Monday, November 23, 2009

The Dead



The father of my high school girlfriend died yesterday. I hadn't seen him since college, but he was a big part of my life at a crucial time of my life, and my memories of him are vivid and lasting.

Like with my mom's husband, Ed. He's been gone since 1995, but the memories are rock solid. I can see and hear him clearly in my head, he appears in my dreams, and I readily conjure him and imagine his reactions to everyday events.

It's odd and striking how clear it is. Like a movie you've seen 30 times on TBS, it just doesn't seem to fade. He's perfectly preserved in my memories, as if in amber, forever the age he was when I last saw him. But at the same time, completely contemporary. Not at all ancient or dated. In full color, not sepia-toned or hazy.

I don't know why that is. Why others who are alive and well and just out of my life and living somewhere else aren't as clear to me. Maybe it's love or maybe it's ghosts or it's simply wanting the impossible. Whatever it is, the dead really are always with us. You don't have to believe in spirits or heaven or an afterlife to know that and feel it.

Maybe that makes it easier for the living to go on. I'm always struck by the human capacity for resilience. My friend's father lost his wife 27 years ago. And yet, he went on, for a whole other generation's time, remarrying, meeting his grandchildren and even his grandchildren's children. When you try to imagine it, it sounds impossible. But it just happens.

Like with everything. Like a cancer patient gradually adjusting and accepting each new reality -- here's a chance to live, an opportunity to live a few good years, a chance to live a while without pain, a way to go out with dignity and on your own terms, a month, a week, a time to finally go home to your own bed. You adapt and you go on.

It makes anything seem endurable, nothing impossible.

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