Pain As a Monument to Life

The question always comes up: What do you say to someone who’s lost a loved one to death? How do you comfort them? Maybe the only useful answer is that there is no real comfort, and that that’s a good thing.

A few days ago I found a microcassette tape of my Cowboy Dad talking to me. The tape is nothing special, it’s just him sitting there in his living room talking. Teaching me something … and that was so HIM.

I wish I had more such tapes. I wish I had video. Jeez, I want HIM back. But I know I’m not going to get that. The rotten realization hits me yet again: I’ll go the whole rest of my life without him in it.

But I’m also thinking, you know, he had his moment in the sun. And this moment, THIS one, is mine. This is the moment in the sun of all of us, all we living people. And yeah, sadness is a part of it. We’ll always have that, those of us who feel real love, and lose it.

But this brief Moment, our moment, is also the only time we get for creating joy, for living our lives as our own selves, and discovering how much we can do with that.

That’s what we’re really about, isn’t it? Not just getting through the day, not just slinking through our lives making as little fuss as possible, not just dragging ourselves from one place to another and back over and over, but creating joy. DOING something joyous and big, and sharing it.

I suppose it’s irony that each next generation most strongly feels the sadness of losing us when we have created an environment of love, of the joys of life, for them to live inside. The sadness we feel at the loss of a loved one is the monument to a life well and lovingly lived.

In my view, nothing should be allowed to diminish that sadness, that monument. Not drugs, not religion, not well-meaning fantasies about better places and rainbow bridges.

When you lose someone you love, it should damned well HURT, and keep on hurting … until you rediscover the joys of life in your own time, hear the music of life again and find your feet dancing to it.

Every generation carries within it the darkness and pain of death, and yet manages to dance in the music and the sunshine of life.

It will happen for you.

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  • mike tancsa

    Thats awesomely put! I recently lost my wife/best friend of almost 26yrs. It sure as shit hurts because I sure did love her. I think one of my favorite metaphors about death / loss is that its like an amputation– you never get it back, you never recover… you just learn to live with that new configuration, that new reality.

  • Sandra Willow Lang

    Thank you for saying this. Grief takes however long it takes and even after the intensity fades there is a hole left behind . I had a ‘challenging childhood’ where my relationship with my parents was difficult to say the least. Yet now more than 10 years after both their deaths I find I still have moments when I miss them.

  • Y. A. Warren

    You are so right! Please keep repeating this.

  • Jayel

    I have visited Patheos atheist blogs on a daily basis for the past couple of years but have only posted a comment once before. This piece compelled me to log in and say thank you for articulating something I think has been rolling around in my head for a while now. I haven’t lost anyone very close to me so far, but with a parent who is 80+ and has metastatic cancer in his bones I am painfully aware that the chances are high that my time with him is very limited (although we still all hang onto the modicum of hope that modern medicine affords us). Apart from one sibling and her family, we are all atheists and know that there will be no reunion after death. I already feel pain at the thought of losing him and don’t want to try to imagine what I will feel when he does draw his last breath. But you are right – that is indeed a measure of the kind of person he is and the kind of life he has lead and still continues to lead and it would be perverse *not* to feel completely gutted.

    • Hank Fox

      Jayel, thank you so much for commenting, for sharing some of the details of your life as it relates to this subject.