Friday, May 15, 2009

The Great Parade of Losses

[image from the blog What do I Know]

It has been a week today since Sherlock died. During that time I turned to the writings of Lama Surya Das, and bought his book, Letting go of the Person You Used to Be. I like to read in bed, and am addicted to fiction, especially mystery novels, but last night I read this serious book while I waited for my melatonin to work.

The Lama, who was born in New York, has a casual style, and the book starts out deceptively simple. You know, there's only the same old truths. But I kept reading, and last night came to something I'd never thought about in that way - how our lives are a parade of losses. The Lama presented the stories of several people whose losses were so tangled or severe that you wonder how they will get through. Then he invited readers to begin a journal about our own losses, all of them. Not just the people and pets you loved or tried to love, but the crushed hopes, the loss of security, everything.

I sat there and right away counted on nine fingers important losses in my life. Pretty much the deaths of people and animals. I was surprised how big the list was. Then I got drowsy and went to sleep.

What has been interesting is this morning. I had to get up with an alarm for an early doctor's appointment, so I was out and about in the beautiful May greenery with a quiet mind. Into that mind more losses kept popping, things I hadn't thought about that really mattered. Losing the health I had at 18. Losing my figure at 40. Then losing it more definitively. Losing the state essay contest because the judges felt a high school senior couldn't have written that essay without help. Losing the security of mother love, then again, of trust in my father, then losing it again, every time painful. Losing a notebook full of poems. It was amazing.

It made the Lama's point: that life is not a good time that is occasionally interrupted by loss - life is constant loss. The truth behind this is that it is the nature of organic life to be born, mature, generate, and die. It always dies. All of it.

I thought about how I lost the lilac this year. My ankle was really bad at the time the lilac out by the ravine bloomed, and I was sternly told to stay off it. This was a case of taking it seriously, or I would end up in a cast and on crutches. But I did decide nevertheless to risk the uneven walk in the back yard out to the lilac bush - it is something Tom can't do. And I cut lilacs and buried my face in them the way you have to.

They lasted just a few days in the house, their scent reminding me of Aunt Eileen, how she brought me a huge bunch of lilac the spring after Cassie was born, how we lost her to severe brain injury.

I thought about asking a neighbor to cut more lilacs for me, and some for herself, but then Sherlock was suddenly sick and nothing else mattered. That's a different story and maybe it's the biggest story, how when someone we love dies, all our important problems assume their rightful proportion. In any case, I didn't cut lilacs again, just watched them through the window. So, lost this year's lilac, almost.

But I still have Siberian iris glowing purple from an astonishing sympathy bouquet. They are on their last blooms. I will lose them. I used to have a bank of iris like that at the old house. It was so beautiful when they bloomed that cars would stop to admire them. Lost that garden with the house. So it goes.

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