"Maybe loss shows us some basic truth about who we are: we are tied to others and to place. Those bonds form us. It's not like there is an 'I' that exists over here and a 'you' over there somewhere. When I lose you, I lose me too."—Michael Stone
It's been a season of loss. My bastard-of-a-cat (whom I loved fiercely, regardless) was fatally ill and wandered off one day in November, never to return. Certain sounds mimic his pawing on the apartment door, and my heart still does a flip of joy before my brain can catch up to remember that he's not coming back.
Worse, my Gramps died on Thanksgiving night. I could tell you what a relatively "good" death he had, surrounded by those he loved in the house he lived in most of his life, but there's some unspeakable quality to his absence that feels blasphemous to talk around. Christmas Eve dinner without him was heart-achy and eery. My grandmother told us she had to get rid of his favorite chair because every time she walked into the living room, she kept expecting to see him in it.
For the last month or so I've been reconfigured by grief: the sudden, visceral understanding that everyone I love will someday vanish, leaving bright gaps in the spaces they once occupied, and that coming into contact with these countless spaces will cause me pain in ways I can't predict. When spending time with the living I sense, in brief flashes, that I'm staring into the abyss: I know they're slipping away, and I don't want them to go. The more intensely I love, the more afraid I feel.
And yet, there have also been these swollen, about-to-burst moments when I'm suddenly able to hold this bewilderment in kindness—to make room for whatever fullness rides in on one breath and out on the next, to allow myself to weep loudly and sleep heavily, to feel each thing I touch with my hands. When that happens, it's like opening the door to greet a homely kind of joy: a dense, raw weight on my heart that is, most paradoxically, so life-affirming.