It wasn’t that I feared death (I never really thought about it to tell you the truth) It was mostly curiosity. The idea that one could watch the tapestry of history unfold over time was intriguing. I wanted to know what life would be like in one hundred, or five hundred, or one thousand years. I could also share what life was like in the past with the interested. They would remind me of myself as a youngster, always curious.
When I read The Lord of the Rings in Junior High and considered the lives of the immortal elves I thought, “yeah, that would be cool”. Of course Tolkien’s elves become weary of the world in time. I didn’t understand that as a boy. How could one grow tired of life?
I think it was falling in love that ultimately cured me of this desire. Living forever would mean outliving my soul mate, who had no desire for everlasting life. It turns out that possibility was no longer attractive to me. Robert Heinlein explores this theme in Time Enough for Love. Lazarus Long, the seemingly immortal protagonist of the story loses his desire to live forever when he falls totally in love with a “short-lifer”. They share a lifetime (in her terms), but when she grows old and dies he decides that someday, he will too.
I’ve been contemplating mortality quite a bit lately. Today, right now, my desire to go on living is almost entirely due to my responsibility to my wife and children. That’s not to say I’d commit suicide if not for them. I don’t desire death. I just don’t really desire life. I can still see beauty in the world; I just don’t feel the joy in the moment.
Losing a child brings mortality home. I will die some day. It’s inevitable. My body might run down from old age, I might be ravaged by a disease or I might die suddenly. It’s not a question of if.
So I’m mortal. I’m OK with that.
I also still have work to do.
What the problem is in a nutshell is this pain is overwhelming. It takes conscious effort to do anything. I’m so tired by the end of the day I can only think of sleep. I do the stuff I’m supposed to do. I do the stuff I need to do, but I only do it because I have to, not because I want to. I never thought I’d wake up one morning and, for just a moment, be disappointed that I didn’t die in my sleep but that’s the kind of pain this is. Facing a new day is not a challenge, it’s drudgery.
I just came back from a ski trip with Drew and Kata. I didn’t really want to go, but if I didn’t Kata couldn’t go, and she would have lost a chance to ski. I went for her sake. It turned out to be a perfect ski day. I genuinely enjoyed spending the day with her and Drew and Greg and Steven. I enjoyed the view. I didn’t even let standing in the lift line bother me. Truth is it was nice, but it was different from last year. My melancholy didn’t go away. I didn’t seize the day with unrestrained passion. There was satisfaction and a hint of, not contentment, but ease but there was no joy. Kevin was never far from my thoughts, on the lift, while resting. It was only in the act of concentrating on skiing that my mind could let go for a minute or two.
I’m told that in time I will want to live again, not for others, but for myself. The simple joy of watching the son (hmmm, kind of a Freudian typo I think) rise or smelling a pine forest or listening to the waves will come back. I don’t really feel that at the moment. I wonder if the best I can hope for is a feeling of peace, but not joy, satisfaction without passion.
I’m in a trough. I have been for a couple of weeks. I’m feeling the magnitude of my loss and my helplessness.
Kevin is dead. There’s nothing I can do about it.
I guess I was raised to believe that the dad fixes things. He identifies the problem and comes up with some way to make everyone feel better. I can’t do that.
I can’t make Lisa feel better. I can’t do a whole lot for Drew and Kata either. We are all lost in grief, and no one can just fix it.
Time heals they say. Not this wound. This is an amputation. Time won’t fix it. The hole doesn’t fill up. The limb doesn’t grow back.
So like the soldier who lost his leg in the war I face a choice. It’s my choice. Only I can decide. I can lament my loss every moment for the rest of my life or make the most of those moments.
It really looks easy when you put it like that, but it’s not. I have to want to face the day. I don’t feel that now. I’d stay in bed if I could. I’d cry all day if I could. I’d scream “WHY” at the top of my lungs if anyone would answer.
I don’t get to do those things. I suspect that’s best. Indulging in self pity won’t accomplish anything. At the same time I need time to feel. The only way through this pain is through this pain.