On Sunday a friend died, perhaps she took her own life, perhaps not. She was not a close friend, others closer to her are grieving deep as I write; for me she was a smart, funny and caring person whom I liked and respected.
Her death shocked me and it has triggered profound memories of friends and family whom I have ‘lost’ over the years. In my student days from drug overdoses deliberate and accidental and later in life from cancer, the number one killer far above mental illness as number two and any other cause negligible. Some were ready to leave, others resisted to the last.
So, it has left me numb and triggered the predictable reactions of grief, sorrow, sad memories, questions about what is truly important in life and how to lead a good life and the importance of showing others that we love them and value them.
Nothing original here.
The beautiful title line is by Tennyson in his “Ulysses”.
What has intrigued me since Sunday is our use of the word ‘loss’ to describe our emotions. We ‘lost’ a loved one or the world has ‘lost’ a beautiful person. I understand why we say it and I say it myself, for they are gone and we remain, but now I am wondering what it means to say ‘lost’?
I write here of myself, I do not speak for others.
They are ‘lost’ in their corporeal selves – ‘never again’ to touch or to speak – but they are not lost to our memories and in their acts and shaping of others and not lost to the world except in an immediate, concrete, tactile sense which is never again. They are gone from me. I don’t know how to put this in words, nor what are the right words. what I do know is that I have spent four days puzzling over the word ‘loss’ and understanding it intellectually yet with a gnawing feeling that it is not adequate.
Death is a rupture. There is ‘before’ and there is ‘after’ and nothing is the same.
This is not about finding euphemisms for death, it is about finding the right word, if indeed one word can capture the emotional intensity of death.