Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Messages Arrive about a Lasting Loss

I've been thinking a lot these days about various relationships in my life. This morning I went to a lecture by ethicist Michaal Josephson. He included a poem he wrote called, "What Will Matter."

It's a poem about what will matter once we're no longer alive. He asks, "How will the value of your days be measured?"

It has a few stanzas, but one small part jumped out at me when I read it, and again when he recited it.
"What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting loss when you're gone."

How many people have passed through your life that you still think of every day? Other than the obvious family members, there are quite a few for me - some who are dead, and some who are just missing from my world by choice.

I can honestly say I've never ended any relationship of friends, lovers or others without making intense efforts to maintain it. But it becomes ridiculous to continue to put energy into something when its glory days, if there ever were any, are long past.

I've never understood the idea of falling out of love with someone, or just not feeling a fondness for a friend that existed earlier. I don't understand it. I don't think I ever will. If I loved you at one time in my life, I still do. If we were ever friends, I still want to be friends. I feel a loss that you are not in my life.

In many ways, I'm very childlike in that I initially think others experience the world in the same way I do. But, logically I know from observing the actions of others is that this is not true for them. They do not feel the same loss I do at friendships lost or relationships gone. Regardless, sometimes life insists I let go, and make room for new relationships, even though I feel the loss.

So, how many will feel a lasting loss when I am gone? Or when you are gone? I guess that's the billion dollar question.

I know I feel a loss for some people who are absent from my life, but it seems there is nothing to do but accept that. Maybe for me the lesson is to be smarter and not put so much energy into obviously waning relationships. I never want to let go. I always think there's possibility. And I want to continue to build relationship.

Sometimes I feel as though I must be the only person on the planet who holds onto a 40 year old postcard, written by an elderly neighbor lady to a young girl. But, those few lines, no doubt written in haste, capture a moment. There's a wedding - I hope they're still happy; a note that she hopes Johnny is okay - a reference to a young man's health issue that was a tremendous concern; a card from Niagra Falls that reminds me of a trip with people I love that I had no idea would happen when that card was received.

I remember visiting Mrs. Wildharber. Hers was one of the two houses close enough to walk to when I was a kid. It was her husband, Clyde, who drove my mother to the hospital in the middle of a blizzard when she went into labor with me and my parents' vehicle wouldn't start.

She was so very kind to me. At various times she arranged for a state legislator to write me a letter, gifted me with knick knacks I was drawn to, and she talked to me - in person and on a postcard.

Was Mrs. Wildharber someone I was really close to? No. But she was someone who mattered in my life. I wanted to be with her more than Mama allowed. I guess even as a child I was seeking relationships with people, wanting conversation, a different world view.

I still want those things, but they seem harder to find. Thankfully, I have room to carry memories of Mrs. Wildharber and many other important people who've played on the stage of my life. And I do feel the loss, but it seems there's no other option.


Kim said...

Thanks for the reminder about what's important. I KNOW it, but it sometimes gets lost in everyday living.

Amy said...

I usually read your posts via facebook, so I haven't been to the actual blog in a while. I like the new background/design!

Patsy Terrell said...

Thanks, Kim... I seem to need more connection than most people, I think. Not sure why, but that seems to be the case. I always think our time together is limited so I want to make the most of it.

Patsy Terrell said...

I'm experimenting with the blog design... not sure if it will stay this way or not, but I like it in general. Not sure why pix aren't showing up in facebook.

Judith said...

I love your Mrs. Wildharber! In my life, her name was Rosa Dennison. She shared her mother's ivory tatting shuttles with me when I was twelve.

When I came to her door that day, she was standing on the dining room table, changing the ceiling light bulbs. She was, after all, only 92. Loved that little lady.

Patsy Terrell said...

I've been blessed to have more than one such person in my life. Very, very lucky. I'm constantly amazed by people's kindness.

datt doings said...

Funny that you are reflecting on things I have been reflecting on recently. Last night I discovered yet another post on our son's obituary from a young man who had served with him and who was letting it be known that out of his love for and in honor to him, he and his wife had chosen his KIA date for their wedding date six years ago. And again I pondered, what would bring such honors that many babies take his name, that many vets wear his bracelet, others wear tatoos of his name, KIA date, etc.. A war room in Italy is marked by his name. So many report that they still reflect on their time with him almost daily. It has been seven years. And yet,as I begin to come to the end of my professional era, I so often wonder if even one person will take recall of my time with them. What I once thought was important, is not. What I know is important, I wonder if I ever came close to holding even for a moment.
This brings me back to what I have taken as my matra: "Embrace life, one day at a time". Seize each moment. We each are unique and hold some part of the puzzle. I will go forth. Hope you will too. You have made multiple contributions to my life, Patsy. Thank you.

Patsy Terrell said...

What amazing tributes to your son. He touched many people in his life, obviously.

I'm sure you have to. I don't think a person like your son is raised by people who are not showing the way by example.

I'm humbled by your comments. Thank you for sharing. I hope joy is yours in the present.