"We are but extensions of the village and the people within it that surround us. Losing someone from your village is tantamount to losing a piece of yourself..".
One of the things many of us have been forced into, during this pandemic period, is coming to terms with loss and the grief that inevitably follows it. With so many of us losing loved ones during this time, you’d be hard pressed to find an individual who has not experienced some form of loss. Even if not from Covid-19, any loss experienced is daunting at this particular time, especially since the ability to connect with others, in order to share the hurt and pain or to garner comfort, sympathy and support, has been almost impossible to manoeuvre in the presence of a pandemic that has, by necessity, kept us relatively apart.
We tend to look at death as an ending. Because of this, there is a sorrow to be felt in the finality of the situation we are faced with when a loved one passes on. Something cannot be replaced, reproduced or replicated. Something can no longer be maintained, developed, nurtured, grow, change or be fixed. Something is frozen in time, becoming an unfinished narrative within a book that is nowhere near completion. It is the closing of this chapter and the realisation that those of us left behind, who are forced to live the reality of experiencing that loss, have to learn to function without their loved one as they continue to write their novel. We are but extensions of the village and the people within it that surround us. Losing someone from your village is tantamount to losing a piece of yourself. In this moment, we come to terms with the fact that death is, a lot of the times, an oxymoron and the sadness of its appearance ushers in an intense feeling of a love lost. It is the existence of this love that becomes the reason we grieve. The sadness that encompasses us is a reflection of either the loss of or the search for love. Either way, the sadness and hurt felt is brought on, in some shape or form, by the existence of love.
I have found that there is also another aspect of grief that sets in when situation and time offer nothing but constant thought and reflection. mental solitude brought about by positional solitude ushers in deep recollection and reflection of the past. Navigating these memories with more mature and informed sense of self, brought about by the passing of time and by experiencing life with adult sensibilities, you reflect on the life and death of your loved one. You are thrown back into a different kind of sadness that locks you in that place of hurt again. Grief. A delayed grief. A continuation of a grief you thought no longer existed within you to the degree with which it returns to you. The thing with this delayed grief is that it puts you in a state of confusion because you never knew it was still a part of you in the capacity in which it reintroduces itself to you. This can make you feel as though you are starting the grieving process all over again without the newness of the complexities of the loss.
I’ve spent a lot of time, during the isolation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, in sadness and abject disbelief that, 23 years later, I grieve quite heavily the loss of my father. In fact, I feel as though I grieve him exponentially more and differently now than I did 23 years ago. I began to look at his life and death with adult eyes, experiences and sensibilities. We always think that grief diminishes over time but that is the illusion that allows us to continue on in the face of coming to terms with our loss. Our grief, it seems, is more constant and our vessel grows around and houses it. However, given the chance to come to the surface and roam once more, it rushes you and, without warning, takes a seat at your table, waiting for acknowledgment. The initial hurt of the actual occurrence of death then pales in comparison to the revelation of the effects that linger on as time passes. All of a sudden, I now find myself approaching the age of my dad's passing and I realise how much time he didn’t get to live, how many things he didn't get to do and how much more could have been done, been celebrated, been experienced, been spoken about, been resolved, been understood, been accepted, been nurtured and/or been flourished. The end of a story begging to be continued but unable to be fulfilled.
When I was in high school, one of the things we did to commemorate our time at school, before graduating, was to have our schoolmates sign something (a book, a uniform blouse, shirt, tie, note papers etc.) to remind us of the experiences and friendships we enjoyed, especially since many of these experiences would never be had with each other again and many of these people we loved would hardly, if ever, cross paths with us again. I bought a lovely book whose sole purpose was to house these notes from my high school friends. My high school village. This was the closing of a very important life experience and we wanted to take those memories with us as we turned the page to start writing the next chapter of our lives. I wanted this memory chest to be different so I had my mom sign the first page, my brother the middle page(s) and my dad the last page. The book is in Jamaica with other memorabilia but, to this day, I still remember a part of what my dad wrote. It started out with him teasing me by saying “thanks for saving the last page for me”. The memory of that sentence has hit me like a ton of bricks now more than ever as I give it more and different weight than I did at the moment it occurred. My family is the beginning, the middle and the end of my experiences and my existence. My family is the completed version of me. They are the key relationship I have enjoyed the benefit of within my village. On some level, my family is my entire village as they are always with me, even when they are not. Back then it seemed cool and different to have my family begin, end and be the median point of my existence. Now, life has unfolded and I wish I could always start with them, always end with them and always have them with me going into and away from the mid point. But that’s not how things work. I know that. "If wishes were horses..." comes to mind. If I am to believe, though, that the presence of my village and it's effects take many forms and guides me not just via physical means, then, for all the years my dad sat on the last page of my high school graduation signature book, I start off my blog journey with my first post dedicated to him. With this, I remind myself that everything I have written here and all that I've undertaken since his passing have not been achieved in or because of his absence. This story has not ended. It's not allowed to end. This is the start of another journey and my village goes with me. It is another chapter being written in my book of life that has been brought about by the coming to terms with, acceptance of, resolution and moving forward towards fulfilment and gratitude in the face of incredible loss.
Death cannot erase the life of the person who has passed on. Their lives continue on in the thoughts, memories and deeds of the living. So as my dad's life continues on in my mind, let him sit at the beginning of this new chapter and journey. As I pen my way forward with my blog and until I and my family meet him once again, let him see that whether first or last we are an important force in the survival of our village. Sometimes grief is good as it gives you the perspective and understanding you need to move you forward in your healing.
Dad, this time, I saved the first page (post) for you!