On Loss

Sometimes feelings are hard to put into words. Sometimes the words flow like a river and have to be guided and reigned in like a galloping horse that’s been spooked by a rattlesnake. Other times it’s like pulling teeth or cajoling an infant to eat her strained peas. Describing feelings can be as difficult as describing the smell of a color. What does red smell like? How does yellow smell? This is loss. How to describe he feeling of missing something or someone with an organ, the heart, that is used for a different purpose, to love. Love and loss may seem like two sides of the same coin but loss is something else altogether.

My brother Cheo died over two months ago. The initial shock and disbelief of his sudden passing has given way, over time, first to a crushing weight on my chest, then a pain that morphed into an empty numbness. At this point the feeling is what I describe as loss, not so much hurt or pain or longing.

Years ago there was a car commercial on TV extolling the features of a particular vehicle with phrases like, “you may not need to go from zero to 60 in 4.6 seconds…but you know you can.” Each virtue of the machine hawked was more impressive than the next, ending with, “but you know you can.”

Loss is the opposite of that feeling of, “but you know you can.” Whereas I used to be able to call or text my brother at any time I wished, even though I didn’t, I knew I could. Now, knowing that I can’t drop him a quick text or share a laugh at a meme or send a tweet about something he’d be interested in — this is loss. Losing the ability to do something I used to almost take for granted, knowing there’s not a way to get that ability back, this is loss.

With other things or objects we lose, sometimes there’s an inkling of hope or possibility that we can recover them. I once lost my sunglasses, or so I thought. Then I found them days later and was overjoyed. I hate losing stuff. I can recall favorite hats or shades I’ve mislaid. Sometimes I remember leaving my stuff somewhere, like the headphone splitter I left on the airplane. Things like that can be replaced, generally. People can’t be replaced. The stuff I used to have might be missed, but the feeling is passing, not like the loss of a loved one. This lingers.

When my grandparents in Hawaii passed away, I felt sad. Not only for their passing but for the feeling that our time together and all possible future time on earth together was at an end. But for me, with the elderly there’s more of a sense of completion. Their lives were full and complete and came to a logical end, an expected terminus. Same with my grandmother in DC, where I had been able to visit in recent years and enjoy her loving smile and hugs despite her declining health. However with my brother there is and was such a sense of loss. Lost time, lost future, not anything wasted but just incomplete. What other adventures would he have? What other laughs and memories would we build even despite the distance between Florida and Texas? This is loss.

Loss feels like a sneaker shoelace that’s cut too short. It won’t quite tie the shoe and keeps begging for attention to be re-tied just a little tighter to stay in place. Then you have to resort to using fewer loops to lace it through so it can stay in place, but then your shoe feels like it’s not quite secure. You don’t want to run too fast for fear that it will come off. This is loss.

But we keep running anyway.



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