After Loss: Beyond the Start of Words

Where is there to go after loss? I always knew that words might, somehow, come for me. There has been such tremendous loss, such as we have never truly known: my father’s passing has left us, variously, heavy of spirit, dull of comprehension, yet relieved that all that he feared has now slipped thankfully away. Words fell away from me during days in which nothing was real, in which there was the surreal yellowness hung upon the world. Still we inhabit a gap where, for one at least, every so often when I think of him, quietly, I’m not sure where I am.

Time has always been a theme. Now this is compounded further. I always knew I would write in sad surreal times such as these: when they finally came. Yet, I didn’t know how words would slow to a trickle, condense to truths and memories, rarefied and as yet unformed. Words did not fully go: they flew in shapes and far above, in ways I had no ways of firmly catching. We sat for hours with him: we said love and we cried. We waited because he wasn’t ready. There were times when there were just wordlessnesses. Time folds in myriad ways.

So, in my vigil, our vigil, his fighting, written words were rare, as in pure, like oxygen. What unfolds beneath, in such time-focused days, though? When I opened my notebook to the possibility of memories, one day, travelling north when all those around me didn’t know such delicate trauma sat amongst them, when nothing else mattered to me, the sketches of my past tumbled end over end. These were the start of words. This I knew.

Perhaps we should take great care with words in such rice-paper days as these. The temptation is to grieve with great abandon, with the melodrama of unique experience. What we feel here and now, what I feel here and now, some days on, some days deeper in, is what half the world has felt, will feel, some day. The other half will be the grieved for. How the world can cope in such continuous flux, I wonder at. Yet we have the love of one another, the empathy of strangers, the company of words.

This is just beyond the start of words. My father once said, ‘Son, work with your brain not with your hands.’ This I repeat again and again, in written words and thought. It is a mantra for now. Though I need my fingers for words, I don’t build (except the construction of thought); though I pause with the press of my palms, I find them soft because I write. I find me soft because I write. There is a certain malleability to this point just beyond the start of words. Anything can be, if the words can be welcomed in.

So, after loss, where there is to go is further in. This is not a state of despair or an inability to move; this is a state of grace, of love unappreciated, of time. It may be time I have no understanding of, like the particular yellowness of the moon, one night, or like some metallic light beneath the imminence of a storm, but it is time nonetheless. It is a moment stretched in which the themes to have endured are folding over on one another: time, love, beauty, sadness.

Words can help. This I have always known.

4 thoughts on “After Loss: Beyond the Start of Words

  1. exiledprospero says:

    Joel, please accept my sincere condolences.

  2. charliebritten says:

    Very sorry to hear this, Joel. My parents both passed on a very long time ago, but they stay with me in my heart and memories.

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