The fourth meeting of the season for West Street Writers was on Friday. There was the usual banter and readings from the assembled members, all of whom are far cleverer than I with their words. I particularly liked the extract from Eve’s novel-in-progress, and the list of characters she gave us to help us along the way; it intrigued enough to want to hear more.
Every week, one of the members is in the ‘chair’, and basically manages the two hours we spend at our venue; a tiny room just big enough for the 8/9 of us. After reading our efforts from the previous week’s ‘homework’, a very loose arrangement, the chair for the week, Linda, gave us the theme: ‘Loss’ as our homework for the next Friday.
This got me thinking quite a bit about losses, which I suppose can mean just about anything: relations, relationships, love, animals, money, looks, credit cards, phones, youth; a wide range of objects and people. In past years both personally and literately I have lost in no particular order: both parents, mother-in-law, my only sibling brother, father-in-law, our pet cat, many close friends and more distant relations. I doubt if any of us are any different, because in the end it happens to all of us, of that there is no getting away from. It should make one all the more determined to a) make it last as long as possible and b) to be as well as possible. The latter wish is of course the one we often have no control over. The former includes things like not having fatal accidents or other actions within ones own control. Illness especially terminal, is not something any of us want to contemplate, but if the inevitable descends on us, I hope that I may face it with the fortitude I have seen in others. I’ve already mentioned the loss of my mother and father, 28 and 26 years since they departed (see 25 Years) and on occasions, my brother who passed away in September 2007, he was three years older than I. The loss of my parents seems so long ago as to have been in another life, like looking back at photographs of your youth and wondering who that
slim, fairly good looking chap is with all the hair. My family in 1983:
From the left: Moi, Brother Larry, dad, youngest Daughter TC, wife Fran, sister-in-law Karen. Sitting: Eldest daughter Charlotte, nephew Leeward, mum.
A happy bunch, This one is the other half of the family in the back garden in the same year:
Standing: dad, Charlotte, Liz(sister-in-law). Sitting: father-in-law Charlie, mother-in-law Edith (with TC on lap), mum, other sister-in-law Kathleen, Fran
Human nature being what it is, those we have lost are never forgotten, and wishing they were here to see what you’ve achieved with your life, and those around you will of course never happen. Life moves on, and you live for the day, never knowing what is around the corner. A close relation’s wife was taken ill recently and is still in hospital, one minute they were fine, the next they are in intensive care; it’s that quick, we could have lost them at that moment. But, the road to recovery is long and tedious and will take time, but at advanced age it takes even longer. Loss is a keenly felt thing, and as I have mentioned in previous articles, I cried more at losing our pet cat than I did at any of the loss of my parents or brother, but don’t ask me to explain why. I recall the happy days of youth, playing in the sand on the beach with mum looking on in cotton dress and sandals, and dad in trousers and shirt with ( I kid you not) a knotted hankie on his head. Going fishing from Seaton, catching mackerel and herring, and taking them back to our caravan to cook. Memories, these are the things I remember. Mum and dad were both taken early and my brother before he was 60, where does that leave me at 62? How long have I got left? No-one knows, the sudden event could be tomorrow, or I could last another 20 years. I’ve just been to a funeral of a 64 year old friend, who had several issues, I hope I last longer than that, but who knows if I will? Will my family miss me as much as I miss mine? There is no pre-ordained span of life, the old bible length of three score years and ten is still used as a yardstick, but I know mid-70’s people who are fitter and healthier than some 30 year olds. What does that bode for the future? All unanswerable questions. No, I’m not being maudling, these are all facts, of life. So what is loss, especially of those and dearest, all about? Fond memories of time spent, long lost photos, little touches and artifacts that were once precious to the owner, are now all that’s left of them.
But losses can be overcome, and the life of the missing person can be celebrated, as in ‘so-and-so always used to say/do that’, so they are still in your presence, and your thoughts. Its an iterative thing, the lost person can exist in your mind. This is why long-time marrieds who lose a partner often say they ‘talk’ to the other, probably in their mind. This is no bad thing especially if it keeps the person sane. All of us will lose someone and this situation will arise. Personally, it hasn’t happened to me except with parents etc, so the worse case I will encounter (if I last long enough), is yet to come and I hope when it does I can embrace the loss as easily as some I have come across.
I also hope I never have to experience another sort of loss: where someone goes before their time, either by accident, crime or illness. Especially where the victim is young or an offspring. That must be the most difficult loss to comprehend or come to terms with. Fortunately, although I don’t know the statistics, this doesn’t happen that often. I was talking to a friend who lost her son 18 years ago as a result of being knocked down by a car. He would have been forty this year and it still hurts that he didn’t achieve full potential. Many people have lost children at very tender ages through illness, and in these cases it would be the futility of being impotent to do anything about it, that would hurt the most.
But loss is part of life, and affects all of us at some time. Let it be, that the loss is one which can be cathartic and closes the loop of the persons life, to be embraced, to be celebrated.