Disjointed thoughts on a hard day

Today has been hard. I woke up to a reminder of my grief. A very good friend of mine sent me a letter written by Ram Dass to the parents of an 11-year old girl who was murdered. What she sent me was an audio link recorded by the parents, prefaced by the story of their loss. I am not clever enough to figure out how to share that audio link, so I will just give the following link for those who are interested in reading the letter:  http://www.ramdasstapes.org/rachels%20letter.htm

The letter filled my heart and left me speechless. What it did really was to pull me into consciousness, as the beginning of it read, “Rachel finished her work on earth, and left the stage in a manner that leaves those of us left behind with a cry of agony in our hearts, as the fragile thread of our faith is dealt with so violently. Is anyone strong enough to stay conscious through such teaching as you are  receiving?” Of course it is impossible to remain conscious and present to grief constantly, particularly for almost 24 years. But it’s there. It’s central to my life, to who I am, this loss that I experienced. Ram Dass says, “I can’t assuage your pain with any words, nor should I. For your pain is Rachel’s legacy to you. Not that she or I would inflict such pain by choice, but there it is. And it must burn its purifying way to completion. For something in you dies when you bear the unbearable, and it is only in that dark night of the soul that you are prepared to see as God sees, and to love as God loves.”

This evening on my way home I was listening to a really beautifully written book.  The Dog Stars by Peter Heller is a post-apocalyptic novel, about a man who survives a flu that wipes out most of the world’s population. He lives a mostly solitary existence, with one human companion, and with Jasper, his dog. Tonight on my way home, his dog died, and Heller’s description of grief is one of the most moving I have ever read. I held out as long as I could, but I must confess I sobbed my way through much of the last leg of my drive. It’s always so embarrassing when I do that! What must all those people in all those other cars think? Well, probably nothing, to be honest. Or perhaps they think it has something to do with the bumper sticker on my car. And of course, they are right, because once grief enters your heart, it is in your pores (as Heller says), and you cannot experience it again (even vicariously through a book or movie) apart from that which is a part of you.

Heller said of his dog, “you are now the path on which I walk.” (Perhaps not an exact quote, since this was an audiobook I was listening to.) Difficult phrase to grasp, and yet I grasp it. “You are the path on which I walk.” I am sure there are those out there who will particularly not understand this kind of feeling about animals, and if you don’t, that’s fine, because the point is the experience of loss and grief, not the object of it. What you love deeply becomes a part of your path, even when it’s gone.

I can’t figure out whether I am supremely optimistic or depressive. On the one hand, the knowledge of loss is my companion, but on the other hand, I am doggedly determined to make the experience of loss into something positive in life. Another little gem I came across today (on Facebook) was quote attributed to Viktor Frankl: “What is to give light must endure burning.” All this pain, all this hurt, cannot be for nothing. My daughter’s suffering cannot be for nothing. She was is such a brilliant light in this world.

All of your suffering cannot be for nothing, whoever you are and whatever you have loved and lost.

And yet sometimes, it is just an ache in the heart, a weight in the limbs. When I came home, I didn’t know whether I should go out and walk it off, or curl up in a ball and go to sleep. So instead I sat down and wrote this, which is disjointed and circular I know. But it’s just a piece of a story which has not yet been fully written.

Meanwhile, let me recommend The Dog StarsPerhaps at the end of everything, Heller can make more sense of it than I do.

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53 thoughts on “Disjointed thoughts on a hard day

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  1. Yes, me too. I tried denial, distraction. I didn't even purposely try them … just my self preservation instinct kicking in and trying to find something that worked. Now, honestly, I have so much empathy I have a hard time killing a bug. Well in fact, I don't. I catch them and take them outside.

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