It’s easy to celebrate a birthday, an anniversary, a victory or a successful completion of something meaningful; but it’s excruciatingly painful to remember that particular day that your child was hurt, or your parent died, or your loved one left.
It happens to all of us; in one way or another, in small or big ways; tragedies and disasters are part of the human landscape and in many ways define who we are or who we become.
How does one get over that day, or that particular moment when the car accident happened; how do you remember that moment that you throw soil on the draped body of someone you truly love or that day you watched the disoriented face of someone you thought you loved, on a TV or hospital monitor, with the blazing lines of security lights flickering on and off.
Life is all about moving forward; every day, every minute is about that particular moment and the next moment that comes after that. The past is “water under the bridge”. Still, the past creates a context of who we are, why we are here and in a lot ways, provides clues to where we may ultimately end up. It’s impossible to forget the past and not acknowledge that these challenging times define our character and how we treat the rest of the world.
One of the first tragedies of my seven or eight year-old life was the day our little, happy-go-lucky daschund puppy disappeared. In our tranquil Joypahar, the absence of him wagging his tail, whenever I came down the stairs, was a void that took a few days to fill. Time went by; we made new friends and learned new sports and somehow filled that void. Still I remember that sultry evening, when Bimbo never came back. We had people looking for him all over the hill – calling his name till it got pitch dark and my mom assured me that he would be back in the morning.
In my teens, it was one hot May evening, as I returned home after watching a play with some friends, there was the unfamiliar “woo-woo” sound of the ambulance on our doorstep – and I saw my father being carried away in an unconscious state to the hospital. I still remember the moment in crystal clear detail– the time of the pronouncement of his death – my dramatic mother wailing – while at age eighteen, I knew that the my life had changed, forever.
In many ways, my life has been defined by that incidence, on that fateful day. As the “ground beneath me shifted”, I started to climb, without hesitation and didn’t know that I could stop, rest, breathe or dream any more. I didn’t know where I was headed – or why I was headed in that direction. I had to run away from my past and move towards an undefined future.
Even though, that may have been one of those most important days of my life, rarely do I spend that day, celebrating or commemorating. I don’t say a prayer on that day or light any candles. If anything, I try to forget that day ever happened.
A little more than two years ago, I had another unique tragedy that changed the lives of all my loved ones. I have written a series of essays around that time as I was experiencing that tragedy in suspended disbelief; The First Day of the Rest of My Life or The Day After the Tragedy, Jumping Into a Meandering River, Decisions with “No Regrets”, are all essays of that time with no instructions of how to move forward in life.
Time has passed by; I have moved forward and so has everyone.
This year, on that particular day, my seventeen year-old and I exchange simple texts, “Do you remember this day, two years ago;” She replies, “I was just thinking about it”. We don’t discuss any further. The wounds are still open and it still hurts to have a discussion.
Grief and mourning are part of all our lives; even animals grieve tragedy. We must give grief its due. How we handle ourselves during and after the grief is what defines who we are or who we become.
Some exploit the grief to become “victims” – orphans of a tragedy. Others take that tragedy and make something out of it – learn from it, not let the scars completely change their world-view.
If you let tragedy change who you are, than you must not have been that person in the first place.
Tomorrow morning, as the sun rises over the clear-blue, I wish to walk the beach – notice the fresh layer of sand beneath my feet, touch the salty water, and promise myself to live the best I can, for however many days are gifted to me.
While tragedy may engulf us any day, we must find the new sand to re-vitalize our own lives and promise to live the best we can. Nobody said we have to live the exact life we lived in the past. The future, however, can be momentous and full of joy – if that’s what we choose for it to be.
I will look forward to that day when this particular month or that particular date will not be a considered a “black” day/month and I will pass without commemoration or memory.
Time heals all wounds; I know, that day is coming.