Alright, here goes. I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved have not. I’ve lost friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks.
I wish I could say you get used to people dying, or disappearing, or disappointing. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love disappoints me, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. If the scar is deep, as was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gorged, and that I can heal and continue to live ; continue to love. Scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see their strength.
As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship first sinks, you’re drowning, rubble and wreckage all around you. Everything floating around reminds you of the beauty and magnificence of the ship that was ; that is no more. All you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.
In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. In between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.
Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, and prepare yourself. When it washes over you, you know that somehow again, you’ll hit land. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll land.
Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. You learn that you’ll survive them. Other waves will come, you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks, with souvenirs and stories. You’ll build a new ship, with the knowledge that its disposable.. and that you can swim.