The Silent Navigators

The Silent Navigators

Death has been stalking me lately. It extends its grasp to past and present loved ones. There is no one who I know who hasn’t had a death this year. It does not look as if this trend shall abate. The worst thing about these deaths is not only the loss but also the realization of mortality. The blissful ignorance of our passing years is lost with the loss of a loved one, often a parent. We find ourselves comparing goals set with those accomplished and realizing our weakened resolves. We wonder to each other, “At this age, my parents were married”. Our lives are painted with richer hues and have gained disconcerting perspectives and depth through this awareness. This awareness is stranger than any acid trip I have taken.

This awareness is often enmeshed in tangled questions of grieving and seeking. I have known those who’ve found a post-suicide mother. I have seen others’ parents consumed by cancer and others whose parents have been lost in the Borge-esque domain of dementia. There is no consolation to these lost navigators. As you slip into the uncharted waters of the grieving process, who provides the compass? Where are the maps? What words are left to convey the loss one has encountered? Are the words: “pain,” “death,” “loss” enough or do we resort to a new, interior language that only we, ourselves, understand?

Language takes strange shape under the grieving process. The words are fast and heavy at night and in the still, pre-dawn hours. They are phantasmagoric and blur our dreaming selves with our waking selves. In these instances, the language takes an accusatory tone. We are left alone, in doubt, full of blame. We blame those who have taken flight but reserve the harshest blame for ourselves. The floodlight of hindsight isolates the daily deaths we gave to the dear departed, and we savor the rind of acrimony. The dead stalk us, reminding us of all we could have done and all we left unaccomplished.

But, perhaps it is far worse for the departed? Who among us know what thoughts arise as the brain strangles, and the heart ceases? In shuffling off this mortal coil, do we experience bliss or confront our baser selves? Religion proposes an answer but do we even know the correct question? I have heard friends ask, “Where is my parent?” when looking at the corpse of their departed mother or father. In truth, where are they? The adult who taught them to ride a bicycle or took them to see Star Wars , certainly that mass of carbon in front of them isn’t the same as the one in their memories.

By raising these questions, I do not wish to depress. I am merely attempting to flesh out the sentiments of those I have encountered. It is strange to wake up and find out when one has passed into the adulthood. It is stranger to find this passage occasioned by the death of a loved one. I have always wanted to remain, as articulated in a 7 Seconds song, “young until I die.” I haven’t listened to 7 Seconds in years.

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