May 1, 2009


Posted in Uncategorized at 9:57 pm by jlp412

Yesterday, my mom had surgery to fix a brain aneurysm. I sat with knotted nerves alongside my family for 10 hours in the ICU waiting room as she recovered. She is fine now and this was the last procedure she will hopefully ever have to have. But I sat in that cramped space with other families whose relatives were not fine: I watched a sister introduce her children to an uncle they had never met, reunited only because their aunt was about to take her last breath. My father and aunt and sister played cards with a young boy named Courtney from Atlanta who was brought to St. Louis and left alone all day in the waiting room as his family cleaned up the home of his dying grandmother. A husband and wife from Russia did not hear their name as it was called by the nurse because her English pronunciation bungled it beyond recognition.

Some people wept openly. Others knitted, told jokes or watched soap operas with intense concentration. All of us, strangers, sitting in the same space breathing the same air reeling with the same feeling: loss.

Before we had learned of the hoped-for outcome of my mother’s procedure, my mind was ravaged prematurely by her loss even though I hadn’t experienced it. I imagined the doctor emerging with his stern, angular face, resting a heavy arm on my father’s shoulder and shaking his head at the unforeseen outcome. My heart fluttered as I imagined it beating on without my mother’s. The grip of her loss was so strong that it startled me as it grazed against the nape of my neck, taunting me and letting me know how close it was already. She has had two other surgeries before this one, and although neither one was easier or safer or less risky, I never even let loss brush over my thoughts then. I didn’t question and didn’t wonder because loss hadn’t yet found me to probe further.

But then Trisha died and everything changed. Loss no longer meant just mourning the end of a life; it pierced into me and shattered the shell that used to lay over my skin as protection, letting me live in unknowing. Her loss opened me up to the possibility that now even more loss can squeeze into the hole Trisha left, and in ways I had never comprehended before: I see flashes of loss when I drive in any car with anyone for any distance at any speed. I find loss lurking in a friend who is simply away from her phone for a few hours unaccounted for but perfectly safe. I am no longer immune to loss – it knows where I live and what I look like and it has already been to me once so it won’t take as long to find me the next time.

I just planned a second trip to my friend’s lake house over the fourth of July, which was the last time all of us were reunited, and I literally picked up my phone to call Trisha to tell her. It took me scrolling through the “T’s” to remember.

I am grateful loss missed me this time and that my mom is going to be okay. But since Trisha died I’ve learned that loss isn’t just reserved for a special few, it doesn’t just make up the meat of dire news headlines; it forms the fiber of all of us. And since I now know that loss can arbitrarily hurl 23 year olds out of this world with unparalleled might and leave the rest of us trying to sew up the holes it left us with, I see loss everywhere. I notice it peeping at me from around the corner of a building or slipping out from under my desk at work or popping up in the window by my bed, fresh from an appearance in a dream of Trisha.

Loss has ripped through me, through us all, and left us changed, more vulnerable, suddenly all too aware that it can happen to any of us at any time for any reason. Its path is destructive and illogical and unjust. Its trail is messy and so is its recovery. But in trying to clean up the mess of loss, I’ve found bits of gratitude and even sometimes pieces of joy and faith. And whenever I finish a post like this I feel like maybe all I’ve done is make the mess bigger. But I’m writing. And I’m trying to smash the loss down and package it up until it is tiny enough to squish under the palm of my hand like an unwanted bug. Until then…I write.


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