The Thing About Loss

The thing about loss that’s tough for the people who remain is that they are left with little more than fading pictures clutched in desperate hands. Scents on a pillow. That last bit of conditioner in the bottle you don’t want to empty. We grip those memories with desperate fingers–so much so that it’s easy to get lost in the long ago “better times,” and drown yourself in a sea of sorrow.

You can’t really hold on that well, though, because pictures are made of paper, not the flesh we desperately long to hold. Their smell leaves. We remember what was, and don’t want to think about what is, which is getting on with things, which we also must do, even in the worst circumstances. Yet Ecclesiastes also assures us there is a time to mourn, so we need to do that, too.

This present loss of my niece is a little more remote for me, because we had not remained close over the years. Yet I remember times when we were–long ago summer evenings spinning out in gossamer threads of books, movies, laying in the living room watching TV, and time spent with my parents. I remember how much they loved her. she was really more like the little sister I never had. I think of what it felt like to be young and I remember that with wistfulness while I mourn.

When I remember you, I will remember what it felt like to be young, and strong, with little knowledge of the world to come. I will think of vacations, long days with many books, trips to Disneyland, rivers, and backyard pools.

I learned something really important from all this: love your family while you have them. You won’t always. Only God knows when the day and the hour will come. Forgive trespasses, and shortcomings. None of that shit matters in the end.

My niece would have been 45 today. I really wish she was here, even if we weren’t gonna celebrate together. She was a really important part of my childhood, and even though she had her moments (don’t we all, though), she will be missed terribly.