Monday, October 29, 2007

you only lose what you cling to

Nine months ago, before Robert's illness became obviously terminal, I had been researching Buddhist quotes for my new novel. Without really considering the meaning, I wrote down the quote "you only lose what you cling to" as an offhand possibility. But as these last few months have progressed that quote seems to repeat in my head, becoming an anchor in an onslaught of emotional storms.

Caring for and watching someone you love die is a revelation. Only in Robert's death did I ever feel the emotions of life so purely and passionately. In that single moment, life and death balanced each other, becoming the same thing wrapped in one.

But that moment passed. Imperceptibly, Robert's death has begun to fade; and as his death diminishes in my life, the urge to cling to it beckons. Because to live in that moment of pure emotion, the moment where black and white become the same color, is to deny death. It allows me to feel that Robert is alive.

But to be in that moment of denying death, one must also deny life. To feel that Robert is alive, my own life must pay the price. And to do that, to squander my life in his name, would be the one thing he would not forgive me for.

So I have been letting go. Letting go of the memories, of the pure emotions, of the desperate times and flashes of beauty. And in this release, the meaning of the quote I wrote down long ago becomes clear to me. Clinging to Robert's death makes me feel as if I could lose his life. Letting it go makes me feel as if I can gain my own.


Elaine Magliaro said...


Here is an excerpt from In Blackwater Woods, a poem by Mary Oliver. I think her words echo your feelings:

"To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go."

Anna Alter said...

I can't imagine a more clear headed, wise, beautiful way to sum up a person's relationship with loss. It gives me a deep happiness to see you come out of this experience with so much strength and beauty.

SevenImpossible said...

Simply beautiful.

Jules, 7-Imp

The Kid In The Front Row said...

This is so beautifully written.