I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, August 18, 2019


Lily and Lynn
Yesterday afternoon, my friends and I met on Lynn's front porch to share food and drink wine together. That wasn't the original plan for the day; I had gone early to the coffee shop and was going to walk with the ladies, but my knee simply isn't good enough right now to do more than carry me from place to place. Brisk walks are hopefully in my near future, but not at the moment.

Right about the time that my lower back injury began to stop giving me so much pain, my right knee, for no apparent reason, gave out on me. My acupuncturist said he thought it is related to my earlier injury, but I'm not willing to give up my active lifestyle just yet. In the meantime, I'll continue to read and enjoy more sedate activities, such as eating and drinking wine.

My friend John was waiting at the coffee shop yesterday when I arrived, and he bought me breakfast, and said, "Harry is gone." Harry is his cat, who has his own cat door and comes and goes as he pleases. I was confused by what he meant, so he told me that he didn't come home for two nights, and John thinks he was probably eaten by a coyote. He had been attacked by one a few years ago, but he escaped and, although injured, made a full recovery. Apparently not this time. I am always distressed by the loss of our dear animal companions, for whatever reason. As his friend, I offered my sincere condolences; there is nothing else I could do.

I also lost another friend this past week. I learned that one of my old friends from skydiving was found dead in his home. His neighbors called the police after he had not been seen for several days. He always took an early morning walk and the neighbors were concerned. I was very sad to think of him taking that final journey alone. Apparently a week or so before, he had been in a car accident and had been treated at the hospital and released. I wonder if something happened that wasn't discovered at the time. We'll never know.

The downside to having lots of friends and acquaintances who matter to me is the inevitable having to say goodbye, as the days and years pass. I've lost so many friends and family by now, and it never gets any easier, just different. My heart aches for all the loss we humans must endure. Suffering is just as much a part of life as joy and happiness.
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths. —Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
Some people find comfort in a strong religious conviction. Although I am a believer, I'm not at all sure that organized religion is for me. I've gone through many phases of belief, but I no longer attend any church. However, I do pray, and often when I am in distress I'll go for a solitary walk and have a conversation with myself. Whether there is anybody else listening is not for me to know, but it doesn't matter: I always feel better after some tears and those talks.

I was only twenty-two when I lost my son to a bout of meningitis. That was my first loss, and it took me close to a decade of life to make my way back to a new normal. These days, I find it takes much less time, because my heart is already tender and soft just from living. I think many people feel they can harden one's heart and not feel things quite so deeply, but for me, it's the opposite. I can be reduced to tears in an instant, and I'm glad for the ability to share someone's grief. I wonder if it's a choice one makes, or whether life circumstances are what makes some of us feel things so deeply. It's a mystery to me.

One thing I know for sure: the longer I live, the more loved ones I will lose. My remedy for that is to stop often and take stock of what my life and my day contains right at this moment. My life partner, still sleeping next to me at this moment, is so precious to me, and I cannot think how I would survive that loss. But I know that I would. We have talked about it, and I know he will also be able to carry on without me. It's not easy, never easy, but it's part of life.

We are both in our twilight years, those years when we are hale and happy without major illness. Yet the path ahead for us all is towards infirmity, and we can face it with equanimity if we choose. Our way out of our loss and hurt is in and through. It doesn't make me miss my loved ones any less, but remembering them with love in my heart feels so much better than becoming bitter and wishing things were different.

As I write these words, I am sitting in my bed with my laptop, the sun has just risen on a new day, and my sleeping partner will be with me for awhile longer. My dear friends at the coffee shop, all my friends, including you, dear reader, enrich my life and fill my days with happiness. These words from a psalm just popped into my head: my cup runneth over. How can anyone be grumpy on a day like this?

My tea is gone, and I can feel the day pulling me towards whatever lies ahead for me today. Perhaps I'll lay my tired head down at the end of a good day, and I hope I will remember to give thanks for another exciting and precious adventure in the world. Until we meet again next week, I hope you will find some person somewhere who will leave your presence with a smile on his or her face. Be well until we meet again next week.


Marie Smith said...

There was an interesting interview Andersen Cooper did with Stephen Colbert. They discussed grief, each having had significant losses in their lives. The interview is on-line now. It is worth a look.

