After the thirteen year period of going through the lives and deaths of my family I was completely undone. It was then that I could let go absolutely in the Afterloss. A friend came over one day and said, “A couple of us were talking and we’re really worried about you. You need to get out more.” I thanked him for his concern. I was touched by his caring. Then he said, “What do you do all day?” I responded, “I don’t know, but it takes me all day to do it.”

Benjamin  All dayI could have said, “Well, every morning I take a victory lap around the kitchen congratulating myself for crawling out of bed. Then after I shower and dress I stare out in space for a couple of hours, take a long solitary walk while continuing to stare out in space, and then when night comes I light a candle and stare into space.” There’s a lot of space in the Afterloss to stare out of and into.

There was also something else I was doing, but I didn’t know how to describe it then. I was about the crucial task of reintegration. There are so many layers of the Afterloss and so many elements to reintegrate. The one I’d like to address here is how I came to live in the two worlds of before and after.

My world of before shifted long before their deaths. It was at the birth of our first child, Lydia’s massive seizures, Matt’s first month in intensive care, and the transfusion of HIV, which we didn’t know about for another two and half years. Before the birth, life was different. The biggest difference was our lives fit with other lives. It can be describe by that comical word called normal. A better way to describe it, however, is that we were a part of the whole in the world of before.

In the after, we were separated out of the herd in more ways than one. I lost my job. We fled from the city we were in and hid in full view while living with the secret of Lydia, Matt and Bryan’s HIV. During this period houses of children with HIV were being burned down and other children were being denied school; hysteria was the public perception towards anyone living with HIV. But this is not the after that I want to address. It is only an illustration of something that is much deeper, much more subtle.

The before world goes on. I still had to work. We still had to pay bills. Holidays and birthdays came and went just as before. The world looked the same but nothing was the same. I was living in the world after having to do life in the world of before. And I had to find a way, not to balance them, but to find some harmonic resonance between the two. I tried to balance them for a while and it nearly drained me completely damn near killing me. I’m more of a both/and rather than an either/or kind of guy and I needed to find a different way to blend the two.

The before has a linear quality to it. I have found nothing linear in the world of the Afterloss. I discovered another way of relating and honoring both worlds. The image I used was that the before world is like a picture of a landscape and the after world is a sheet of transparency that has an entirely different set of pictures. Now, every moment is lived by laying this transparency over the landscape and creating a whole new picture and a more peaceful, deeper experience.

It took me a lot of intentionality to find a way to integrate the world that once was with what is.

Lydia looked out the window and saw a white clouds sliding into a soft orange. She said, “Let’s go look at the sunset.” She was too weak to walk to a place where we could watch the turning of another day. So, we got into the car and drove to an empty cul-de-sac at the end of our neighborhood where our view was unimpeded. It’s funny how the most extraordinary memories are the ordinary ones, isn’t it?

In the before world we watched a lot of sunsets. In the after world these sunsets weren’t just beautiful colors painting a vast sky and kissing the end of another day. In these sunsets were questions of how many days left do we have? What is left of us? How much more is left to give? And imbedded in the after sunsets was this deep yearning for one more and a simple request – please, give us just one more.

I believe those of us living in loss live in two worlds. These worlds are out of sync both in time and content but have to share the same space. Every moment still feels like I’m in parallel universes overlaying the two, but I have found peace and an effortlessness in the harmonic process. I was watching a documentary where two galaxies were colliding. Two massive galaxies were trying to share the same space. I thought to myself, I know exactly how that feels.

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