Monday, February 26, 2007

In an Instant

I'm so restless lately. For the past week or so, I've had this feeling of just being unsettled. And like I'm standing on the edge of something that's about to happen. It kind-of feels like that uneasiness you get in your stomach when you're on a rollercoaster and you're going up a hill, knowing that at any second, you're going to drop and speed down.

I found out last week that my grandfather's not feeling well again. He could have a cold or it could be something else. We really just have to wait and see if he starts feeling better. Whenever I talk to my mother about him going to a doctor or not feeling well or anything, my heart stops beating. I stop breathing. I stop moving. And I feel like time is standing still for that brief moment.

I have a close friend who lost her father several years ago. I was at the funeral, I remember it vividly, and I remember feeling so helpless. Wanting to do something or say something, but feeling as though I had no influence or control on how she felt. I know now that just being there for her was the best and most important thing I could do. We weren't as close then as we are now, but she knew I was there for her, grieving with her, supporting her, and that made a difference, however small.

During the months he was sick, she measured that time in instants. She remembers the last hug. She remembers the last time she said 'I love you.' She remembers all she learned and experienced because she knew that time with him was running out and she soaked up as much of it as she could.

Now my friend's mother has breast cancer. It's small, they caught it just about as early as you can catch it, and her doctor told her she would not die. But my dear sweet friend and her family are reminded of that dark, sad time when they lost her father. And again, I feel helpless. I told her what she means to me. We've grown into women together, and it's hard watching someone I value so much and know so well, such a genuine, caring person, it's hard watching life hit her again with another unfair punch.

Of what she's going through (and has already survived), she says this, "Pain reminds us we are alive, that we are all the same, and that to feel is to live and love, and nothing else matters."

I often wonder what it will be like when the great patriarch of my family is taken from this world. I know getting the phone call will be a life-changing instant. Everything before that point will be completely different than everything after it. It will be in a completely different color...language, even. I don't know where I will be when it happens, what my life will be like, who will be the most important people to me that will carry me through what can only be desperate hysteria.

"Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends."

The above quote is from The Year of Magical Thinking which was a beautiful, vulnerable portrait of grief. I loved it, it was moving and eloquently written, but I felt distanced from it. Like I'm still too young, my heart is still too clean from scars, for me to fully understand its meaning and message. I do not know grief that big and cannot possibly imagine it because I have not known love that deep or inseverable.

Because to feel pain, we first must love. And knowing that, truly understanding that, helps us to a greater appreciation of the love we currently have. If I realize that one day the love I have for those most dear to me will come to an end (at least physical), I feel an urgency to express that love to those individuals, to do what I can to show my love, to squeeze tighter and hold on longer. And that is one of the ways that experiencing pain makes us better people.


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