The world does notice, the world does care.

When we lose someone very close to us, we can’t understand why the rest of the world doesn’t stop, and fall down, with us. This comes up all the time in the days following hard loss. How can normalcy continue? Doesn’t the universe notice?

We interpret the fact that time doesn’t stop as evidence that the universe doesn’t care. That the life that was lost was meaningless to all other existence. Otherwise, how could the lawn still be green? How could the weather be good? Why is the sky blue, under which commuters are still on the highway, stores are open and busy, and people continue to care so much about the line at the bank, the price of gas at the pump, the fact that the dry cleaner still doesn’t have your shirts ready?

If you’re a parent, you probably remember how you respond to your child when he fell and skinned his knee. To the horror of that child, this was the end of the world. From his perspective, this is about as bad as life can be – the shock, the pain, the disorientation. But as parents, we know better. And the way we assure our child that things will be fine is by doing exactly what the universe does when we lose a loved one: we do not freak out, we don’t over-react, we pick him up and ensure normalcy immediately.

Just as we are the parents to our children, in the greater context of things, it is we who are the children. So we look upward, as a child does to the face of her parents, for clues that all will be okay in the end.

If, upon the loss of a child, the natural world fell into complete disarray, we might at first feel that the severity of this loss was immediately understood, and that the doomsday upon us is justified. And with that would come the fear that yes, the world is coming to end, there is nothing else out there to catch our fall, and the terrifying words of the most cynical and defeatist prognosticator we know would suddenly be validated.

Today, my son Alex would have been 27 years old. This afternoon, I visited the tree we planted next to his bench in Oak Knoll Park. That’s where I wrote the following. Maybe it will help you or someone you know see loss from a different perspective.

At Alex’s Bench, Five Years After

Where you are,
I cannot know.
I’m sure that you
are out there though.

For were death
The bitter end,
Of all you are,
Have ever been,
In any shape or
Future form,
The universe
Your loss would scorn.

Sobbing skies
And livid earth,
Both of whom
Once praised your birth,
Would sure unleash
Unholy hate,
Spurn the gods,
Torture fate,

And all things good,

If you were done,
Your name made moot,
Trees would bear
Small bitter fruit,
Rivers render
Stone of soil,
Rising seas
be made to boil,

And all good work
be turned to toil.

But suns still rose,
moons still hung,
The trees remained,
the birds still sung,
Stars still shone,
Breezes blew,
the fruit was sweet,
the roses grew.
We still have
the dew at dawn,
the live oak’s shade,
the baby’s yawn.

And all things good
continue on.


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