Loss and Death

It is easy for our hearts to get frozen. We are paralyzed by fear or sadness. There is the sense that we cannot move, let alone “move on.”

Loss and death. Death and loss. Not easy topics to think – or write – about. Two events bring this to focus today: learning about the too early death of a fellow blogger, “RA Superbitch,” and the year anniversary of the death of one of my dearest friends, who also lived gallantly with RA from the age of 20 until her untimely death at 59.

As Sara Nash wrote in her blog post, it is sad, and scary and sad.

This poem by Stanley Kunitz came to mind.

I have walked through many lives, some of them my own, and I am not who I was, though some principle of being abides, from which I struggle not to stray, When I look behind, as I am compelled to look before I can gather strength to proceed on my journey, I see the milestones dwindling toward the horizon and the slow fires trailing from the abandoned camp-sites… How shall the heart be reconciled to this feast of losses?… Yet I turn, I turn, exulting somewhat, with my will intact to go wherever I need to go, and every stone on the road precious to me… Though I lack the art to decipher it, no doubt the next chapter in my book of transformations is already written. I am not done with my changes.

   – Stanley Kunitz

How shall our hearts be reconciled to so many losses? Not only loss of people we love, but the loss of who we had wanted to be, the loss that comes with so much limitation and change?

It is easy for our hearts to get frozen. We are paralyzed by fear or sadness. There is the sense that we cannot move, let alone “move on.”

But Kunitz reminds us, there is an alternative. He writes: “I turn, I turn, with my will intact.”

It is that rhythm – of acknowledging the loss, the pain, the fear, the regret for what will never be again, and then we turn in the direction of our journey – we turn and look forwards “with our will intact to go wherever we need to go.”

We cannot survive the grief if we do not acknowledge all that goes with it. We must open our tender hearts and admit what we fear and what we feel.

And then we turn, and locate the will we each have to make our lives count. The will we have to live our lives fully. To love those whom we love with a fierce radiance, to reach out and be a shoulder, an inspirer, a champion for those who need us. We do our work with creativity and passion.

We continue to hope, and to dream, to believe in the possibility of cure and to live with what we have today. We are grateful and mindful. In this we grow strong of heart and we see our transformations. We are not done with our changes.

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