A lot of years were hard ones, especially the last 15 or so.
But hard years together or not, words can't adequately express the depth of the grief I feel.
A few months ago, a friend of mine had a close family friend pass away. My friend expressed confusion at why it hurt so badly because his friend's death was a relief. I can't remember what malady had struck his friend. But it was the kind where morphine was being prescribed to handle the pain. And at the end it wasn't enough. Death was a blessing in his case. So, why, my friend asked, did it hurt so bad?
What I told him is that the people we know become part of us. When they die, part of us dies too. And that always hurts.
But by the same token, our very lives have also been shaped by them and as long as we live, parts of them will live too. And inasmuch as they have shaped us, everyone we encounter will also encounter a part of them.
Those words I spoke those months ago come back to comfort me. They give me a hint of insight into part of what the Orthodox hymns we sing at funerals and memorials mean. This is part, but not all, of what "memory eternal" means in the Orthodox tradition.
The other tradition I'm reminded of is very different. The tradition of existential nihilism is generally considered to have been founded by Friedrich Nietzsche. In his book The Gay Science he has a passage about what happens to those who come to full understanding of his teachings.
Such people will find themselves on a raft in a sea of infinite possibility. At first they will be overwhelmed by the infinitude. The possibilities are endless.
But then the pilot of raft realizes that she is all alone and everything is meaningless.
Without Jenn to care for, all new vistas open up. So many things are open to me that were not open before.
And yet, now I'm alone on this raft while I float the various possibilities.
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