Musing on Life and Loss - a note to my daughter
My Dearest Kimiko,
Here is another great truth of life, one that I hope you come to grips with sooner rather than later, for the sooner you accept this profound truth, the sooner you will find inner peace (or at least a relative dearth of angst, which for most intents and purposes is about the same thing). That great truth?
Not all the time, not to the bone. But it sucks hard and it sucks often.
When I say life “sucks,” I’m not referring to the string of bummers one is likely to experience in any given week, like “Oh, this hangnail is ouchie,” or “What? We’re out of mustard?” or “Crap! I forgot to pick up Junior after his soccer game!” No, no, I’m talking about things for which “sucks” is a gross understatement, things for which there are no adequate words or appropriate actions, things that take a chunk out of your soul and leave a gaping, always aching wound inside you that even after decades of healing-time remains a bottomless reservoir of tears. I mean that “sucks.”
You had your first brief exposure to this sort of thing just the other day. One of your friends didn’t come to our annual cookie decorating party. After the party, you asked me why he didn’t come. I had known for a while why he didn’t show. Earlier, I had received a text from his mom, a friend of mine. She had given birth to her baby girl, and that baby girl had died.
The baby’s passing was not unexpected. My friend knew from her amnio results that the child would likely not make it to full term, and even if she did, would not live long after birth. But the promise of life is ardently held and grudgingly surrendered. And it is never forgotten.
I had to ponder for a moment whether I would tell you the brutal, naked truth or a truth dressed in soft sentiments and frilly, useless euphemisms, or maybe not even tell you the truth at all --you know, find a smooth, pretty lie to paint over the black blotch that life had just smeared across its canvas. In other words, I had to decide whether to shelter you from or expose you to life’s dark, bitter side.
“Jared didn’t come because, you know the baby his mom was carrying? Well, she had that baby, but the baby died.” I decided to expose.
I watched your face closely, watched it morph from one emotion to another as your child mind grappled with that hard, jagged fact. Finally, your expression settled upon one.
“That’s sad,” you said.
“It is,” I replied. And we said nothing more.
Loss happens and that makes us sad. But that is not what makes life suck. What makes life suck is that there is nothing we can do to stop loss from happening. You could spend your whole life searching for that magical, foolproof something that will protect you from it. You could be the kindest, smartest, most generous person. You could follow your religion to the letter. You could eat right and exercise in earnest. You could do all of the above. Loss will still find you. And it will kick your butt.
The religious will offer you God and heaven to blunt loss’ merciless edge, to make sense of what is ultimately senseless. I don’t blame them; it’s a comforting notion. But as you’ve probably already figured out even at your young age, your mother is not one to hand out easy answers or peddle platitudes, no matter how finely crafted they are. I can’t in good conscience reassure you with promises from deities I don’t believe in myself. However, I can give you this one, brave truth:
Life does suck, but I know with unequivocal certainty that it can be a warm, wonderful, miraculous thing, too. How do I know? Because, my sweet Boo, life gave me you.