Friday, November 24, 2017

Learning How to Mourn

It's been a week since she died. I've picked up the ashes from the crematorium, gotten the death certificates, and had myself made the custodial parent on the kids' bank accounts. My awesome friends and relatives cleaned my house hauling away years of junk, and maybe the snow shovels. If you know where the snow shovels are, please leave a note in the comments.

Other than the snow shovels, I seem to be handling things pretty well. We've moved back into the house. Stuff is getting done: big stuff like - the cremation - and little stuff - like the laundry. The kids are coping in their ways. People keep asking me what they can do for me, and I keep answering that I don't know yet. People also keep telling me that I seem so composed and that they cannot believe that I can write and think through all of this, but I can. Indeed, I've been training my whole life for it, for it's times like this that the value of a liberal arts education is revealed. Since boyhood, I've read and watched Shakespeare and Rostand's Cyrano and The Bible.  I've studied history and art and literature.  I've done science in the labs and in the woods and I've stared into the deepest recesses of the universe in the dark of night with astronomers and I've stared into the darkest recesses of my own soul with philosophers.  So when the unthinkable happened I was ready.  I have 10,000 years of human history providing me examples of how to handle myself in the worst times.  It's a handy thing to have on your side. 

This, then, is the true purpose of education.   We are, again, in one of those moments in history where the liberal arts is under attack for being irrelevant.  The calls for job training and "useful" majors is on the rise again.

Majoring in business cannot teach us how to deal with the unthinkable.  It may be a path to money, but it will leave you forever poorer. 

7 comments:

  1. Hi David
    This is my second attempt at commenting; I think the first is lost in the abyss of my WordPress.
    But, I completely understand your ability to write through tragedy. The writing is actually the gift that is always perfect. The ability to write out loud squelches the urge to yell in people's faces or have a complete meltdown when faced with someone who merely reaches for the same box of tea as you at the market. Writing saved me as I dealt with the sudden change from wife-of-partner to wife-of-child. No, it's not nearly the same but the level of hurt and anger, and total bewilderment at the logic of your family being chosen; you in particular, is as real. None of the answers to "Why" makes any real sense. Although I am daily grateful for the continued presence of my partner-in-child, I sometimes allow myself to mourn the loss of him as I knew and signed up for. Writing has saved me and has kept my dignity in tact when giving in to uncontrollable sobs and anger would be easier and justified, especially when the people around you have the audacity to go on with their lives, functioning, living, and even laughing while you are enveloped in an Alaskan season of darkness. The challenge with being known or perceived as logical and practical, coupled with the responsibility for your children leaves very little room for us liberal-artsy types to give in and let grief have it's way. Writing actually keeps the very thin line between depression and sanity at bey. So, again, I am in no way comparing your loss to the shift in my status, which I am continually grateful, but I wanted you to know that I get how you are able to write through the process. Larry and I celebrated our 27th anniversary yesterday. Each year it's bittersweet; he remembers the number of years and that he loves me. I am usually a bag of mixed emotions; grateful that he is here but sad that he can't really appreciate all that our years have accomplished; like you an Lori, he had to grow on me a little at first. But keep writing, as I am inspired to read, and to write through the process. Signed, The Un-widowed Widow, E. Marie Lambert

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  2. Love you, and your snow shovels are In the back shed.

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    1. Darn. Very selfishly I wanted to be the hero who brought snow shovels in a couple of weeks.

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  3. I find your writing a comfort for my own loss of 12 years ago. Amazing how words help us all. It's also good to know how you are feeling, coping, thinking, and dealing with all of this. Thanks. Sara

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    1. Oh Sara, this means so much to me. As I live my first day back at school, I remember your brief speech to the Upper School when you came back. "Thank you all. And now, to work." (at least that's the way I remember it). You have been guiding me through this by your example those many years ago.

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