When they died, people would come. After the funeral, people would go. In reality, we all come, and we all go.

We come together to mourn and our mourning sends us into our own Afterloss. What brings us into our collective sorrow, into our mutual pain, is the same experience that takes us into our own solitary sorrow, our own pain.

Benjamin After the funeralI watched the interplay of Lydia and my grief when Bryan died. Even though there were other dynamics that pressed against our sorrow, it was his death that challenged us most. When Bryan died we grew closer together and farther apart.

We were dealing with her being terminal. The impending death of our other child shadowed the funeral of our youngest child. But what sent us to the depths of our sorrow was that our baby was dead.

Bryan was the first to go. He was the first to lead us into the expansion of life and propel us into the contraction of pain that comes with loss. On many occasions Lydia and I mourned together, but on every occasion we mourned alone.

We would whisper from our own exhaustion across the chasm of sorrow. We felt each other’s broken hearts, but each heartbeat beat alone. Across crowded rooms our eyes would meet and silently we sorrowed together in our aloneness.

Benjamin Baby diedWe held what was left of each other as close as we could, all the while slipping into solitary sorrow. When our eyes closed at night, and our words had nothing left to say, we sank into our pain, our silence and our sorrow. Another day had come and gone. We had come and gone in a day never to be retrieved.

People come; people go. We touch each other’s lives in a fleeting moment in time. Eternal love lives in brevity here. Our limited natures give us so little time to touch each other before the passageway of death takes what we have gathered and leads us beyond this moment.

When Lydia died she left me a letter to be opened after her death. I sat by our bed. I sat by her body. And I opened the letter. There were so many beautiful words she left me. But what struck me most was this series of beautiful of moments we shared. She started a repetition of sentences with “I will always remember…”

In my Afterloss I have wandered the landscape of memory. What do we get to keep? What comes? What goes? In the intersections of life where we meet, what joins us? And what separates us?

I have spent years pondering the relationship between memory and loss, memory and time, memory and its own relation to the memory itself. Does what happened really have any relationship with what is remembered? I could go on and on in my every unfolding excursion into what memory has to do with loss, with sorrow and with healing, but there simply isn’t the time.

In her letter, there was a rainbow, a majestic rainbow, which painted the sky over Pt. Reyes. She wrote that she would “always remember” that moment. Of all the memories she and I collected over the years, this is one of the memories she chose to leave me in our collection of life. I can think of no greater gift than to leave me this happenstance moment filled with tender meaning. For in that moment so long ago, we were speechless. We just marveled at how nature could paint such a beautiful rainbow, such a beautiful moment.

We lived together. We lived alone. We sorrowed together. We sorrowed alone. Our pain took us on a journey of monumental proportions. We did the best we could. But we would come, and we would go. We came to understand the nature of loss.

I knew when she needed to submerge into her sorrow. She tenderly gave me space to explore my pain in my aloneness. But the touch of the eyes across a crowed room told us that we were never alone. We went deep into our own Afterloss and found each other there time after time, beyond the limits of time.

When I left the funeral home with Matt’s ashes, I drove the highway alone. The one person I wanted to be there next to me in that moment was Lydia. She would know what I felt. She knew the utter anguish we endured at the death of Bryan. She would know the depths of pain I felt sitting next to the ashes of our other child. She would know.

People come, people go. I am here, but I will go. We meet each other on sacred ground. We touch each other for such a brief moment. What is left is memory. What goes is the essence of what we touch with and what we touch from.

We have so little time before timelessness says there is no more time. I want to cherish this moment. Even as I write this moment has already passed. Lydia, Matt and Bryan in their lives gave me the gift of time.  In their deaths, they gave me the gift of timelessness. We have met here. We will meet again. People come; people go…people come; people go…people come…. And I cherish both the coming and going of every moment, of every life.

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