friend ever since. My parents-in-law never struck me as unlikely friends, though soime might have questioned the generational gap -- they were well-read, well-travelled and young at heart. I enjoyed visiting them and talking to them. But Michael had further claims on my loyalty and gratitude. When I was a poor student, they invited me along to their visits to the theatre, the ballet and opera. I shall never forget the first time I saw La Bohème at La Nico in Cape Town. I was electrified, overwhelmed, blown away. I had never seen or experienced anything like it. Michael never went to these shows, but he paid, and the cost was way beyond what my student budget would have worn. How do you thank people for the things they did which permanently changed your life? My spirit soared on the things they introduced me to, and my mind broadened. I shall always be grateful.

We've been going through old photo albums, and I've been seeing sepia photographs of him as a baby and a boy, glossy black and whites of him as a young man, smiling sardonically at the camera, wedding photos and bon voyage photos and all the pictures we take of each stage of our lives. A whole life in pics, a whole extended family of uncles and aunts and cousins, most of whom I shall never meet, for they are long dead.

He'd been ailing for a while. Gradually his body started to shut down. Watching this process hasn't made my grief at his going any easier. Instead, it's been spread out over a couple of years. His decay and death have happened at a time when other people I've loved have died -- my dear Henrik; my best friend's wife; other good friends. Somehow each grief, each loss, isn't unique. I am reminded of previous losses, of previous deaths. My beloved father, dead now these 15 years, but still somehow always in my thoughts. Each happiness is unique and special, each grief just a drop in the sea of sorrow and loss which surrounds us.

Yet there is hope and comfort, too. My friends, my children, my wife and my family. Love is the only palliative for sorrow. We know it instinctively with a child when it falls over and grazes its knee. We pick it up and hug it, we kiss the wound better, we show we love it. Would that it were as easy to fix adult grief and pain! Yet how much worse would it be if I were alone. And how will I endure the inevitable loss of those I love when their time comes?

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