"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Saturday, June 06, 2009

on the nature of grief

something about mourning feels compensatory, which only adds to my feelings of grief – i wish i didn't have to make up for anything now that it's too late, but that's always what it comes to. that's, what i think, bereavement is supposed to feel like. like you didn't do all you could. always making up for something.

this is the distinct difference i experience between deaths of "celebrities" and deaths of "ordinary people." celebrities had their whole lives to be celebrated, they had the advantage of fame. when they die, it's published on the front page, given a retrospective at the Oscars, and every person in every corner of the world shrugs their shoulders, moves on. maybe it was someone's favorite childhood actor, but you still have the videos on tape and could buy the anniversary addition dvd if you wanted it. there's footage there, there's documentation, there's always remnants of the lingering past.

ordinary people, no matter how extraordinary and wonderful they are, pass unnoticed. photographs here and there, maybe some traces of video. some footage may have been lost. but there is no video of his life, no documentary we can all watch to remember, to bring him back to life. only fragmented memories, and regrets. no matter how handsome of a man my uncle Tony was, not everyone had the pleasure of knowing him. many people will no longer get the opportunity.

this is the marked difference, and what makes grieving so exhausting and consuming: the feeling of missed opportunity. while with celebrities the state of fame exhausts their human potential and makes it so easily accessible and oversaturated, the real people in our lives are still mysteries, rare opportunities, special occasions. they are people with unique mannerisms, a one-of-a-kind laugh, a smile that could light up the room. they have all the qualities of famous people (charisma, charming good looks, philanthropy, amiability, talents), but their humanity was evident before your eyes, and you are compelled to wonder why it is that they are not famous, but feel so lucky and blessed to be part of such a magnificent secret. and because their lives aren't broadcast ad nauseum, you can never get enough. every moment with them feels like such a gift, and you always want more, always worry about the moment all that will be taken away, missed opportunities making up the bulk of the gap.

i'm now in my 4th day of mourning, and though the crying fits have decreased, the grief has not subsided. when my mind is let to wander, it keeps going back to all the times i saw him, and even more, it lingers on the times i could have seen him, but didn't. pondering the finiteness of life and how if i had only been more aware of life as a space between to brackets – [ ] – would i have spent the intervening time so far away?

when Kurt Vonnegut died, i felt sad. but mostly it was a regret that i could no longer meet him and tell him i loved his books and beg him to autograph one. when my uncle Tony died, i was thrown into what felt like a maelstrom of depression, regretting every summer spent so far away, regretting these months i've been living so close, but just far enough that i didn't visit more regularly. regretting not going to San Francisco when i had the chance to visit him, take him out to dinner, watch him eat and talk and pour his tea, give him a hug and tell him how much i love him and how much i think about him.

this regret is the most painful kind. and so, the nature of my grief.

1 comment:

Rae Jin Devine said...


(Also, word verification was "indenth.")