One writes against memory, not with it. One writes to measure loss.
Today is the anniversary of my father’s death; tomorrow is the anniversary of the loss of my mother. Like the gradual glitch of shifting faults, almost unnoticed, the loss of both parents brings one to the edge of abyss of one’s own mortality. The realization of their absence in my life creates a viscosity in my heart; a space in my bulwark against the world that I realize will remain forever unfilled.
Tonight I grieve, as I have grieved over them from the moment of their passing. I do this not out of filial duty, but out of immense respect for who they managed to be, given the severe exigencies of their war-torn lives, and out of love – their greatest gift to me. Their love enveloped me in a cloak that is with me to this day. She set me free – literally. She sent me into the arms of a free world, giving me up so I may escape the tyranny that bound us all at the time, knowing that by so doing, she may never see me again. He gave me all that he was capable of giving, and worked tirelessly to make a new, better life for us. She gave me humor and grace, the ability to love that which is beautiful, to sorrow over another’s pain, taught me the importance of friendship, and the need to help another whenever I could. He gave me determination and perseverance, showed me the satisfaction to be found in a job well done, and taught me that only my best effort was acceptable. Neither one was perfect, and as I grew up, I slowly learned to forgive them for that. And as I matured, and developed the ability to see people and the world from several perspectives, I came to realize that they were, indeed, extraordinary people.
There is no experience quite as stunning as when there is nothing where something has always been. I still find myself wanting to pick up the phone, call one of them, and tell them about some event in my life. It has been over 2000 years since Virgil penned “sunt lacrimae rerum” – “There are tears in things.” So I shed my tears, replay in my mind a kaleidoscope of images from our lives together, and work to be worthy of their memory. An individual life can appear to be isolated and without purpose unless recognized as contributing continuity to lives that precede it and follow it endowing each human span with rich universality. For life goes on, then it goes on some more.