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February 14, 2012

"How long will the pain last?"

"How long will the pain last?"
A broken-hearted mourner asked me.


"All the rest of your life."
I had to answer truthfully.
We never quite forget.
No matter how many years pass,
we remember. The loss of a loved one
is like a major operation; part of us is
removed, and we have a scar for the
rest of our lives. This does not mean that
the pain continues at the same intensity.
There is a short while, at first, when we
hardly believe it; it is rather like when we cut
our hand. We see the blood flowing, but the pain has
not set in yet. So when we are bereaved, there is a short
while before the pain hits us. But when it does,
it is massive in its effect. Grief is shattering.
Then the wound begins to heal.
It is like going through a dark tunnel.
Occasionally we glimpse a bit of light up
ahead, then we lose sight of it awhile, and
then see it again, and one day we merge into
the light. We are able to laugh, to care, to live.
The wound is healed so to speak.
The stitches are taken out, and we are whole again.
But not quite. The scar is still
there, and the scar tissue, too.
As the years go by, we manage.
There are things to do, people to care
for, and tasks that call for full attention.
But the pain is still there, not far below the
surface. We see a face that looks familiar,
hear a voice that has echoes, see a photograph
in someone's album, see a landscape that once
we saw together, and it as though
the knife were in the wound again.
But not so painfully, and mixed with joy, too.
Because remembering a happy time is not all sorrow;
it brings back happiness with it. As a matter of fact,
we even seek such moments in bittersweet remembrance.
We have our religious memories and our memorial days,
and our visits to the cemetery.
And though these bring back the pain,
they bring back memories of joy as well.
How long will the pains last? All the rest of
your life. But the thing to remember is that not
only the pain will last, but the blessed memories
as well. Tears are the proof of life. The more love,
the more tears. If this were true, then how could we ever
ask that the pain cease altogether?
For then the memory of love would go with it.
The pain of grief is the price we pay for love.