I just stumbled across a blog by someone else, half a world away, whose parent died of the same kind of cancer on exactly the same day as my dad.
It is usually good to share, to feel connected, but it felt odd to be linked by a type of disease and the coincidence of a death date. When I read the blogger’s words, I didn’t know whether to respond, how to respond, to comment or not.. it felt a bit like showing up on someone’s big day and realising I had inadvertently worn the same dress…
Grief is a lonely place to spend time, even when we’re surrounded with others who are missing the same person, since of course, to each of us they were someone else and we each miss our own version.
I think grief is unavoidably a touch self absorbed, all about me and the he or she that I’m missing. Grief has made me a little selfish. Like an air crash survivor stranded in a remote mountain scape, I feel justified in laying aside my usual social standards in order to survive, only for me that means not always answering the phone, not putting on makeup and being a bit abrupt, rather than eating someone’s buttock..
There is something simultaneously a little bleak and a little reassuring in the realisation that actually there are ten of thousands of people feeling this aloneness, this gaping loss. That my father, my unique, irreplaceable dad is gone not alone, but in a great company… I tend to forget that when I am mooching around in my little black bubble.
Curious, I googled and found that around 60 million people die each year, 154,000 per day, 2 deaths every second. It is strange to imagine all of those people streaming off the earth, those many departures. The big numbers somehow reduce the lives to nothing, but of course each one of those numbers is someone’s mother, father, lover, friend, child… precious to someone, most precious to many.
Knowing that, the loneliness of my grief seems just a little ludicrous. As if I am standing in the midst of a groaning crowd with my eyes closed, complaining that I am all alone.
And this stream of deaths is no accident. No epidemic, no killing spree, busy day or missed footing sends those millions tripping off the planet. Death is just life with poor timing, arriving early to do the clean up whilst we are still trying to enjoy the party.
Of course this does not make me miss my father any less. It does not stop the ache I feel when I think of decades without hearing his voice or giving him a hug. It does not make me feel any less empty when I wake up to another day which he is not in….
But, it does make me realise this mess, this craziness is not out of step with life, but very much in its scheme. This awful abnormality is really rather normal, rather mundane.. and I am not as alone in it as I had thought.