I know what it means to lose a child.
So when I hear of someone’s untimely death–as I did this week–my spirit yearns toward their parents and siblings with a certain empathy. Not that I know them. Not that I know their pain.
I hesitate to share this. Don’t misinterpret what I write as some pithy solution. It’s been my experience that there is no solution. No resolution. There is only whatever pain and pleasure we’re given at random among ten thousand things in the single moment of life.
I have these four smooth white stones. I can’t even remember where they came from, but sometimes I pretend to meditate. I’ll hold them in my hand and remember a few things I think I may have realized somewhere along the line.
To the first I attribute the message that I AM NOT GOD. I do not control what happens. I cannot. I even question whether God does or, whether or not there is such a thing, if that ultimate consciousness is subject somehow to the same experience of loss that I have felt.
I’ll hold the second and remind myself that SOMETIMES BAD THINGS HAPPEN, something I cannot control. The truth is that bad things have happened for millennia, will continue to happen for millennia, and to so many others beside me. Since I’ve been sensitized by my own loss, I have met so many others, have heard so many painful stories. It feels like stumbling through a darkness in which you never wanted to be, an unbearable and unreasonable darkness, then bumping into another person. You reach out. You touch them. And though you do not recognize their features, you recognize that they are there in this place with you, and you are so very sorry that both they and you are there at all.
With the third I remember also that SOMETIMES GOOD THINGS HAPPEN. Another thing I can’t control. There are times when I would.
The fourth represents the permission I have to BE FULLY ENGAGED IN THIS MOMENT. Where I am is where I am. What I feel is what I feel. I will not betray who I’ve lost or who I am by pretending to be anywhere or anything else. I will bear them with me for the rest of my life, in the bad moments and in the good. There is this scar within me that marks where they once lived. It characterizes the person I am… though it doesn’t characterize me nearly so much as the person in whose life I shared, however briefly.
These four stones do not change what has happened, the emptiness that was once filled by a living being whom I love and miss. Time doesn’t change this, space doesn’t, certainly not some platitude. My child is gone. These four stones are only for me a tangible acknowledgement of where I am in their absence.
Where’d you go?
You have gone
Where you were before.
And we are here–
We are here!
A Liturgy of 3 Friends
by Chuang Tzu