The thing about loss and grief is that it draws a line: not just between the dead and those left living but also between the living and those around them. Lately, I’ve been thinking about my Dad’s death not just as the death of my father but as the death of my father: something that now belongs to my family and in part, on a more personal level, to me. Inevitably, I think, death brings up (or should bring up) in us ideas of how we would like to live before we are brought to that inevitable line, when we cross it a next time, first-hand.
I can’t help but think of different friendships that I’ve made throughout the years–whether people who I’d known for years or people I’d met in the past year or people I’d only solely interacted with through my stories–and how, when my Dad died, it was such a relief to see familiar faces or to hear people reach out even if they couldn’t be there physically. Maybe as a lover of and active participant (haha) in the making of fiction, I must say that empathy is something that I value. I don’t think I’d loved any of these people as much before as I did in that moment: to know that despite the discomfort of knowing they would never be me, never truly share my pain, they’d decided to subject themselves to being there anyway in whatever way, shape, or form that they could be.
Somehow, it felt like home. I am still resolute in the conclusion that reading prepares us for terrible situations: it highlights the things we may take from these terrible experiences, it helps us in the struggle to construct not just meaning, but meaningfulness.
[Side note: this talk by Andrew Solomon has helped. ]
However, likewise, I can’t help but think about people who could have been there but chose not to be. Everyday is a struggle not to lash out, not to be bitter, not to say where were you? I think of different friendships lost or destroyed in the process of growing up, think of people who I wish well, and who, despite the strain between us, had someone they loved died, I would have reached out to. I can’t help but feel stung by that active absence: maybe in another time, I would have been able to simply assume they had not known about it, that they had not heard because they hadn’t read the obituaries, but in this time of social media tributes and text blasts and 24/7 chatting, of profile-photo changing and Facebook-status eulogies, I know they know and know they had chosen to not just be apathetic but vicious (I don’t want to get into that). I wonder about that and am trying very hard to look underneath my anger and find a way to learn from it. I keep on trying to find a way to forgive people who aren’t sorry, or else forget the pain of it. Life is short, but everyone knows that.
Loss draws a line between those of us left living: conditionals, if-thens, and their converses. If _________ , and _________ does not _________, then __________. And today, as I write this, I find myself at once hopeful and terrified. It terrifies me that I am capable of true hatred: that I can’t find myself to empathize with some people who I once treated as some of my closest friends because the line has been drawn and these are not people I will forgive. These people are no longer the inhabitants of benign, empty shells of friendship: they are malignant and I can’t let them touch me because it will eat me up. But on the other hand, I am hopeful because it gives the loss of my Dad gravity: this is how much I love my father that I cannot forgive people who knew him not giving it importance. I am hopeful because underneath everything, even the absence of forgiveness, there is a kind of love.