I have a question. Is profound loss and the grief mixed with regret for not having appreciated the lost one fully a theme that runs through every book these days? Or am I just gravitating toward these? Perhaps this theme of not taking any loved one for granted is something that has occurred in most of the books I read but maybe I just never noticed?
As one part of my life comes to a close and I embark on another, I feel like I’m suddenly being overwhelmed with both fictional and factual stories of loss and profound, deep grief. Books like “Two Kisses for Maddie,” “The Shack,” and most recently “Little Bee,” which I’m currently in the midst of have all quietly knocked me to my knees as I read about the ripping of loved ones out of the fabrics of their lives.
In my thirty years, I have to say I’m quite lucky. I haven’t really experienced true, gut-wrenching grief or loss. I’ve had acquaintances pass away, my grandmother whom I was only a small bit close to, (entirely by my own early-teenaged fault… she tried, God bless her she tried. But at the age of 13, I was just too scared of old people and what that meant to me to let her in close to me. One of my only true regrets.) But I haven’t felt a loss that shakes you, that reverberates day in and out and becomes an underlying current in your day to day existence. I haven’t let that many people in, let them get that close to me. Maybe that’s how I’ve shielded myself the possibility of ever feeling these things.
But I’m about to commit myself to a man, give my life over to him. We will build a life together, we’ve already started to really, and we will do all the things that two adults in our world do when they join their lives together. We’ll eventually have children, God willing, and maybe those children will go on to have their own children. If we’re lucky, we’ll get to grow old together and watch our family grow and expand and impact the world, hopefully for the better.
Deep down, however, I am acutely aware that by letting Irish’s love into my life and mine into his, we aren’t just filling our lives with love and hope… we’re also guaranteeing grief, loss and pain at some point, whether it’s far in the future or just around the corner. Please don’t misunderstand me here… this awareness of loss and pain isn’t something that dominates my daily thoughts… it’s just a reality that occurred to me recently as I thought about the books I’ve been reading lately. Now that I look at the world through glasses that are tinted with the hope and love and optimism that accompanies a person on the brink of a major, happy life-change, these stories hit so much closer to my heart. Reading the account of a young man, madly in love with his wife who just gave birth to their first daughter before unexpectedly dying just 36 hours later in “Two Kisses For Maddie,” my thoughts are no longer “wow, how horrible for that man… but that will never happen to me.” Now the thoughts look a little more like “oh my God how do I not let that happen to me and my family?” Because I’m pretty sure that when Matt and Liz got married, they never in a billion years would’ve guessed that in just a few years their world would be gone. And one day, Irish and I will separate, hopefully only by death as we will vow to each other in just a few weeks. But that separation will be an utter heart-break for at least one of us. The wind will knock out of him or me, the world will become different. All because we accepted love and what is it they say? No love story has a happy ending? That’s pretty much it. There is always a heart break at the end of a love story… the variables are only the “when” and the “why.”
Maybe these tales of loss and love and grief have always been there in the books I read, but they didn’t quite mean anything real to me. They were just things that happened to other people, not me. But now I see my life starting to take a shape that resembles theirs and I think I’m realizing that I’m not that different from them. That’s what scares me. It’s not up to me whether I will join their club of loss.
Please don’t think I have regrets about falling in love. I have not a single regret. There is a warmth and a comfort there that I only previously felt in small bits, tastes really, which kept me in search of the whole thing. That whole encompassing, unconditional love that envelopes you and is just so hard to find. But when I look at it from an out-of-body thirty-five-thousand-foot perspective, it almost resembles the fabled deal with the devil that Robert Johnson took at the crossroads… exchanged his life, guaranteeing himself sorrow eventually, all for the wonderful pleasure of having extraordinary talent and whatever comes with it. That’s what we do when we fall in love…. we basically say “for the joy that having this person in my life will bring to me, I will take the painful sorrow when they eventually leave.” It’s a sacrifice of future happiness. And it takes my breath away when I realize that there is an extraordinary man out there, Irish, who is filled with joie de vivre and unadulterated happiness and he is giving it away–eventually–all so that I can be in his life. And I’m doing the same. That, my friends, is the incredible thing about love. You will gladly take the future pain and sorrow and heartbreak, because not having the love in the first place is worse. Wow.