The grief isn’t easier with age, just different I find.

Rian said...

This post made me smile, DJan. And I'm with you as I'm also a believer, but have come to the conclusion that 'organized religion' is not for everyone. I do pray (talk to that presence deep within myself) and long quiet walks in silence do help.

And I too know what it is like to lose family and friends (I imagine at our age, who doesn't) - so I constantly pray that I can be strong - as I find it hard to imagine life without DH. We haven't talked about this... probably should. And I also feel that tears are closer to the surface these days - and I'm not normally an outwardly emotional person. Will post a poem later today that I have taped here by my computer.

Anyway, enjoy your day and hopefully your knee problem will heal itself soon... so your wonderful hikes can continue.

Elephant's Child said...

Thank you.
Grief changes us, but is a part of life. I fear I am about to lose the cat who has shared our life for the last 12 years.
And a big yes, to remembering people with love.
I hope your knee improves and that your week is filled with joy.

gigi-hawaii said...

This is a good post. It reminds me of how short life is. Live life to the fullest, but take time to say hello and how are you to the people around you.

Linda Reeder said...

I like your parting wish. Spreading smiles is something I strive to do. I have a friend who is suffering who I need to give attention to. Maybe that's my charge for the week.

Red said...

Some how we have to come to terms with a loss. We have to arrange things so that we can carry on. My Dad never came to terms with the loss of his 11 year old daughter. Dad carried on with an active life but the loss was always there.

Rita said...

You always leave a smile on my face. :)
We still love the ones we have lost. I, too, am so grateful for all the people in my life.
Great pic of your friends!! :)

Far Side of Fifty said...

You are a good friend to many. Tell John I am sorry Harry is gone. We had a cat once her name was Dawn and she was gone for a month and came back home...cats are weird like that.
I am sorry for the loss of one of your old sky diving buddies. It is okay to be sad for animals and people...if you were not sad then they didn't make much of an impact on your life.
Far Guy and I discuss death, since he doesn't know when or if a transplant will be possible...his life is scary with a transplant or without a transplant. I am unable to decide which is more scary...leaning toward without is more scary. He is struggling to breathe, he sees his Doctor Far far away on Tuesday this week and has a bunch of tests. I am not looking forward to the drive about 4 hours one way and we will do it all in one day.

FYI my Mom was/is having lower back problems and her knees are very painful, the Surgeon told her her knees problem is related to her back. She is having injections...as she is a poor risk for surgery at her age. She will be in a wheelchair before long I am afraid. I go to her Doc appts when I am able to.

I need to be three people right now instead of just one old tired person as I have three or four people that need care. It is impossible for me to take care of them all.

I am okay I have to be.

William Kendall said...

Grief is something we all have to come to terms with, and each time it affects us in different ways.

I think in terms of religion, I'd probably be termed a reluctant agnostic. I'm totally disgusted by the hypocrisy of organized religion, and I've never felt anything out there to suggest that anyone's listening.

Frank said...

I didn't know grief until I was 68 years old. Even though I had lost my parents and some siblings I just moved on. It was when I fell in love with a dog, a constant and faithful companion that I, for the first time, had a broken heart. And now, even three years later, I'm not over it. I have four more dogs and love all. Now I see them age and get depressed when I see them slowing down. I experience anticipatory grief. As for me, I'm a Christian and have the blessed assurance that I have eternal life in heaven. But my dogs, where do they go?

Arkansas Patti said...

I hope Harry returns and that he only met up with an ill tempered Tom cat and while battered, he will recover. It does hurt not only to lose a pet but to not know what happened.
I too have no organized religion in my life but I do pray and sometimes just talk to Him often thanking him for the most trivial things. I thanked Him for a really good burp just a bit ago for I sure felt better afterwards. I think he laughs at me.
My grief for lost friends as I age is often tempered with how sick they were, were they in pain, and had they otherwise enjoyed a long life. Premature deaths are nearly impossible to accept.

Gigi said...

I hope you are back out there soon - just take it easy until the knee (or the doctor) tells you it's ok.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, to love, it seems to me, is to let ourselves be open to loss. But it also to open ourselves to the myriad blessings of friendship. Peace.

Ernie said...

Good luck with the knee pain. This is so insightful and very thought provoking. Thanks for sharing.